Following this guide isn’t guaranteed to get you top marks, but I know a lot of people who’ll admit they lost sight of everything in their first semester and didn’t do as well as they would have hoped. For most of us, our whole first year of university doesn’t count. With that in mind I know what you’re thinking; “but Megan, why is my first semester so important if it’s not going towards my degree anyway!?” And I do take your point, but trying hard in your first semester will show your tutors that you’re serious about your studies and it’ll help you settle into the swing of things. If you’re still skipping lectures because you’re too hungover by the time it gets to Christmas, what makes you think it’ll be easy to come back in January and start working your bum off? Kudos if you can do it, but I know I couldn’t.
First and foremost, you need to turn up to lectures. I’m not going to pretend I went to every single one of my lectures – I actually missed my first ever lecture because I was still asleep – but try and go to as many as possible. You will undoubtedly get some form of ‘Freshers flu’ during the first couple of months which might knock you out of a couple of things, but if you do miss lectures make sure you catch up or email to apologise for your absence, it’ll work in your favour. I had a bad habit of skipping my Tuesday lectures in first year because by lecturer put all the PowerPoint slides online for us, but when you’re paying £9,000 a year you might as well turn up!
Secondly, do some outside reading. I know, nobody really likes being super keen for uni on a weekend. However, it really will help you, particularly when it comes to writing essays. I’m not saying buy the whole of your core reading list and race through it in a week, I’m just saying little and often. I actually only bought one book in my first year and it served me well, but read articles online, visit the library, and just dedicate yourself to your studies.
Third, don’t hand in late. And on the back of this, don’t start your essay 2 hours before the deadline. Yes, I’ve written plenty of essays the day before, or even on the day of the deadline, but leave yourself some time to do well. If you know for certain you’d do better by handing in late (i.e. you’ve only written one paragraph before you need to submit) then by all means do so, but you’ll lose 10% of your overall mark so you might as well try and finish for the deadline.
Numero quatro is get to know your tutors. I’m not talking personal email here, but don’t be afraid to ask questions after lectures. Getting yourself known will benefit you – particularly if you’re on a course with 100+ people – and you might as well do it early.
The 5th and final piece of advice is to have fun. Cringey, perhaps. But if you’re too stressed during your first semester you’ll hate it and entirely for the wrong reasons. Don’t be afraid to have a wild night and miss the occasional lecture, or go home for the weekend instead of reading that book your lecturer recommended, but try and find the balance. Work hard, play hard and all that.
As with all my uni advice posts, I am not an expert. Everyone’s uni experience is unique and if you want to focus on the social aspect of uni during your first semester, than who am I to tell you not to? Other things you can do to improve semester one are join a society, get involved with the student union, and consider getting a job. Again, entirely up to you, just enjoy yourself!
Original image from: startupstockphotos.com