Studying at university level is very different from others, even courses vary from workload both physically and mentally. Fine Art degrees will feel like a completely different working environment than an English Literature degree. Even if you feel fully prepared you should be aware that universities expect your studying to be a full-time job type of thing, therefore, if your physical lecture time is a mere few hours a week you are expected to make up the rest of independent study. This is easier said than done, but here is what to expect from your course, where to dedicate your time and the best way of adjusting to university work.
Each module or class will require different levels of independent study. Most courses that are theory based will have readings that you need to complete for each week so that you have all of the basic understanding of the topic you’ll cover in class. Others then have recommended and further readings, which will then deepen that understanding and develop your studies. Sometimes with the hectic life of university, socialising and especially if you have a part-time job it’s hard to fit everything in and the readings may lose out. But you should try to dedicate time to complete the readings because they’ll help you understand what you’re learning in class and later on with your coursework.
The readings will be from academic textbooks, journals and articles and even though they can be hard to get your head round and written in what feels like another language; your lecturer’s list them for a reason. Set time before each session to go through the readings and enough time to understand how it relates to your subject. Readings will be essential throughout the first few weeks to ensure you’re on the right level for the course and to give yourself the best head start.
Next, there will be your coursework which again, depending on your course will be a project, group work, research or essay. The most common form is an essay form which will be a piece of academic writing where you will analyse, explore, compare, argue or investigate a theory and/or perspective. You’re expected to cite other academia and this will take time to research and use the right quotes that will back up what you’re saying. Leaving coursework for the last minute will never serve you well, even if you end up being severely lucky by receiving a good grade, you’ll find that the stress and all-nighter just to submit it in time won’t really be worth it!
Some classes give you the deadlines at the beginning of the course so you have sufficient time to dedicate time to your coursework, so there is no excuse! Even if an hour a week is all that you can handle before the week of the deadline it will ease the workload on the night before!
Other coursework could be a project such as designing, filmmaking, presentation, researching or analysing statistics. With the more practical projects it will be nearly impossible to procrastinate because you won’t physically be able to complete it! Group work can be difficult to organise around three or four people’s schedules, therefore as soon as you get the submission date, organise when you will meet up and work on the project together to get the best chance of a good grade.
Lastly, some students will have to take exams, and if you don’t cope well under pressure you should allocate time for you to learn how to best deal with exam conditions. Exams can be considered one of the hardest of assessments because you’re expected to regurgitate all of the information you have spent a year learning, or have a set time frame to apply all of the techniques you’ve mastered. Exam conditions are difficult to deal with, and the exams can count for a big chunk of your grade. If you are taking exams, make sure you revise with enough notice before the date! Learning over a long period of time will make you feel more comfortable and confident in your knowledge and is more successful than revising the two days before!
Adjusting to university work will differ to each student and the variables of assessments, readings and courses mean that it really is a personal learning experience, and there are ways to make the most out of studying in your first year. But you should take it all by the horns, and if you dedicate your time to studying then it will pass easily! Your university will have their library, study sessions and help on offer for students who are finding it slightly difficult to adjust. Students also usually have the option for one-on-one tutorials with their teacher where they can sit down and discuss how the course is doing and how well they did on their coursework.
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