There are many guides out there on surviving at university. Many of them point out a few Dos and DON’T’s and tell students about games and getting drunk, but only a few talk about how to have a successful career at university. Here are six pieces of advice based on my university experience – I hope they will help someone out there who is just about to start a new journey or those that got lost whilst on the journey.
First year does count!
“First year doesn't count!” is a very common phrase amongst freshers and just one of many misconceptions about starting a university career. Although first year might not carry any weight when it comes to the final year result, it is the foundation and therefore very important.
For students with industrial placements, the first year result will be the only result in hand when applying for placements and failure to provide a satisfactory result might result in losing out on the vital experience that could be gained through industrial placement.
Also, for many courses such as engineering and applied science, the remaining years at University are based on the knowledge gained from first year, as modules tends to continue in years 2, 3 and 4. Lecturers expect students to be able to tap into the things learnt in first year at any stage of their university career. First year knowledge will be tested when given assignments and projects in the penultimate and final year.
Balance work and your social life
Failure to get a balance between work and social life can lead to a very unhappy student. Social life at university is important, although not as important as academic commitments. It is vital for a student to get the balance right and this can be done in several ways. It is a bad habit amongst many students to go out the night before they have a 9am start. Many of them tend not to make it to the lecture while the ones that do tend to lack concentration. Also, the company you keep will determine how successful you will be in your studies. It might be fun hanging out with students from other schools of study, but it is important to realise what suits them might not suit you, as timetables will be different and some courses are less challenging than the others.
As a fresher, the first few weeks might be difficult as you are just trying to get used to a new environment, but it is always good to be outspoken and to not keep problems to yourself. There are always people to help, be it academic or non-academic staff. Fellow students can also be very helpful as they might have had the same problem in the past, so their experience can be passed on. On the other hand, if you keep to yourself, no one will be able to help you. When something seems confusing, ask someone who might have a better understanding and this will make university life more enjoyable as you will spend less time worrying.
Set your alarm and be punctual
This might seem like a basic thing but you will be amazed that many students have missed important classes, laboratory experiments and exams just because they forgot to set their alarms. In order to enjoy your time at university, you will have to learn to do things at the right time and not always playing catch up. Punctuality, they say, is the soul of business, and it is the also the soul of a good student. Be on time to all your lectures as this will give you time to settle down and boost your concentration level.
Beware of other commitments
Having a football match or a shift at your part-time job is not a good enough excuse to miss lectures or labs. Many students tend to make commitments based on a certain timetable e.g. first teaching period timetable. However, the timetable at university does not always remain the same as new modules will be added and there will be busy times when you have to hand in coursework and other projects. Some commitments will make this very difficult. I’ve seen students missing lectures because they have a match scheduled at the same time or have to be at work because they have a contract to do so and this is often reflected in the overall performance of such students.
Making money at the university to support yourself might be necessary but it is very important to know who you are and never bite off more than you can chew. Some employers offer flexible shift patterns. Such contracts are student friendly and will make life a lot easier when the workload at university gets a bit over the top.
Are you smarter than your smart phone?
For many students, their smart phones will distract them from things like paying attention during lectures, but the smart gadgets can be very good if they are used wisely. So, are you smarter than your smart phone?
For those who are, gadgets can be used to access student e-mail on the go and sometimes record lectures if necessary. Student e-mail is the main means of communication as well as other portals such as blackboard. These gadgets will let you receive vital information on time and take necessary action, so they can be very handy if used the smart way.