12th February 2020
The start of university life can be very overwhelming for young people. Moving to a new city, living alone for the first time, making new friends… it’s a lot to absorb in such a small time frame. But while there are plenty of positives to made from the overall student experience, the core objective is to achieve the skills and qualifications you need for the career path you have chosen. Whether you are studying in your first or last year, there are several things you can do to maximise your learning.
We have rounded up 7 of the best tips that will help you make the most of your time studying at university.
Taking notes during a lecture is an obvious task to do, but the important thing is how you do it. Many new students fall into the habit of taking notes for the sake of it, writing down every word that comes out of the lecturer’s mouth. These same students eventually get bored and stop taking notes completely. Effective note-taking is essentially a skill in its own. It’s important to take down the key messages that you can use to recall information when revising. Writing down a lecturer’s key points in your own words can help engage the brain and better reinforce the message. Everyone also processes information in different ways. The use of colours, tabs, spacing, drawings and bullet-points can help organise notes in a way that works best for you.
A good routine can be extremely helpful in keeping us on track to achieve a goal we desire. Without a routine, you are more likely to be disorganised and skip study sessions. When it comes to studying, you should choose a place and time and ideally stick to this as much as possible. Your study place should be an environment where you are free of distractions and can solely focus your attention on studying. If possible, you should also make the area as relaxing and productive as possible by keeping it decluttered as well as using decorations, smells and sounds than soothe you. The place and time are both dependent on what works for you. Some people, for instance, may prefer studying in their bedroom at night while others find themselves to be more productive studying at a library in the afternoon. You should look to spend a few minutes studying each day. Studying in short bursts daily is proven to be more effective than one long study session each week.
Distractions are the destroyer of productivity. When studying, be sure to remove anything that may cause you to lose focus. This includes family and friends, as well as technology. You will process information more clearly if your attention is focussed. It’s not difficult to become distracted and this often happens when we don’t recognise it occurring. Should you require a computer or mobile phone for studying purposes, avoid social media platforms. Many devices these days have features that allow you to immerse yourself in a productive task without being disturbed. Before you start studying, take a moment to clear your mind. It’s also good to approach the session with a positive mindset.
It’s important to avoid overloading yourself and taking the necessary time to recharge your batteries. As mentioned previously, get into a routine of short study sessions every day rather than long periods of studying. Studying for hours on end will undoubtedly make you feel tired and frustrated, and will decrease the effectiveness of your learning. Take some time out from studying to do a physical activity, such as walking, or a leisure activity that you enjoy. It’s also important to get a good night’s sleep. Ideally you should aim for 8-9 hours but if that isn’t possible, take a short nap during the day.
A critical aspect of studying at university is to review and reflect on what you’ve been taught so far. It’s good to do this weekly rather than as a rushed revision attempt before an important examination at the end of the year. This is where you should re-visit your written notes as well as any materials provided by tutors to recall and reinforce the content in your mind. You may also wish to identify other revision methods that will be effective for you. For example, you could create your own questions or flash cards. You may also like the idea of having a friend quiz you on a topic.
University is best experienced with your fellow students. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from others or to seek clarification on things you’re unsure of. It’s impractical to think that you are capable of fully processing everything that is mentioned during a lecture or lab session. You may also find it helpful to team up with other students within your class. While some courses will have compulsory group projects, individual projects don’t have to be traversed alone. Consider forming a study group where you and your classmates can revise and bounce ideas from one another.
You’ve achieved the hard part of getting into university… well done! But the level of work can be a surprise at first and if you find yourself falling behind, it’s easy to lose some of the motivation. Don’t lose sight of the ultimate goal that you’re working towards. Regular studying is an important cog in the machine and a necessary step towards earning your degree. With that in mind, reward yourself every time you have successful completed a study session. You may wish to treat yourself with your favourite snack or a trip to the shops. Rewarding yourself will help keep you motivated and reminds you that you’re on the way to completing your goal.
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