February 10, 2016, by Guest Blogger
Starting out at university
Guest blogger Boo Jackson shares some tips from her experiences as a Philosophy student.
Coming into first year, I had three main feelings surrounding studying at university. First, that I was really excited to have the opportunity to start; second, that I was nervous that it would be a huge leap from school, and third (and this one was the most dominant), that I had absolutely no idea what I was meant to be doing. I may have been alone in these feelings, but I suspect that I wasn’t, so I’m going to tell you how I managed to adapt to the academic side of university life.
Tackling your reading lists
In the start of my first year I found myself looking at the reading lists of the modules I was taking, and wondering how I was ever going to get it all done.So I would go to the library, take out all of the recommended books, and take them back to my room (with great difficulty, hugely wishing that I owned some sort of shopping trolley to carry them all in). Having done this, in a caffeine-fueled, extortionately long study session, I would desperately skim read as many of them as I possibly could. This probably sounds ridiculous; as it should, because this was just about the worst way that I could have gone about getting my work done. After about a week of doing this, I went to speak to my personal tutor (an absolutely invaluable resource that will be available to you), and she explained that this really was not necessary; that while it is important to do the compulsory reading, and to read around the topics you are studying as much as you can, it is not possible to read absolutely everything. It is far more important and valuable to read and understand a handful of articles or books than it is to skim read everything: quality over quantity!
Taking lecture notes
After that, I came across my second hurdle: how to take useful and effective lecture notes. I started off as I think most people do, taking a pen and some paper and scribbling down anything/everything that looked like it would be useful. I must say at this point that I still know lots of people that use this method, and it works very well for them, but I found that for me it wasn’t working out. I would find myself writing down what was written on the lecture slides, and as a result missing a lot of what the lecturer was saying. After realising this, I started either taking my laptop to the lecture with the lecture slides downloaded in advance, or printing the slides off before the lecture, and writing down the useful things that were being said on the slides themselves. This is still the method that I use, and it hasn’t failed me yet!
The last main thing that I found that I needed to adapt to in terms of the academic side of university life was learning how to effectively revise, and my advice for this is simple. Plan well in advance, and make yourself a realistic timetable. Leave yourself plenty of time before each exam, and timetable in a manageable amount of revision to do each day. That way, you’ll know you’re being productive, be able to track your own progress, and not have to feel at all guilty for stopping work at the end of the day, because you’ll know you’ve done what you were meant to do.
Those are my three main tips for adapting to university work, but that is just the way that worked best for me. Ultimately, everyone will find his or her own way of doing things that is really effective and works for them, and may be completely different to how I’ve done things. So good luck finding your own way of working effectively, and enjoy your time at Nottingham!