Returning to University…Unprepared

It’s over halfway through August, and the new university term is looming closer on the horizon. It’s time to start thinking about returning to full-time education! Except…the summer has been long, and it’s become increasingly difficult to pick up that reading you were supposed to work through. Here, blogger Hannah explores the difficulties in trying to rediscover your academic mojo.

Don’t tell my dissertation supervisor, but I haven’t done any university reading this summer. I want to admit to that much, as it feels like every other student I speak to has nearly finished their reading for the entire year! The idea of starting now feels more difficult by the day, making it tough to even know where to begin. However, here are some thoughts I’ve gathered over this summer of losing my study momentum.

Make the best decision for you right now

I’m a big believer in making positive decisions for your own wellbeing, even if they don’t seem like the ‘correct’ decision to other people. Right now, a part of my brain is beating myself up for not working through my summer reading. However, the rest of my brain knows that taking on any more work would burn me out before term has even started. I’m currently working full-time, rehearsing and performing a Shakespeare production, volunteering, and trying to spend time with my friends and family! You might be more or less busy than me, but you know your own burnout threshold. I can recognise that pressuring myself into getting through my reading now will only fry my brain before term starts in October, which is something I want to avoid at all costs! Deciding to leave my university reading off my plate is the best decision for me right now. It doesn’t mean that I’ll never get around to it, but it does mean I won’t stress myself out!

Forgive yourself

I feel like there’s a shame attached to arriving at uni without having completed every piece of recommended reading available. It certainly makes me feel guilty, and plays up my Imposter Syndrome when I’m surrounded by other students that seem to be more prepared than I am. If you know you’re not going to start this year having read everything, or feel like you should have read more – begin by forgiving yourself. Having the time and the space to study effectively is a privilege, and you might not be in a position where you’re able to do that right now. It’s more important to approach the new term with a positive attitude and mental state, rather than in a terrible place but with all the reading completed! Don’t beat yourself up for making the best choice for you – you deserve a break, too.

Start small

When you haven’t started any of your summer reading, sometimes the thought of beginning such a big task is harder than the actual reading! If you feel ready to begin some work, I really recommend starting small, and having a reward in place for when it is completed. It doesn’t matter if it comes after one book or even one chapter – having a certain reward after you’ve completed it can really push you to make that start! Then, once you’ve started, it’s much easier to get into the rhythm of studying again. Some of my favourite rewards range from a fresh cookie, a new book purchase, or a nice relaxing face mask. Don’t try and set big goals yet, either! I’ve often found long-term reading goals to be really demotivating and unrealistic, particularly when life takes over and I slip behind schedule. Take each small chunk of reading as it comes, planning each study session step by step!

How do you feel about returning to university? Tweet us at @warwicklibrary, email us at, or leave a comment below.

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