STUDY // Tips for surviving university

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Hello there!

For many of you, the dreaded A Level results day will be fast approaching.  I remember that day like it was yesterday (seriously) and remembered how lost I felt before I started university. I recently read a brilliant post by Sarah at The BlossomCart who has just graduated uni with a first (go her!) and agree with every single point she has made. However, there are a few points I want to add so I thought I’d do a little post (well not so little but anyway). Make sure you check out Sarah’s post too – I’m not going to write her points here (apart from the ones that are REALLY important) and I’m sure you don’t want to miss a tip!

So, I’m just starting my third year of a four year Masters degree course in Chemistry. I got pretty mediocre grades for my A Levels and had to go into clearing. Sure, it was stressful and horrible not knowing where I was going but I ended up in an absolutely fantastic university (with a better ranking than my original top choice!) with brilliant lecturers on a great course. I am really happy with where I have ended up and I think my first point is not to worry about going into clearing. My best advice with that is to go get your results as early as you can and get applying as early as you can. I had my first offer within 30 minutes – it was that easy! Try your top choice again. If they turn you away three times (it happened to me) it might be time to try somewhere else. If you can, try and talk to the head of admissions for your course – they may be able to make extra allowances that could be the difference between you going to their university and not.

Anyway….

So, you’ve made it. You’ve started your lectures – what do you do next?

GO TO LECTURES
It’s something every fresher thinks will be easy enough to do. In September/October when the weather is beautiful and it’s all new, it’ll feel like a piece of cake. However, when winter hits in and you’ve been up till 5am finishing that assessment due in at 9am before a day full of lectures it can be ever so tempting just to get that extra couple of hours sleep. However, there will be lecturers who don’t put up notes or whose notes are just complete and utter nonsense. You can try and catch up using the text book, but it’ll take 5 times longer and friends will only put up with you borrowing their notes for so long. Sure, there are days when you just can’t go in but that self inflicted hangover isn’t really an excuse (unfortunately – I turned up quite a few 9am physical lectures feeling very fragile).

GET TO KNOW LECTURERS/TUTORS/PHD STUDENTS
I know it can be daunting to talk to them and I sure didn’t first year! I was that student who got pretty good grades, always did things by the book and was only known by the few lecturers who made the effort to get to know me. However, in second year I realised my grades sky rocketed the moment I actually started talking to my lectures and letting my tutors know when I didn’t get something. I know it can sometimes feel like you are bugging lecturers if you email them too much so I also take advantage of talking to the PhD students during my labs. Sure, they don’t know everything and if you are unsure on something they have said double check with someone else but if you are nice to them they will sometimes give you hints and tips that the lecturers wont. It may just be something small that they haven’t realised they’ve even said but it could make the entire project you are working on suddenly make sense. Again, don’t ask them everything 24/7 but they are paid to help you – so make sure they do something!

GET TO KNOW YOUR PEERS
I know that sounds like a ridiculous thing to say but it is pretty important. I know a lot of people form groups early on but that doesn’t mean you cannot talk to everyone. If you talk to more people, you have more people to ask for help. A peer may explain it differently to your lecturer and it’ll, perhaps. make a lot more sense. Of course, it’s a two way street. If someone asks you for help try to do your best to help them too. You never know when you’ll be sat in front of blank page the evening before the deadline and need someone to break it down slowly and clearly. This year it got to the point where people I had never talked to before were coming up to me all over campus asking for help. If that isn’t a confidence booster I don’t know what is.

DO SOME EXTRA CURRICULARS
It can be very easy to become a slave to your course. We all want to do as well as we can and want to work 24/7 but by doing that you will not be enjoying your university life to the fullest (unless you live, breathe and perhaps sweat your chosen subject – and go you if you do!). A lot of employers look at extra curricular activities on CVs (proven by my Dad – his recent graduate climbed Mount Everest and was president of a society) so they are something nice to have. Get involved in a sports club or a society that takes your fancy. Universities have clubs ranging from dance and football to cocktails, comedy and Harry Potter. There is so much choice. Societies are a fab way to meet new people and make more friends and blow off a little steam if you are completely stressed out. Now, I’m not saying to join anything and everything. I joined two a year and still found it difficult to keep up. But if there is something you really enjoy or want to try (like perhaps Ice Skating or knitting) joining a society is a great and cheap way to have a go and meet new people in the process.

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF ANY (AND EVERY) OPPORTUNITY
If you had told me three years ago that I would be doing a Masters degree in Chemistry with a year abroad at one of the best universities in the world I would probably refer you to some sort of specialist. If you told me I would be doing stand up comedy, would take part in an hour long sketch show organized and rehearsed in two weeks that MADE money I would have hit you in the head with one of those inflatable hammers. I think you can see where I’m going with this. Unless you are 100% sure that you do not want to do something just say yes. I have been given so many opportunities at university (including going to Reading Festival for free and being on the radio) that I know I wouldn’t have gotten if I had gone straight for employment. I had the whole ‘say yes to everything unless you know it is impossible’ mantra and it has worked pretty damn brilliantly this year. Just saying. (But know your limits - really).

STAY ORGANIZED
I know – easier said than done! Lecturers will not tell you everything – fact. My lecturers were generally quite good regarding telling us about assessments. However, I have had friends on other courses who had not been told. Simple as. They then haven’t known about the test at all until a few days before when everyone is freaking out. At the beginning of every semester, and then periodically afterwards, I look up module information and write down (multiple times) when any deadlines are, no matter how small. That way I know exactly when I need to do a certain report or revise for a test. Also, make sure you know what the test is on. I had a test this year I assumed was on one semester’s worth of work - it was on two. Let’s just say that was a very, very stressful time.

So they are my top tips that you hopefully haven’t heard before about surviving university. This is not your end all and be all ultimate guide that will guarantee you top grades – these are (hopefully) the more obscure tips that you may not see elsewhere. Like I said, go check out Sarah’s post here which is absolutely brilliant and should be followed by every university student ever.

Most importantly – enjoy yourself! You’ll only be at university once (well that isn’t strictly true. Many people do a few degrees but anyway) and you might as well make the most of it. It’ll be stressful and you will question why you did your degree and why you didn’t just join the circus. You will look at your to-do list and cry into a tub of half price Ben and Jerry’s. You will not even look at your to-do list sometimes because you know that there is too much to do and you’ll never get it done.

Just remember – everything is impossible until you do it.

Going to university is almost as scary as that film 'The Purge' coming true. You are moving away from home, having to cook for yourself (and avoid food poisoning), meeting new people – all of which you may not like. You’ll never experience anything like it again. Just do your best and what you can. No-one can ask for anything more.


Are you going to university this year? Are you at uni and are going to use these tips anyway? Let me know? (I hope they are helpful!)

14 comments :

  1. These are such great tips. I have missed way too many lectures, and sometimes I can get away with catching up, but in some modules I spent the rest of the year not really understanding the bits I missed. I think taking every opportunity and getting involved in things at uni is one of the most important things, you've really got to make the most of your time and get everything you can from it. I spent a week in Cyprus courtesy of uni!

    Emma x
    Writing Essays With Wine

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    1. Thanks lovely! I'm so jealous you got to go to Cyprus - that puts my Reading Festival to shame! I think I'd much rather spend a week in Cyprus haha!

      :)

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  2. Thanks for this! I'm starting out at uni this year and can't wait :) Love your blog!!
    Bee xx
    www.abigillibrand.blogspot.com

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    1. Thank you so much lovely! Good luck at uni - I'm sure you'll love it!

      :)

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  3. Thankyou so much for this post it was really helpful :D and also thankyou for linking to the original inspiration for your pos, together I learnt some awesome tips before starting uni in September :) xoxo

    beautyinhisname.blogspot.co.uk

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    1. Thank you! I absolutely loved Sarah's post - it has so many brilliant tips in it. It needs sharing!
      Good luck for September. I'm sure you'll absolutely love it!

      :)

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  4. ugh i miss uni, it was so much fun learning and planning your future. These are all excellent points and the one i'd definitely stress is the "take all opportunities" one. Seriously guys, grab all the internships you can! Go on as many trips you can, and grab at all connections! You can't believe how easy it is to find those opportunities inside of uni, and how much harder it is to get them once you graduate. you seem completely on top of it though :D

    xo marlen
    Messages on a Napkin

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    1. Thank you so much!
      I'm just finishing off an internship and it is crazy how much you learn in such a short time. As soon as I get to Canada I know I'm going to be emailing everyone and anyone to try and get some experience out there. I have had friends who have taken advantage of so much and I feel like I have done nothing!

      :)

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  5. I really don't know what I'm going to do with myself since I will be a student again next month. I have decided to study MA which I'm not even ready to give it a shot T_T Thanks for your tips, I will def try them :) xx

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    1. No problem lovely! :) Good luck with it all!

      :)

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  6. I love these tips. They're great for anyone in school, not only freshmen. I'm lucky that my program at school is small and I kind of automatically get to know my professors, but I have several friends who have never talked to one of theirs! It's SO important to know them, because not only can they help you with the material in their class, they can give you advice and recommendations in the future if you foster a good relationship with them.

    Great post! Found you on Twitter & you gained a new follower today :)

    Love, Gigi
    Dolce and Gabriella

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    1. Thank you so much! I know a lot of my friends don't talk to their lecturers and I don't understand why!

      :)

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  7. Brilliant tips that I will be taking into consideration when I start uni in September
    Thanks for this lovely post

    HolleyMarie
    holley-marie.blogspot.co.uk

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    1. Thanks lovely!
      Good luck with uni - I'm sure you'll love it!

      :)

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Thank you so much for commenting! I appreciate every single one of them and will get back to them as soon as I can :)