(Published on The National Student).
Studying may be one of the dullest parts of university, but it is also one of the most important. Yet we just can’t seem to make the time for it. Even as students who stay up until 3am most night, procrastination appears the only productive thing to do. So what are the best and easiest ways to study around our sociable and sleep-filled days?
Whether you have an exam every week or a short essay every term, one of the first things you will learn at university is that any amount of work load can easily catch up with you. A week’s deadline or a whole month, there is no doubt it will be left until last-minute.
But it doesn’t have to be a choice between whether to stay in every night to pass with a decent grade or going out all of the time and failing miserably; there is a balance between the two that can easily be found when you decide where your commitments should lie.
Self-motivation is key; without it, nothing will ever get done. Try and do a little bit of work everyday instead of doing it in big chunks towards the end – this well keep stress levels down and maintain that work is actually getting done. Preparation not only means that you aren’t rushing to complete everything by the end of term, but also that it is to your best ability. Work around something you are interested in to maintain a drive to getting work completed.
Turning up to lectures, even if in a pair of joggers with a painful hangover from the night before, is extremely important. Be prepared for these lectures, read the books that are recommended for you and find examples of past papers/essays; make sure you understand the topics fully, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Reading lists are often ignored, but they are recommended for a reason. If you really don’t have the time to find the book in your library and give it a skim through, look for an overview online so that you can get a basic understanding of its contents. Although set readings are not always compulsory, you will realise that they can come in very handy.
A notebook and pen are two things you should carry with you at all times; having a set of notes for each lecture will make the year a whole lot easier. Even if information may seem pointless to take note of at the time, there’s no doubt you will wish you had paid more attention later in the year. If you aren’t very good at note keeping, use a Dictaphone to record lectures. Write out notes/given hand-outs out in our own words; as pointless as this may seem, it will be easier for you to understand them when it comes down to revising and will make it quicker to pick back up on.
In addition, lectures aren’t the only sessions worth going to on your timetable. Make the most of seminars and tutorials. This will give you chance to speak to your tutor personally and also to the rest of the group to share ideas.
Not all courses are lucky enough to have only a few hours of lectures a week. But even when courses are 9-5 five days a week, time in between lectures is a perfect time to study or recap on the previous lesson. For more relaxed courses, lectures will leave many spare hours in the day, which shouldn’t be taken for granted. Keep a diary of your deadlines and exam dates so you know how long you to prepare for them.
Make the most of things thrown your way – writing for the university newspaper, having an hour slot on the university radio, or entering your work in a student competition. It not only adds up to look great on your CV, but these opportunities make really good practise.
University is an amazing opportunity that we need to make the most of, but it is also an expensive one. We’re all here to have a good time; to get drunk most nights of the week and hand in essays minutes before the deadline. But the reason for being here in the first place must not be forgotten.
Be prepared, be organised, and remember to gain some knowledge at the same time as those lifelong memories.