Hey everyone! This is the third part in my series about my experiences during my first year of university, and today I’m going to be talking about studying. I’m doing a BA in English Literature, so can’t speak for other courses, but hope some of what I write today is useful no matter what course you’re doing.
It’s no secret that I loved my first year of university, but sometimes I had so much going on that I forgot that the focus of me being there was my actual studies. First year is about moving away from home and getting involved in new social circles and activities, and whilst in the UK first year grades don’t count towards your overall degree (you just have to past first year to continue), it’s important to allocate a reasonable amount of time to your studies. First year is designed to be relatively easy to pass, so it’s an excellent chance to learn and experiment with your writing (for humanities subjects), how to research and how much time to allocate to different modules and types of studying.
This year I took 6 modules, 5 of which were compulsory English Literature modules, and a 6th which was left up to me. I took a philosophy module, which was really interesting and actually the module that I got the best grade in (perhaps I’m on the wrong course!), but I wouldn’t be in a hurry to study philosophy again. Whilst my tutor was amazing, I wasn’t very engaged in the content. In regard to English Literature, it is acknowledged amongst students that the first year modules aren’t the best – they provide a reasonable foundation for the study of literature at university level, but the chosen texts and topics covered aren’t particularly exciting. However, I did learn that tutors can have a huge impact on your engagement with a module; for example, for my least favourite module of the year I had my favourite tutor, so this made it easier for me to complete work and attend classes, as I knew I would find his teaching methods valuable.
As well as learning about English Literature, this year taught me how to study, and gave me the chance to make mistakes so that I can go onto next year with a much greater understanding of what’s expected of me and what works for me. The most significant thing I learnt was time management. I am notorious for leaving things until the last minute, which I hate myself for doing. The lack of inspiration I felt from our modules did make it difficult to approach work more than a day before my classes. One trick I learnt is that you need to filter through which work is essential to your understanding, and what can become optional if time is an issue for you. At first, when you’re given huge amounts of reading or suggested topics to pursue, it seems impossible to know what to prioritise, but this is something that comes with time.
Another thing I like to do, but I don’t know if it would work for other people, is keep myself extremely busy. I love being busy, and I know that if I have a lot of things to do, and don’t use the time I’ve allocated to studying that day, I will fall behind, and my understanding and work quality will decrease (which I hate). I hope that makes sense! Essentially, by keeping myself busy I use the time I have to spend on each activity in a more productive manner.
I love to-do lists, as the act of ticking something off my list for the day is extremely satisfying. I also added fun things onto my to-do lists to achieve during the day e.g. watching an episode of the TV series I’m currently watching, reading to a certain page in my book, or taking a trip to the shop with a friend to get some shopping in the evening, to make sure that I was doing things I enjoyed too. The trick is to do these things later in the day, and don’t ignore your responsibilities to get to the luxuries!
Ultimately, I think my biggest failing this year was forgetting that I was at university to study. Whilst I’m happy with the majority of the grades I received this year, there are a couple that I know I could have done better on if I’d really applied myself. At times I focused too much on the fun side of university and didn’t properly apply myself, so I haven’t set myself up for second year as well as I could have done. I’d like to say this will change next year, especially as my grades will count, but I guess we’ll see. My goal is to push myself academically and focus more on my studies next year; some of my results this year were better than I’d ever thought I could achieve, so I’m definitely capable of good work! I should definitely reread this in September to get my head in the game for second year.
All this being said, even the most dedicated student can’t spend the entire year purely on their studies, and there are plenty of chances to do other activities. The next (and final) post in this series will be about what you can do in your spare time at university, focusing on getting a job and what extracurricular activities universities and student unions can have to offer. Until next time, check out my social media above, and thanks for reading!