Sorry for the hiatus, I have been preparing for exams, taking exams, and then celebrating end of exams by doing absolutely nothing, but this time WITHOUT guilt. It’s been heavenly. To celebrate on my blog I decided to write this list of things I learned from my first year of uni. Yep, one whole year, and it feels like I only just started yesterday.
I’m not the oldest person there, but it is painful when I am.
This was something that really terrified me going into uni. Turns out, there are plenty of other mature age students, and a lot of them much older than me. I tend to gravitate towards other mature age students because there’s still a bit of a cliquey element to a lot of tute work that’s hard to break into, I guess a holdover from high school for most people. The best tutes are when tutors involve the entire class in one big open discussion, rather than break up into groups. When I am the oldest person in the class I can definitely feel it – I had one tute this semester that felt exactly like being back at school, with no one listening to the tutor and constant talking and laughing over the top of her speaking. It was torture.
There are so many extra workshops, classes, groups, and services that there is no reason for you to fail.
Unless of course you’re really not trying or just incompetent, there are so many services at uni that it’s like they WANT you to succeed. Weird! You can have one on one meetings with librarians who will look over your assessment and help you figure out an exact schedule for how to approach your assessment, and where to find resources for research. You can have a meeting with a career counsellor if you’re not sure about the outcomes of your course or where you want to take it. You can join the Leadership Development program, that does workshops around topics like How to Deal with Change, or Team Management, or a whole series on how to plan, fund, and run your own student club or charity. You can go to Career Development workshops, and there are constant resume labs where the career counsellors sit down and go through your resume line by line. These are only the things I have tried this semester, I’m sure there will be even more avenues for help as the years go by and I get deeper into my degree. It’s just amazing to me how much help you’re able to get.
Go to every lecture, go to every class.
Why not? I went to every lecture this year with the exception of probably two or three due to sickness, and I felt like I knew the material perfectly because of it. Not just that, but I knew the material that my tutor and lecturer wanted me to know. I could have grabbed a bunch of books from the library at the start of semester, or worked through text books, but the material in lectures is what I was marked on, so it made it easier to figure out what information was vital and what was extra. As for going to every class? Both semesters I went to every class for about the first eight to ten weeks. I got to know the tutors well, I got to figure out if there was extra information in tutes that I wasn’t getting in lectures, I got up to date information about assessments from the people who were marking them. If the classes were good, fun, or had great discussion, I made a point to go to every single one of them. Two of my units this semester unfortunately had terrible tutes and/or tutors, so I went to about the first eight, ascertained that I had all the information I needed for the final assessment, then stopped going. I enjoy being on campus and I’m currently not employed, so I like to get out of the house and around people. Plus, I’m basically getting paid by Centrelink ($30 a fortnight!) to be a student, right? So why not go. Attending on campus makes my life easier.
Do the work early.
I somehow found myself at the end of this semester having finished every final assessment with two weeks left to go. The only way I can figure that happened is that I found out what I had to do early, planned out what I wanted to do, then did it. Have to write 2000 words on this subject? I spread it over four days and wrote 500 words a day, about half an hour’s work per day. I just need to envision the entire project as something that can be cut up into tiny chunks, and then it’s much more manageable. It’s hard to sit down and write 2000 words, but it’s easier to face only 500. Then when the words start piling up, my motivation grows and before I know it I’ve gone over my word limit. Getting the work done early also gives me more time to revise, giving me a more polished piece when it comes time to submit. The rule is cut the time into three – one third planning, one third writing, and one third revising.
Little things that were fun:
- Studying while listening to Mozart. Literary theory is much more grand this way.
- Studying at a standing desk. If you mess around for too long, your feet hurt, so you need to study hard, quickly.
- Pretty colours! I bought a pack of different coloured pens this semester and wrote in green, purple, pink, orange, and blue. Green notes were particularly well remembered.
- Journalling. At the end of every day, I wrote a journal entry recapping everything I had learned for the day in my own words, without looking at my notes. This worked really well for literary theory.
- Studying in different areas around my house. At my desk, at the kitchen table, on the couch, at a desk downstairs. I’m yet to study outside the house, or at the library or a cafe. I don’t think I’m the kind of person who is very good at studying in those places, I find that I’d be distracted too easily, especially around the smell of food.
- Borrowing a new book from the student library every week. Yep, every time I had a spare hour on campus I’d go to the library and pick up something new that was related to my units. I never fully finished any of them, but I always had a huge stack to draw on if I needed a reference, and I got to practise my skim-reading to find important or relevant parts.
I’m proud of myself for finishing my first year and I don’t regret for a minute the decision to change the direction of my life for this. Every day I get to wake up and feel like this is exactly what I’m supposed to be learning and doing. I hope my tips help anyone considering or about to start uni. It’s rad, make the most of it!