Starting your studies

Starting your studies

Know yourself

Before you start studying, spend a bit of time thinking about how you study best: what works for you and what doesn’t. Are you someone who needs silence in which to study? Do you prefer to work with someone else? Do you need background noise e.g. music? When do you study or learn best? Is it during the night, or in the early hours of the morning?

Once you have established what suits you: do it. Don’t be tempted to follow the advice of your peers, parents or sometimes tutors. As well meaning as they may be, their advice, although suitable for them, may not work for you. If as a parent 2 o’ clock in the morning is the only time when you can get some piece and quiet, that might be the time you choose.

Be realistic 
It’s good to have ambitions and to aim high but it’s also important to remember that you are at the beginning of your course. You are not expected to know everything. As with any skill, study skills take time to develop. University learning is different to that of school, college and the work place and at the beginning it may feel a bit overwhelming. Also the marking system will be different to what you are used to. It can be disheartening if you don’t achieve the grades that you may have been used to getting at school or college. “A’s might be common at GCSE and A level but they are not at degree level. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t aim for them it just means that you need to be realistic and not set yourself up to fail by asking too much of yourself at the beginning of a course. Marking or scoring criteria sheets will help you to understand what is needed to achieve the different assessment grades at university. These can usually be found in your module handbook or attached to your assessment tasks.

Get organised

Make a note of your timetable. Find out where the rooms are and avoid being late by checking how long it will take you to get to them. This is particularly important if you have classes at different sites.

Make sure you have everything that you need for your classes. Don’t turn up without a pen, the correct kit or the journal article you may have been ask to bring.

Read thoroughly the information that you are given. During the first couple of weeks at university you will receive a lot of information. There will be student handbooks, module handbooks, assessment information etc. It is tempting just to stuff the booklets in your bag and then file them. Don’t; make sure that you read them. They contain crucial information about your course and assessments.

Create a filing system that makes sense to you and then use it. Some students match the colours of box files to store downloaded material with the same coloured folder for notes e.g. orange for “Research Methods”, blue for “Bio-mechanics” etc. Other students may file everything electronically and make use of folders and databases to store information. For others it may be that everything for Uni is thrown into a box at the end of every day. It may take time hunting through it to retrieve a book or a file for class but at least they know that it will be somewhere within that box rather than anywhere in their room, house or flat.

Avoid using vague titles when saving work e.g. essay 1 or Physiology assignment. Include a date and then use a module code or something else that will enable you to easily locate the document at a later date. Remember that three years of study will produce a lot of assignments. An effective filing system will save you a lot of time.

Organise yourself for the short term as well as the long term. Know what you should be doing each day, what classes you have and what additional work you need to do e.g. read journal articles for a seminar etc. Then look at what you will be doing for the week. Think about your other commitments such as paid work, going out , watching TV etc. as well as your academic work and make a plan of what you need to do and when.

After considering your weekly plan, think about the semester. Make a note of all of your assessment deadlines. If a number of them are close together bring some of the deadlines forward so that you can space your work out a bit. This will help you to avoid working on multiple pieces of work.

Find a way of keeping on track of everything. This might mean using a diary, to do lists or sending yourself text alerts, again, whatever works for you, use it.