Making The Most of University

John sheds some light on how to get the best university experience

University can be a very scary time. New friends, new city, new subjects… how can one cope with so many different changes? At college, I was consistently placed amongst the worst. In fact, my result were bad. Quite literally, they spelt BBAD. BAD. But at the University Of Nottingham now, I am averaging a first. I do not say this to boast, but to show that you can do it too.

1. Talk to your personal tutor. At Nottingham, there is an incredibly helpful system whereby academic staff support you with your work. Take advantage of it. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask your personal tutor. My relationship with my personal tutor has led me to see things I have never seen before. As someone who has ‘been there and done that’, he’s also counselled me wisely on things I can improve on, or unrealistic expectations I am setting.

2. Work consistently. When that deadline seems ages away, we are always tempted to put it aside. But putting it aside only makes the problem worse. Why not try writing 100 words a day, or work on it for 1 hour a day? It will do wonders for your grades, as well as ensuring that you won’t spend the week leading up to the deadline feeling anxious, worried, and pulling all-nighters. They are not fun, and definitely not the way you want to remember university.

3. Rest. As students, we don’t have set times for work. We determine our own schedule. But that can be dangerous because we end up ignoring our bodies’ work-rest cycle. Each week, put aside a day where you completely rest. No checking of university emails, no working on assignments, and focus only on recharging yourself for the week ahead. Having 24-hour recharge periods like these ensure you are physically healthy, but more importantly, mentally well.

“keep your eye on progress, instead of perfection.”

4. Build a support network. Your support network is going to be what gets you through your worst times at university. Make sure you have a few cheerleaders in your academic career, because they are the ones who will bring you up when you are feeling down. Never underestimate then. Most importantly, let them help you! They never know how you feel until you tell them.

Also, be mindful of who you have around you. There are drains, who drain you of your energy, and there are radiators, who give you a power boost every time you are around them. Remove those who seem to be sapping your life’s energy. They are frequently the ones who tell you that your dreams are impossible, discourage you, and depend on you for emotional support, whilst being unwilling to offer help when you need it. Keep clear of them.

“University is more than just a degree.”

5. Celebrate progress, not perfection. Each day, we achieve so much but fail to recognise it. Early for class today? Contributed a question in class? Helped someone struggling with their work today? They are all worth celebrating. Too often, we constantly shift the goalposts such that we forget where we have come from and look only towards what we have yet to achieve. It leaves us more exhausted, and less appreciative of what we have actually accomplished. Each day, take 5 minutes before bed to jot down 2 things you were proud of completing, and 1 thing you can improve. This way you keep your eye on progress, instead of perfection.

University is difficult, but it’s a highly fruitful journey. Work hard, but enjoy the journey. University is more than just a degree.

John Lim Le Sheng 

Featured image courtesy of Yingtong Li via Flickr. Image license here

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