Your first year of university is very different to your following years.
In most instances, first year modules don’t account for much – if any – of your degree award. So long as you pass everything, you get through.
From the second year onwards, I heard a lot of people saying that they were going to need to take a proper reign of their work from now on, as the marks ‘mean something now’.
This is a shallow view, but it’s not really the student’s fault in seeing things this way. If all you need to do is pass something, where’s the incentive to try harder? It sounds like a good get-out, it sounds unimportant, and the first year of university is clearly about experiencing so much that it sounds great to ignore the work aspect as much as possible.
But rather than setting you up perfectly for the rest of your years at uni, the false sense of security can, in many cases, cause problems further down the line.
On this blog, I’ve always been an advocate of making the most of your time and looking at the bigger picture. In this respect, it’s a false economy to treat your study less seriously in your Fresher year than in your following years.
Even if you think it’s going to be easy to put more effort in from Year 2, the reality will soon bite you on the bum. It’s likely you’ll anticipate a sudden increase in workload, but you’ll be shocked at how much more reading you’ll have. And essays. And practical work. And presentations.
I treated my first year as an experiment. For instance, it was great to write essays quickly, ask tutors if I was working along the right lines, and amend the essays accordingly. It gave me a taste of what an academic essay needed to look like. The extra input did take up a bit more time to go over, but not much. It was more than worth it in rewards.
Regardless, because I made sure to get up around 6-7am most days, I got most work out of the way before anyone else was up. It looked like I was doing less work than everyone else!
So treat the year as a time to experiment and understand how to get the good grades next year. See where it takes you and don’t be afraid to occasionally go out on a limb. If you’re not being seriously marked, it’s much better to treat the work with a sense of fun, rather than not bother with it at all.
A false sense of security can also lead to wasted time. If there are so many weeks before an essay is due in, it’s easy to sit back and chill. But with the prospect of an essay on your mind over those weeks, all enthusiasm and drive can fall away. Procrastination will only end up giving you more tasks to think about, so you’ll be less inclined to push yourself and do much with your time at all.
So in my first year, I learned to use hidden time as carefully as possible. For instance, my timetable generally consisted of an hour lecture, followed by an hour break, followed by an accompanying seminar.
The hour-long break was spent by many people doing one of three things:
- Sitting in the cafe, bar, or student union, having a laugh and a quick drink;
- Doing the work that was scheduled to be done in time for the seminar (leaving no time to address problems, confusion, quality, etc.);
- Using the computers on campus to surf the net until the hour had passed by.
My thought was to spend time on other study work, even if it was just to read quietly. Whatever study I was considering, it was another hour of work that nobody even noticed me working in.
No wonder people thought I did no work. But it was just an illusion.
It might sound like I just enjoy the studious side of university life. But in utilising my time well, I had more time to be social and enjoy myself too.
You have the same 24 hours that everyone else has each day.
So if I’m asked how I was able to manage so much with my time at uni, I answer, “How could I not have managed it?”
The truth is, I was often disappointed with myself that I didn’t achieve even more with my time. That false sense of security often bit me on the bum too!
But remember, we’re all able to improve exponentially. Don’t let anyone persuade you otherwise.