Whether you are heading off to university for the first time to begin your undergraduate degree program this September, or else have taken time out of higher education to progress in your professional career and are now ready to embark upon a Master’s, then this is the article for you.
Here, to help prepare you mentally, as well as practically, for university is a comprehensive guide, in no order, for everything you need to do to make the most out of your degree experience.
1. Work on Your Time Management Skills
Time management is an incredibly useful skill in all areas of life, but when it comes to studying for a degree at college or university and balancing your studies around your personal and social life, time management skills do become somewhat mandatory.
Starting immediately, try to organize the day ahead to not only make the most out of your time but also to prioritize tasks according to the deadline. For example, little things like if you need to wash your work uniform ready for the next morning, do this early so it will have plenty of time to dry before you need it.
Improving your aptitude for managing your time will decrease the chance of suffering from stress and anxiety, give you a general sense of greater freedom every day, and help you balance your different responsibilities. Thankfully, there are plenty of effective ways to practice and subsequently improve your time management skills, including the following:
- Use the SMART goals system
- Resist the urge to automatically agree to an arrangement or activity
- Utilize the 20-minute rule by working on one task for a straight 20 minutes
- Learn the power of and the ability to say no
- Be clear on your priorities (both short-term and long-term)
- Attempt to minimize any distractions as much as possible
2. Never Assume You Know Everything
Especially regarding returning students who have already successfully acquired an undergraduate degree and are now preparing for their postgraduate program, it is essential to never rest on your laurels and assume you will not be challenged.
A step up from undergraduate to postgraduate may not sound a lot in a simple sentence, but there is a myriad of differences, all of them more challenging and more complex, between the two levels of degree.
For a start, postgraduate study generally relies much more on personal and solo work, so you will now not have the back-up of your classmates and postgraduate degrees have a much higher focus on research and explanations. In addition, the dissertation at the end of the program needs to be much more intense and focused and is usually a much higher word count and the area of specialism is a lot more refined.
For people who wisely choose to study for their postgraduate qualification online, especially those who, for example, are currently working in their chosen industry and want to move into more of a management position, you may well be better equipped with the knowledge of how to apply what you are learning practically.
It is also pertinent to remember, however, that a postgraduate degree will not only set you in excellent stead for better salary and career prospects in the future but will also expand your knowledge in your chosen field ten-fold.
3. Get Hold of the Reading List ASAP
When you received your initial confirmation of acceptance onto your chosen course, you will understandably have been over the moon and hopefully went out to celebrate with your friends and family.
However, after the initial celebrations are over, it is important to think practically about what you need in terms of academic supplies and one thing you must get hold of as soon as you possibly can is your reading list for the entire course.
Often, after the initial confirmation letter, you will receive both electronic communication and mail with more information as the weeks go by and your starting date moves closer, but if you have not received your reading list within the first few weeks, contact the university.
Once you have received the reading list, you should immediately strive to either long-term rent, or ideally purchase each book, especially those which are marked as mandatory rather than simply advisable. On the point of your books for research, it makes much more financial sense to use one of the student sharing websites on the internet and social media platforms and purchase the books second-hand.
Especially when it comes to postgraduate study, the books needed are often somewhat more obscure and therefore considerably pricier if you buy them new. It is, of course, more than likely that there are a few copies of each book in the college library, but unless you are incredibly organized and quick, they are likely to be checked out immediately by other students.
4. Keep Informed on Your Chosen Field and Subject
Another incredibly important thing to know when you are preparing to begin your educational career in further education is to make sure you keep up to date on matters surrounding your chosen subject and field.
It can often be tempting, especially for prospective undergraduate students, to enjoy their summer days and nights and not think about education and deadlines, as they are more than likely going to be spending the next three years or even more studying. However, you can still enjoy your summer whilst checking in, either with newspapers and magazines, or else through reputable internet sources, so when it comes to starting your program, you are not left behind.
5. Prepare for Living Independently
It may well be the case that you are already living alone, with your partner, or away from your family home, but if starting university is the first time you will be away from your parents or guardians, you should prepare for living independently and sooner, rather than later.
One thing to think about is food preparation and healthy meals and if you are not particularly adept at cooking even the simplest of meals, you should either ask someone else to teach you the basics or at least invest in a student cookbook.
There are numerous correlations and connections between eating healthily and better brain power, including:
- Berries can help reduce natural cognitive decline
- Coffee boosts the level of focus and concentration
- Eggs contain vitamins which can help prevent brain shrinkage
- Soybeans are rich in antioxidants
- Tuna and salmon can boost the function of the brain
- Dark chocolate is another tasty source of antioxidants
- Seeds and nuts protect brain cells
This does not mean, of course, that every single day you should only eat lean meat, fruits, and vegetables, as part of student life always involves pizza and other take-outs with your new university friends.
6. Remember to Take Care of the Official Matters
Hopefully, upon winning a place at your chosen college or university, you have already sorted out financing and funding options and are confident you can pay for the degree program.
However, if you still haven’t tied up the loose ends, this needs to be done and completed as a matter of urgency and if you are struggling with the logistics, you should contact either the university or college itself, or else a local state official who may be able to help.
Other official matters which you need to make sure are sorted and settled before you begin your first day at university include any part-time jobs you either currently have or are planning to start, transport to move your belongings to your new accommodation and student discount on the railway and other modes of public transport.
Additionally, you should also consider setting up a student bank account, which will usually offer exclusive student discounts, offer gifts for opening the account in the first place, and have bank advisors who are specialized in student financial matters.
7. In Your First Few Weeks of University
Finally, once you have ensured that you have dotted all the ‘i’s’ and crossed the ‘t’s’, it is time to start your new phase of life at university and there are plenty of sound pieces of advice to ensure you make the most of your time.
In the first few weeks of commencing your degree program, never be afraid to ask for help; from your classmates, your lecturers, other student bodies, as well as family members, and close friends back home.
Explore not only the university campus itself but also the surrounding area, in terms of local stores, and entertainment centers, such as movie theaters and bowling alleys, and be sure to learn the number of a local taxi firm so you always know you can get home safely.
Additionally, if you spot damage in your student dorm, be sure to take a photo to document it, else you may well be charged in the future. Remember that the friendlier you are in the initial few weeks, the more likely you are to ‘fit in’, and to always get enough sleep and drink enough water.