Planning your first year at uni in forty minutes or less
Thinking about how to plan your next year of studies? Here are four ten-minute steps to successfully prepare for the academic side of your first year at uni… by Laura Primiceri
Are you a fresher-to-be wondering where to start? It’s easy to misdirect your pent-up pre-uni jitters on panic buying course books, and there are no short cuts to getting the real work done. But it is possible to target your efforts and find out where this real work actually is. Here’s some speedy advice on administrating your year…
- Find your reading list
Time for some quick and easy searching. Find your reading list on your module webpage, and if you’re a science student and that list is two text books long, hunt down a copy of the module syllabus or lecture breakdown to guide you through. If you absolutely cannot find your reading anywhere, you can throw a party to celebrate an easy 15 CATs—or, email your tutor and ask them for it. Don’t forget to check that your reading list is for the year you’ll be studying the module, or you risk a lot of wasted work and frustrated crying in October. If it’s not, then your reading lists may not be ready yet – there’ll probably be a note from your tutor saying when they expect to put the confirmed list up, and you can come back later.
- Pick your reading
Once you know what you’re supposed to be studying, you can start to prioritise it. This might be a matter of going through the syllabus in chronological order, so that you’re a step ahead when you start the year, or picking out a particularly dense section of reading where you don’t think you’d be able to read all the material during the week. I personally avoid trying to do anything beyond the first term; for me this makes the scope a bit too overwhelming, and it’s not unlikely for me to forget everything in the in between time.
Try to focus your planning efforts on the first few weeks, and compare what you could be doing to what you can do. How much holiday time do you have before term starts, and what is the most pressing material to be covered? Pick out a couple of key texts, and don’t try and devour the whole module before it’s even begun.
- Find out which books are in the library
Finding out if your reading is in the Library is a great way to get ahead; go to the library’s Encore search and see what material is available. You can refine your search to e-resources only to see what’s available online too. Course extracts can also be a handy way to find course specific materials set by your tutors, you’ll be able to access these once you’ve got your student login.
- Find out which books to buy
If you can’t borrow the books you need or find them online, it might be necessary to bite the bullet and buy them. But don’t go mad and buy every book mentioned on the course before you arrive. Come next summer and you’ll likely be left looking at an expensive stack of untouched material.Instead, stick to what you think you’re actually going to read before term starts, and one or two texts for the beginning of the year; Amazon or eBay is generally a good shout for cheap student books. Once your course actually begins, you’ll find it easier to access library books and you might find that your tutor gives you more resources. You’re also less likely to buy the wrong text; lots of students are caught out buying the wrong edition, or from the wrong publisher.
Even if you do end up buying more books, at uni they’ll almost invariably be cheaper. The University Bookshop discounts many core texts, and a number of courses run book fairs where you can get second hand material from previous students. Bide your time, and don’t be lured into a false sense of productivity by buying more books than you need!
That’s all there is to it, before term starts: pick a few texts, get hold of them, and read what you can. And don’t worry if you can’t read everything. What you can do will free up your time when you arrive, but it’s equally important to prepare your social self for university. Spend some time saying goodbye to your friends, family and pets, and take a look at some of the societies or sports clubs that you might be interested in. You’re only preparing the way at this stage, not actually walking it, and if when you arrive at your uni you’re worried, we have many more tips and guides to get you through…
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