Now completed my second year at De Montfort University and moving onto my third year…
I have some tips for you!
- PREPARING FOR UNIVERSITY
There is a lot of places that I could start and give my advice and guidance. But I think the best place is when you start preparing yourself for starting University. I know that this is one of the most nerve-wracking times of your lives and there are so many things going through your head at one time.
I know it sounds crazy but I think the best thing to do first is to take some time for yourself. There are a lot of things to think about and do before you go. There is also a lot of people congratulating you and all the hype and though this is much appreciated, it can sometimes be too much. So I suggest you seize your first opportunity and take yourself off somewhere, perhaps to your favourite place and have some time to chill and centre yourself.
The next thing I suggest you do is to make a mini checklist of all of the things you have got to do before you go to University. Then once you created this list and you are living away from home, create one consisting of all the items you are going to take to University, clothes and personal things to make yourself feel good while you are there. If you are living away from home, it is key to purchase kitchen equipment and utensils to use as the University doesn’t provide any things such as these. It is also useful to get them, so you know what you have and you can use. Also when you are living away from home, you have to take responsibility for your student living and that includes cooking for yourself. Knowing that you have to start cooking for yourself, I suggest that you get yourself and student cookbook of simple recipes and get a few of your loved ones to teach you a few dishes that you can go on and cook for yourself.
Once these lists are done, look out for anything that is released by your University, particularly about welcome and freshers week. It is important to be ahead and buy any tickets for the events/activities which are held during this time as there are limited places and tickets available.
A crucial part of being prepared for University is being well equipped for your lectures, seminars and workshops. First, you need to raid your belongings for any stationary you have. It is important to get lots of pens, pencils, notebooks and folders and sometimes coloured dividers, depending on how many units you are studying. Alongside all of the basic things, it is important to purchase anything you need, specifically for the course you are studying. For example, if you are studying art, sketchbooks and coloured pencils. At the beginning of each University year, you should be given a list of the specific equipment and books you need while studying. It is not mandatory that you get these items straight away but if you are like me, you are very organised and particular about everything you use and how you organise yourself and your studies.
If you get all your stationery and books beforehand and then when you are some way through your studies, you realise that you have to purchase something else you need, it is easily sorted as there are often stationary supply shops around campus or in the surrounding shops, which hold anything a student will need at University.
The next piece of advice I have for you is about travel arrangements. Whether you make the choice to live away from home or not, travel arrangements are still something to be mindful of when you go to University.
Let’s start with students living at home while studying at University. Though it may not seem an obvious and important thing to do, especially if you are living at home. I would advise that before you start University, you begin to sus out the transport from your home, to your University and around the town. This will allow you to be able to get a grip on things and plan your journey so your first day doesn’t seem as bad when it comes.
Travel arrangements are key when you move away from home to study at University. You are moving to a new city and adapting to new surroundings and a new routine. It is important that when you find a place to live in the new city, whether that be in a house you share with others or in halls of residences, you need to explore and find the quickest and easiest way around the city and to all of the locations that you use while at University, such as the campus in which you study at, the library, the shops, the local supermarket etc. It will allow you to go out and view more of the city and limit the difficulties you have while finding your way around later on.
My last piece of advice I have for you in regard to preparing for University is to be active on your social media accounts. As soon as you know the University you are going too, keep an out for Facebook groups that you can join related to your University, your halls of residence and your course. Joining Facebook groups for your year is one of the best ways to get to know your fellow students, living with you, and studying the same course as you. I found that if you join these Facebook groups, you will find that there are a lot of other students out there who are living with you or studying the same course. There are also the chances to meet people that have the same interests and hobbies as you, so you can try and meet up and form a group with when you get to you get to University. I found that it is key to join the Facebook groups as it allows you to get to know people, recognise familiar faces and feel slightly more at ease when you find yourself starting at University.
2. MAKE AN ASSIGNMENT/DEADLINE CHECKLIST
As soon as I know the names of each of my units and the assignments, projects and deadlines that existed underneath each, I set to making a very large checklist of the units and assignments, projects and deadlines. I found this the most efficient way forward. It was very visual and simple for me as I was now able to keep track of each one and what was involved without it seeming it being to daughtering. I colour coded it, so each unit was bright and easier to comprehend and didn’t seem as boring as it would if I accepted a checklist from the University.
Once I created one, I pinned my checklist up by my computer and I unconsciously kept checking it regularly, which kept me in a more positive mindset as it gave me subtle reminders to keep up to date with it all and not fall behind.
I think making a checklist is the best way to manage all your deadlines for all of your University. You can design your own University deadline checklist to include all of the details you want. I will be doing it next year.
Trust me, there is nothing more satisfying and rewarding, than when you grab a coloured pen and put a very large tick next to the assignment you have just submitted!
3. TAKE IT ASSIGNMENT BY ASSIGNMENT – BREAK IT DOWN
I suggest that as soon as you get any assignment or project, look at the brief and the assignment criteria to see what you have to do to complete and succeed at it. Even if the deadline isn’t for a long time, begin working on it, so it doesn’t seem so bad when you come to it.
From experience, I found it effective to shut down everything on your desktop, so there no distractions. Once you have done this, use something called the split screen strategy. Then open up your assignment/essay criteria on one side of the screen and a blank word document on the other side of the screen.
Once you have these two documents open, break down the criteria and make the key headings on your blank word document. Don’t think about anything else at first, just make sure you make those key bullet points and understand the key headings as you make them. Once you have written down these relative headings, bullet point your ideas and any information undeath your headers.
Next, minimise your assignment/essay criteria document and open your chosen internet window and put that in the place of the assignment/essay criteria document, while keeping your document with your relative headings and information open. Make sure the split screen strategy is still operating, before you start researching.
After you have down this, visit the appropriate websites that you need for your assignment/essay and copy and paste relevant information into the Word document under the key headings you have already made. Then change the information from the internet to the colour of red, to remind you that the information is from the internet. When you have done this, repeat the process until you have all the information you need. Once you have done this for internet resources, find and get the information you needed from relevant literature and add the right information under the appropriate headings. Be sure to write anything you have researched from appropriate websites and appropriate literature clearly onto the word document, so you don’t get confused and muddled later on. As soon as you have done this, use ‘Cite This For Me’ to reference your recourses properly. After all of this done, minimise your search engine and go back to your assignment brief/criteria.
Review the details on your assignment brief/criteria to check you aren’t missing anything important. If you have, don’t worry. It is easily done as there is a lot of things to keep track of when you are doing an assignment or essay for University. If you review the assignment/essay criteria and you do find something is missing off your research and idea document, repeat the research method until you are no longer missing anything. Once you have done this, close all of the windows down apart from your research document and make it full screen.
Congratulations. You now have a word document containing all your notes.
I suggest that once you have a word document containing all your notes, you take a well-needed break. When you are ready, return to the document, with a fresh head.
Slowly and with very few distractions, begin to read through all of your notes. As you read, start to write up the bullet points into sentences and start getting your head around all of your research notes and key points for the assignment. Once you start to grasp and make sense of all of this, start putting all of your notes from your online and literature resources into your own words. As you write the content from the online and literature resources into your own words, make sure it makes sense with the rest of your notes. Hopefully, by writing your bullet points into sentences first, your coloured research will make more sense as you put it all together. Once you have done this, change all of the fonts to black. The next step after this is to complete any further research you think you need for the assignment/essay, by completing the same process, remembering to record all your references. Once all your notes are in your own words and make sense to you, change it all to a black font.
Following all of this, move all of the notes or headers you now think are irrelevant to your assignment/essay onto a different document. I know it may sound silly but you may be in use of them later on. Trust me, you’ll be kicking yourself if you realise that you deleted something important.
After you go back to your assignment, proofread it a number of times, making sure the grammar and punctuation correct. Keep proofreading and adding to your work, using these steps until you have your assignment/essay.
4. DO THE ASSIGNMENT/ESSAY/PROJECT YOU LEAST ENJOY, FIRST
There is that one assignment/essay/project that you dread above all else. As soon as you see it or read about in your module handbook, you immediately dread it. Whatever point it is set in the year, it is always is in the back of your mind and you are just waiting for me. When it is set, I know how tempting it is to start with the assignment/essay/project that you find easy or enjoy more. Trust me, I know from experience that it is easy to do that. You think… “Oh, I’ll do that one. I can start that other one, closer to the deadline.”
I know how your mind automatically decides to work on that enjoyable assignment/essay/project first but try to look at all of them objectively. I have done it in the past and regretted it. The more and more coursework you set, the more that one assignment, you dread will slip down your list. You will procrastinate and avoid that piece at all cost. Then, you will finally be faced with that piece and it will be much worse as you have been putting it off and building it up in the back of your mind. You will be putting it off for such a long time, you will actually have to face and work on it when your deadline is approaching. You will be working on it under such a tight timescale, it will make the assignment/essay/project even worse to complete. Trust me, it is fatal.
To avoid this, I suggest keeping all of your assignments and your deadlines balanced. I suggest taking three or four of your deadlines and design a rough written plan, using the process I have illustrated above. I suggest that constructing a rough plan for all of them before you go any further. If you think the process is to detailed to do straight away, break it down, add the key headings, the ideas you have under each heading and the initial research you plan to complete in the first incidence.
Once this is done, slowly add to each of your assignments, build them up gradually and carefully. Dedicate time and effort you least enjoy, first, so it doesn’t seem so daunting when you come across it again. The more and more that you complete, the better you will feel. Trust me.
Work on the difficult, least enjoyable deadline first but to make sure you don’t overdo it and stress yourself out, keep your work balanced and deadlines equal. Shake it up and if you feel like you can’t concentrate as well, work on the deadlines you find easier than the others. It is okay. Everyone has days they are able to concentrate more than others. Just remember if you do end up working on the deadlines you find easier, don’t let the other ones slip, otherwise, you are back to square one.
Keep it all level. There is nothing worse than when you are faced by a blank word document.
5. ASK FOR HELP
Though you are a student and you must shoulder more responsibility, compared to what you are used too. Lectures, seminars and deadlines are customised to test your knowledge and your skills. You need to do the work and complete the assignment and all that is required but take it slow. If you struggle with your assignments and/or projects, don’t it for silence, ask for help and support.
I have learnt that is good to try and solve and overcome the problem yourself but if you can’t, don’t be so hard on yourself.
The first step in asking for help with any assignment is to talk to your friends and or classmates, who are working on the same assignment to you. Ask them how they are getting on and whether they can just go over parts of the assignment/essay again. You may just need reminding of a few things. As well as your friends/classmates helping you with your coursework, you may be helping them with their work.
Be sure to ask your friends/classmates for help with your assignments, they can help. After all, they are experiencing the same as you. Alongside this, please book 1-1s with your tutors to have a discussion about your idea, which can possibly stimulate ideas and thoughts you can use for your assignment/essay. Also, be prepared and take drafts of your work or an assignment/essay plan. A tutorial is much more effective if you have something to discuss and you will find it beneficial in the long-run to discuss drafts of your work.
I suggest they you get yourself in the right mindset and take notes while at your 1-1 or record it, so you can refer to it later. I have recorded a lot of my tutorials and I have found it highly useful.