In the past three years, like many other incoming senior sophisters, I struggled with planning ahead and meeting my deadlines. At times, the bigger lessons seemed to lie in the social side of the physical plane, at others in academic excellence. I could never find the right balance, and as a consequence, I set myself unclear and unrealistic goals. Nevertheless, I intend for my final academic year to be free from the stress of my own negligence. So here are five tried and tested tips for making your upcoming academic journey a success.
1) Have a set sleep routine
There is no need to join the 5am club, but setting a time to wake up every morning will keep you motivated to complete your assignments and attend your classes. I have often woken up right before the first class of the day and believe me, that is not the way to go. Even if your first class is at noon, aim to be on campus at the same time you would have been if you had a class at 9am. Reaching campus at more or less the same time every morning after a good night’s sleep will result in more contact with your degree. After all, you’ll need to busy yourself with something before that seminar at noon.
“…you can start the essay before the lecture – there is always something you can do ahead of time”
2) Start early
Throughout the first couple of weeks, it’ll seem like you have to wait to start on your assignments, but that’s not the case. Sometimes you’ll only have a lecture on the subject you want to write about for your assignment towards the end of your semester. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t anticipate the content of this class and plan your studies accordingly. In other words, you can start the essay before the lecture – there is always something you can do ahead of time. After all, the all-nighters work, but they will burn you out, and they will also prevent you from reaching your full potential – I achieved many good grades that could have easily been better if I had started a little earlier.
3) Take good notes
It is crucial to have a good note-taking method that works for you. Are you an analogue person who prefers to write everything down by hand? Or are you the type who has forgotten how to write by hand and succumbed to machines? Whatever your case may be, find out in the first week and stick to it. I prefer my seminar and tutorial notes to be handwritten and those for lectures to be typed; a mixed approach is also welcome.
4) Get into the habit of going to the library
For all the freshers out there: we have plenty of study spaces to choose from around campus. You may go to one of the three main library buildings: the Lecky, Ussher, and former Berkeley complex, the Hamilton library, or the 1937 Reading Room for postgraduates. You’ll have an easier time if you choose to be in these spaces from the very start of the academic year. A good way to motivate yourself into being in the library on a daily basis is by making it a group activity. Why not convince your friends to go to the library with you? If you’re arriving on campus at roughly the same time each morning you can dedicate a couple of hours to an assigned reading and take a well-deserved coffee break with a friend afterwards. This will make you stay more in touch with your subjects than if you had gone home after your lecture.
“The same people persuading you to stay a little longer may be the same ones leaving twenty minutes later”
5) Allocate time for social activities
So now that you’re sleeping well, starting early, taking good notes, and turning the library into your second home, you can take a step back and think about how you’re balancing your social life with academic endeavours. Word of advice for freshers: choose the events you’ll attend carefully, especially in the first weeks. It is relatively easy to feel out of the loop after a few nights out at the start of the year, but remember to have a glass of water between each drink, mind your spending, and don’t hesitate to miss out on events. The same people persuading you to stay a little longer may be the same ones leaving twenty minutes later. And most times, they don’t have a seminar at 9am like you do. Other than that, and this goes for both freshers and seniors: you can never have too many friends. Join societies within your interests and keep in mind that everyone is just as nervous as you. Everyone is looking to make friends, so chat with someone after a lecture. In hindsight, it is always an effort you’ll be glad to have made, and it helps you get through the years more smoothly.
Nevertheless, even if you follow these tips religiously, there is still a chance that you may feel lost. Unforeseen events will unfold and personal matters will affect your performance. So make sure you’re surrounded by kind people, who can assist you in moving forward with your studies. What’s more, stay in touch with your tutor and adapt these tips to your personal preferences. You are guaranteed to feel more capable and at peace.