You made it. You’re in university! The excitement of new beginnings surrounds you as droves of new students swarm to campus for the first time, ready to start year one, semester one.
Don’t be too fooled by the first week’s celebrations; although the next few years of your life may be filled with unending adventure, there is also plenty of work to be done if you hope to walk across that stage four years from now. Here are a few tips to help you get on your way to making your studies as successful as possible.
Write it down
Whether you have one course or six per semester, make note of when every assignment and piece of homework is due, and when lectures, laboratories, tutorials, and exams are taking place. The last thing you need is the nasty surprise of a deadline that has gone unnoticed until the night before, or in the worst-case scenario, the start of class.
The best strategy is to get yourself a big calendar you can hang up on your wall and write in every important date. This way you can mentally prepare yourself for tougher weeks and adapt accordingly. When you plan out your weekly schedule, find regular study times for each day of the week and stick to them. Also, don’t forget that more nights of adequate sleep results in more efficient time spent in lectures and doing homework during the day, so don’t let those zs fly away!
Next, go to class. Although this seems obvious, the reality is that when things get busy it sometimes seems like the best thing to do is skip some of your lectures to save time. But regular attendance is key to success at university, as it forces you to go through the material the professor wants you to know at least once. Even if everything you discuss in class is in the readings, you may actually save time studying in the long run because the repetition will ultimately reduce the number of hours spent memorizing everything you missed.
Generally speaking, try to be proactive. In- troduce yourself to your professors and teaching assistants and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Do your homework regularly. If you’re having trouble with material, find study groups or help centres that may help address your questions. If you need something to break your routine, or give you a kick of energy, join a club or a sports team.
Know your limits
It’s great to be involved in university and its wider community, but always be aware of how much you can handle. Don’t overwork yourself and you won’t get burnt out. Remember that beyond the topics of every course you take, university is basically about learning how to learn, and about adaptability. If you can recognize what type of learning is needed when, and what works best for you, then you have surpassed half the battle.
Most importantly, even when university knocks you down—and I guarantee it will more than once—get back up, brush yourself off, and keep at it. And if you feel overwhelmed, talk to someone about it. Most of us aren’t perfect, so give yourself some leeway. But always give yourself time to reflect and make sure your goals aren’t out of your sight.