It’s that time again – the academic year is starting. If you’re a returning student, that means it’s back to the grind. Prepare for those sleepless nights spent finishing that essay that’s due at 9am, those caffeine-fuelled all-nighters spent studying for exams and the painful regrets as you wake up the next morning having had one too many the night before.
Or if you’re just starting university, you have all of this and more to look forward to! But seriously, university is meant to be some of the best years of your adult life, but when you’re not spending your time partying hard, socialising with friends or out on the town, you’ll be learning, studying and working hard to get your degree. And honestly, we all want to do our best at everything we do, especially in our chosen subjects that will help us achieve our long-term goals in life – so, how can we best achieve this?
Well, having recently graduated from university myself, I am here for you, outlining exactly how to be successful at university… but it’s down to you to do it.
Don’t leave it till the last minute
So much easier said than done, but I promise you it makes a world of difference. There’s nothing worse than having an essay or piece of coursework due the next day and having no idea where to even start with it. Believe me, I’ve been there, done that, got the t-shirt, and it’s the worst. Save yourself the stress (and a pretty shoddy assignment at the end of it) and chip away at your assignments over time.
Half of the battle is familiarising yourself with the assignment, understanding the question and what is expected; not to mention the research you’ll need to do before you actually start writing. Often, we forget or underestimate these factors and we end up putting ourselves in the compromised position of not having enough time to write a decent piece of work. Give yourself at least a fortnight so you have plenty of time to slowly, but surely, chip away at your assignments; this will give you the breathing space you need to complete your work to the best of your abilities with plenty of time to spare and saving you a shedload of stress. Trust me, you’ll thank me later.
Attend your lectures
You’re probably thinking, “She’s got to be joking… surely she can’t actually think we’re not going to attend our lectures, is that not what I’m paying an arm and a leg in tuition fees for!?” It may seem like this is the most obvious trick in the book, but missing lectures is such an easy habit to start, and such a difficult one to break.
You’ll be having such a good time at university that actually that 9am lecture might be asking just a little too much of you since you’re running on 2 hours’ sleep, but I cannot stress enough how important lectures are. They are the building blocks of your degree, their content forms the majority of your exams and assignments, and you’ll often find them to be a great opportunity to ask questions and gain tips and hints from your lecturers. I’ve found this especially when it comes to exam preparation!
Attending your lectures is vital to ensure you don’t get bogged down with heaps of content to catch up on, and to make sure you know all of the basics so you can get your degree. If not, you’ll regret it in the long run.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
After all, that is what your lecturers, advisors and staff members are there for. Whether it be that you’re not understanding a module or that you need some guidance regarding your upcoming piece of coursework, your fellow students, lecturers and professors will be happy to help you out in any way that they can. You may feel that there’s such a thing as a silly question, but there really isn’t – every question is valid and if you’re questioning it, it’s more than likely that other students are questioning it too, so you’ll be helping them out as well. A win-win if you ask me.
More importantly, you might feel that you need help mentally. Whether you’re finding the transition difficult, you’re unhappy with your living situation, worrying about friendships, or if everything is just getting to be a bit too much, there is plenty of help and support you can access throughout your time at university. Search for your university’s student support service and speak to one of their trusted advisors who will listen, help and guide you – you’re not alone.
Make the most of your resources
They’re there for a reason – to help you! I can’t express how much I regret having not maximised the use of my university’s facilities and resources. Universities have so many great spaces for you to study, libraries being the first. Having a separate work environment in which you can focus and stay on task is an important part of how to be successful at university. Studying in your room might be your ideal, but it’s important to distinguish between work and life, and I find a university study space such as a library is the perfect environment for you to work effectively.
Make the most of all of the resources your university has to offer, including borrowing library books and using university subscriptions online. If you get there on time, you can make the most of the books your university has in stock for your subject reading. Or, to make sure you’re going above and beyond, remember that your university often has subscriptions to various online publishers, articles and archives. These are a godsend when you’re needing evidence for your critical analysis and research-heavy pieces. Maximise the use of your university’s resources to be successful at university.
Work smarter, not harder
University is all about learning to work smarter, not harder, and I feel like this is the key to how to be successful at university. Revision strategies such as the Pomodoro technique are great at making sure you’re minimising your procrastination and maximising your efficient learning, time management and focus.
To make sure you don’t stray from the path when studying, apps such as Forest help you stay focused on your tasks at hand, and prevent you from being tempted by the constant call of social media. Make sure you’re effectively planning and managing your time and tasks. If it means going old school and getting a trusty planner so you can schedule your tasks accordingly on a weekly basis, so be it; it works and, in my opinion, don’t fix what isn’t broken, right?
And, if you really want to be as successful as you can be, you can even organise your tasks based on your energy levels. Don’t tackle a task that you’re not feeling 100% up for completing; try your hand at another one, and you’ll still feel like you’re using your time effectively, but won’t be overwhelmed or disheartened in the process.
Remember: take care of yourself
Your health and wellbeing is top priority. I’m talking about making sure you get enough sleep so you’re functioning at your best and keeping your health in good check. Eating a healthy, balanced diet to both energise and fuel you through those long days and even longer nights. And most importantly, despite my constant mention of studying, revising and keeping all of your academic commitments in check, having some downtime is so important for your health and wellbeing at university.
Make sure you’re giving yourself plenty of breaks and have time that you can spend doing things that you enjoy and love. To do this, perhaps prioritise signing up for societies that you are interested in. They run on a regular basis and so will give you something to both look forward to and give you the downtime you so need and deserve.
No one expects you to have it all figured out – as students we learn as we go and make plenty of mistakes in the process, that’s what university is all about after all. But I hope my advice and tips will help you in any way that they can, so you know exactly how to be successful at university and save your time and energy for the more important things.