Thursday, 7th February 2019
When I was at school every adult felt obliged to tell how much more difficult university studies are than school. Yet everyone (including myself) was really excited to finally drop the subjects they didn’t like and show how great they are in their chosen pathway. However, soon after university started and everyone got their first grades, it seemed like no matter how hard or little people studied the grades were independent of the effort.
While every lecturer and adviser tells you how much you have to study after classes, it often doesn’t seem very real. Especially in the first year when the university is trying to put students from different backgrounds on the same page, you often end up studying the same thing you studied on IFY. Everything seems so familiar, you don’t feel like you need to study that much to keep, until one day you realise that familiarity doesn’t equal knowledge and that you have fallen behind. It is so hard to start studying again after weeks of not engaging fully with subjects, it often feels like you have lost something that kept you going in school.
In university have a strict timetable when you study and how many hours a day. Establish a routine and stick to it. Try to review lecture materials before the lecture and as soon as possible after the lecture. Also remember that “New semester-new me” kind of works: when you start things right, it is easier to keep going and study hard throughout the semester.
Some students jump to another extreme. A regular 9-till-5 ends once you leave your work desk, school teachers can give you plenty of homework but with good time management it can be done and you will have free time. In university you are never completely free: you have reading to do before the lecture (always with note-taking), reviewing the lecture notes and combining them with reading notes, additional reading to impress the professors on the exam, practical exercise from the lecture from the supplementary materials and doing the reading for the next lecture. The core reading alone can be over 200 pages, add there supplementary reading which is often twice-thrice as big and you can be stuck in the library for days studying for just one of your subjects. Remember: If you feel like you need to study 24/7, you are doing something wrong.
Many of those hardworking students actually engage in passive learning: it is a very tempting and comfortable waste of time which gives you an illusion that you are learning something. Rewriting lecture notes, underlining and highlighting – all of this is a waste of time. Instead, make mind maps out of lecture materials, connect them to previous lectures, combine them with your reading notes (shouldn’t be more than a couple of sentences per article). Skim through the textbooks and core articles for information that is not in the lecture notes and add it if necessary. For supplementary reading and articles outside the curriculum, write down the author, date, name of the article and the main idea with a couple of arguments.
University years go by very quickly and making the most out of it is very important. An average 2.1 and 1st division student can find time to meet up with their friends and even to go out a couple of times a week. Don’t let overconfidence and laziness take charge, but also don’t spend hours and hours doing pointless work.