• Loren.M

How to Survive the first Semester of Uni

Hey guys, welcome back to the blog! It's been more than a few months since I've started university and I have to admit I have my work cut out for me. I haven't had any time for blogging or other hobbies, so I'm still trying to find the ideal routine. I'm currently studying Social Anthropology at the University of Manchester, but completely online and from home. Although I've missed a big part of the university experience - fresher's week, I still want to make the most of it.

I would say the most challenging aspect was getting through all the reading but with time, I can assure you'll get the hang of it. Since adjusting to the workload can be difficult, I've set up a system that helps keep me on track. If you've had any difficulties adapting to uni life or you're worried about it early on, these few tips can help you out.

Tip #1. Blurt

The first thing I did even before I started lectures was write down every single task I had to get done to prep for the first week. I wrote down small tasks such as printing out course outlines, reviewing the interfaces we were going to be using and getting accustomed to it and big tasks such as scoping out the first topic for each course before the actual lecture.

This helped a lot in ensuring I wasn't forgetting anything by storing it all in my head and in transitioning into the first week of uni. With the current pandemic, starting your first year, without any proper intro with your lecturers or peers can seem daunting. However, focusing on getting a proper structure into your studies can help a lot with the anxiety, focus on what you can control.

Tip #2. Weekly Planning

I found it easier to set up a weekly plan than a daily plan. First thing you need to do is write down all of the tasks you have to complete each week for each course. I am taking 4 courses this semester, so every week I make a small checklist under each course. You can do this using a bullet journal or a digital planner (I use Notion). Include lectures, tutorials, core readings, assignments and any other tasks.

Once you have that all figured out you can schedule in your tasks for the week. I use google calendar for this and I block out hours during the week to ensure I complete all the tasks. Make sure to leave time for any activities and breaks and remember to be flexible. I often don't complete every task I set out to do that day so I move it to the next. Let me know if you'd like to see how my weekly calendar looks like.

Note Taking

Tip #3. Daily To-Do Lists

Now that you have your weekly plan set up, you can get down to the specifics. The night before, make a small to-do list from your weekly schedule; as humans, we benefit from small accomplishments, so ticking tasks of your list can be a small motivator.

Tip #4. Stay on top of Deadlines

A good tip is to mark any assignment deadlines into your calendar early on so that you can tell when they're coming and they don't just creep up on you. If they're not in your course outline then email your lecturers or tutors to get an idea. That way, you can prepare for them in advance as well.

Tip #5. Set Reminders

Your first month of uni is important, so you want to make sure you make it a habit to attend lectures and you don't miss any of them. Doing this will allow you to know which lectures should be prioritised over others.

Tip #6. Prioritise

The biggest problem I've noticed students face in their first year of uni is that they don't have enough time to complete their work; be it readings, lectures or assignments. The key in uni is to learn how to prioritise, it is impossible to get every single work done. In university, we are meant to be "adults" which means no one will hold you accountable for being late in your reading. Learn how to prioritise readings; skim through them, read the first and last sentence of the paragraphs to get an idea of whether or not the paragraph is significant. Prioritise working on some readings over others.

Tip #7. Study Review Day

Schedule a review day to keep yourself on track. On Sundays, I take care of any leftover tasks from the week, as well as plan the next week. This is a sort of maintenance day, nothing too heavy, use it to refresh your mental and physical environment for the week to come.

Study Tips

Tip #8. Check Your Emails

It's important to check your emails at least once daily; as your lecturers, tutors and the university will send most of their updates and any important information by email. I often found that students missed out on deadline reminders and details about assignments because they rarely checked their emails, so ensure that you're always on top of everything.

Tip #9. Attend your Lectures

I would advise you to try to attend all of your lectures and tutorials in the first semester, even if they are recorded. This will give you the chance to voice your concerns and think about the material you are learning. Engagement is important, especially now when university contact is limited, you should try to get involved as much as possible.

Tip #10. Don't be too hard

Lastly, don't be too hard on yourself, this is your first semester and no one expects you to be great at this from the very start. In fact, this is your moment to make mistakes, experiment and learn. Although it can be hard to manage the stress, find time for yourself and take a break and don't fixate yourself on grades that disappoint you. While you should learn from you feedback and grades, it is completely normal for them to dip while you transition into uni. So it's important to find a middle ground, focus but don't fixate, don't be too stress nor too laid back, instead find your sweet spot.

I hope these tips can help you in your first semester but, this is only a few of the tips I would suggest and I will be sharing more of them soon in the next few posts.

Be sure to check out my post on 5 Common Study Mistakes you Don't Want to Make

If you have any questions or worries, please let me know down in the comments. Thank you for reading, please like and follow for more, xoxo.

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