Now that I’m essentially waiting to graduate, I have decided to take the time to write a post wherein I give some advice to any readers of my blog who happen to be either university students or are going into university soon enough. What you’ll see is a short overview of some tips I have. Enjoy.
If you have a series of tasks that you need to do in order to complete your assignment, organise the work you have to do by priority so that you do the most important tasks first and the least important ones last. When writing a report or a dissertation, read the brief and pay attention to the structure expected of it, organise your content around it, and make note of the points you intend to cover or gather a strong body of sources before you start writing, so that you know almost exactly what to do. The ability to see beyond the present and look toward the horizon is something of an underrated skill, and it takes a while for students to get used it having to learn it. But if you do, you can became far more prepared and efficient than you would be if you only lived in the moment. If you’re doing a collaborative project, you need to make sure it’s not just you being the sole brain of the organisation. You want the whole team to be involved in the organisation practice.
Take your education seriously
There is a very common idea of what university life is all about: one in which you break off from your parents for most of the year, move into the dorms, live out “the best years of your life” (itself a rather pernicious piece of consumerist mythology). It leads people to sometimes place too much emphasis on pleasure, thus undermining their studies. But you don’t have to do that. Pay attention to what it is you have to, pay attention to the standards you have to meet and hold your work to as high a standard as possible. If you do this, you will gain a higher grade, be respected for the work that you do and quite possibly open yourself up for more employment opportunities.
No, seriously. Do it. When you’re writing a report or a dissertation or anything like that, don’t just go to any online resource to back up your work (and for the love of all things holy don’t use my blog as a source!). Get actual books and read them. For starters, if you do, you can demonstrate a real knowledge of the subject matter you’re pursuing , which goes to your credit during your assessments. But more broadly, it can lead you on to taking about reading as something you do on the side and become more well-read, which might make you smarter and more well-rounded as an individual. Which reminds me, don’t just get books for your projects either. Spend some time in between breaks reading some books on whatever subject takes your fancy. I swear, during my time in university I’ve become progressively more bookish, and I’m eternally grateful for the library they have on campus for tangentially introducing me to books like The Survival of the Pagan Gods by Jean Seznec. And in general if you have books at home, it can be a good way to spend your time during your course and beyond. Of course if you must use the Internet, you can find decent academic papers and journals there so long as it’s from a reputable source and sometimes you can find books as PDFs, but reading physical books is a much better experience in general.
Work smart, not hard
This was something I was regularly told over the years, and basically it means don’t work simply for the sake of work. Do as much as you need to do, within in a well-constructed work plan, and don’t just stack new tasks on top of another for the sake of it. This is not so that you can have less to do, or so that you can do almost nothing, rather it is so that you can concentrate your effort on what you need to do, as determined in a well-calculated project plan rather than simply hammering away at a project.
Never be afraid to ask for support
Your lecturers ultimately want you to pass, and they are there to help you get there. You will be assured of this during your course. That’s why if you have a question, or a nagging problem you can’t find a resolution to, don’t be too shy to ask a lecturer how to help you. They will usually answer your queries and/or help you discover the solution to your problem. Keep in mind, however, that they will expect you to listen to them and carry out their advice and then be able to go forward with it and not continuously rely on them to basically do your course for you.
Treat your academic life as though it were your job
In most instances, you will be expected to attend your classes punctually and without tardiness. If it is anything like my game design course during the third and fourth year, you will usually have to show up to the studio for between 9am and 5pm, akin to a standard office job, so as to prime you for life after your graduation where you will most likely seek employment. Take it from me, you will not get any respect if you skive, not from your lecturers and certainly not from people like me who work with you as a modest students.
When you’re working, just do the work, let your lecturers decide if you did it right
This comes from what I frequently experienced of both myself and others in my course. Whenever we’re working, we have a tendency to get stuck because we worry about whether or not we’ve met the standard set by the lecturer or if we’ve done anything right. The solution my lecturers often tell me and everyone else is simply to do the work and then let them have a look at it and then decide if we were correct in our course of action, because they’re the ones assessing it at the end of the day. This can apply to written assignments to some extent: write what you intend to write, your lecturers will sometimes review it and give you some direction, and then add or cut back as needed.