I have been a student for the past eight years, and I’d like to think I’ve learnt a thing or two! This is particularly aimed at undergraduates, although I’m sure it can be applied to many scenarios. Have a read and let me know what you think – whether you agree, or whether there are other things you’d add to the list.
1) The biggest danger to doing well is THINKING you’ve studied enough. If you’re going to go to lectures and play angry birds the entire time, it’s better not to kid yourself that you’ve done anything productive and just stay home. It’s all about will-power – and that’s something even many “adults” struggle with. If you can figure out how to deal with that, and how to motivate yourself to study, you’ve succeeded. I’ve found the biggest barrier to that is “feeling like” you’ve studied.
2) Treat your subject like a job. Adding to point number 1, here is how I’d view it: you have some exams to study for, and you love your subject. You’re genuinely interested in learning this material. It’s a privilege to be allowed to literally spend all your time doing something you love. Sure, you may not love every single course, but they’re all connected and I’m sure you could learn to enjoy even the things you originally struggled with or found boring. There are some resources out there to help you – lectures, where you literally get an expert in their field to go through the material with you step-by-step; workshops or tutorials, where you get to have someone help you discuss or go through exercises in smaller groups. These aren’t things you have to go to; I probably shouldn’t be advocating this as an academic, but if you find you get absolutely nothing out of going to your classes, then don’t go. In my experience the two aren’t linked – going to classes is like having extra help, but the bulk of the work has to come from you. Many students seem to think that if they show up to their lectures and tutorials, they’ll somehow learn everything through that – but lectures are just resources to help you along the way. Imagine you had a fully free week, every week – how would you spend your time? For the first two years of university I barely did any work outside lectures / tutorials (apart from assignments). This isn’t enough – I can’t stress that enough. What I then found happens is that in the “revision” period, myself and all my friends would suddenly start “revising” our material (i.e. learning it all from scratch). Again, I can’t stress enough that it’s 1000x easier to just learn stuff as you go along – which takes additional work. If you want to give this a try, here is what I’d recommend: use a bullet journal, and habit track doing any amount of work per day that doesn’t directly relate to an assignment. Even if you just look up one thing from one lecture, or try to understand one formula or definition (if you’re studying maths), you get to tick off a box. The “goal” should be something like 1 hour’s work per day. I promise you, it will be worth it.
3) Don’t get all your social life from drinking. Don’t get me wrong – feel free to get ~80% from drinking – It’s just quite nice to have other things you can do with your friends. You could set up a breakfast date, go to the gym together, go for a hike, visit the Christmas market, have a nice dinner together, etc.
4) Internships. Do an internship. Honestly, it helps so much in terms of developing good habits, and particularly when it comes to organising your time (working 9-5 and then being able to fully relax in the evenings and weekends, for example). The first internship I did which really helped with this was through a company called Sage Corps – check them out if you’re interested in interning abroad, they’re a great resource!
5) Eat breakfast. This has been such a hard thing for me to achieve throughout the years, but they weren’t lying when they said it was the best start to the day! It’s almost impossible to feel on top of your life in any way unless you give yourself some sort of routine. Check out my breakfast post if you want some super easy suggestions. Feel free combine this with #3 and set up a regular breakfast date with friends!
6) Give yourself time to relax! It’s easy to forget that social events also require a lot of energy, and that if you spend all your time doing work, extra-curricular activities and social things that you won’t have any time left for yourself! Aim to give yourself one day a week where you just hang out, watch Netflix, do your laundry, play video games, draw, etc.
7) It’s okay to do things alone. I didn’t realise this until my 3rd year, spent abroad in Copenhagen. Prior to this I’d only ever go to events if at least a couple of my friends were going, and as a result I’d rarely speak to new people. Going out was very much about the same group going to various places, and you were always reliant on others wanting to do the same things as you. In Copenhagen, to a higher degree I started going to events alone – board game meetups, Friday night student bar, etc. Going to fitness classes, clubs & societies etc. alone is also recommended (even *shocker* if you’re no longer a fresher). Often I’d run into people I knew, but if not I’d make new friends. I learnt that throwing yourself into the unknown is a much better way to socialise than having the security blanket of bringing someone you know. Top Tip: this is useful for networking as an adult (and also generally being a functioning human being who is ok doing things alone).
So there you have it, my top tips for students! Enjoy, and let me know what you think xxx