As we are nearing the end of the academic year, what better time to interview a final year undergraduate to find out how they have tackled their studies, extracurriculars and social life throughout the last three years.
What resources do you prefer to use, and why?
Personally, I prefer print resources, when working on core content, as it is easier for me to edit and see; my eyes start to strain when I stare at a screen to long and I get easily distracted by facebook etc. However, I know this is personal to me, when I got a new laptop which was faster and with better memory I found it a lot easier to work and record content digitally rather than using print resources. I also prefer digital now as I feel incredibly guilty wasting paper! I think for me, once I learnt how to edit pdf’s, highlighting etc and basically doing anything you can do written but using a computer, it became a lot easier to manage my work content. I do like both, I’d say it’s good to have both options so you can easily have a break from one and the other… In summary, if you have a good laptop, that has a good working memory, stick with digital work, if you learn from writing also take some written notes.
Have you noticed a change/shift/ over the three years in the way you/your classmates study?
Definitely! In first year I thought I had to read all the content of all the text books- I soon learnt that was near impossible. I have always been a quite kinaesthetic learner or auditory/visual but learning from reading has always been my weakness! So, in the end I would usually turn to videos to explain theories and then go back to do the wider reading after I had understood the basic principles. In final year however, a lot of our content is around reading academic articles and individual work, so I soon realised videos weren’t the solution and that I had to improve my reading technique!
I am probably the worst student to interview as I was terrified of the library for 3 years! It was only in my final year I stepped in and realised there is a space for everyone! I enjoy working in the quiet area and find this really helps to process what I read. Although, as I do get easily distracted I do sometimes convert articles in to audio content so I can listen and read alone. There are ways to skim key words – I really should learn how to do that…
Since returning from placement I have noticed everyone’s work ethic is so much better! I personally attempted to work 9-5 everyday and soon realised uni requires longer days. But placements definitely make you feel more determined and you learn in final year you must be resilient and focussed in order to reach deadlines! Put it this way: I go out a lot less… and eat a lot more…
Finally the depth of study has increased, I really appreciate my degree and enjoy what I can gain from it. So wider reading/viewing content is a lot less of a chore. As I said reading is my weak spot but that is no excuse as (most) subjects have recorded interviews, audio books etc that you can look into instead of just relying on reading. – But it does take experimenting and accepting what works for you.
Apart from library resources, what other types of resources do you use for your studies?
I love video content! – Especially if I find myself getting tired or distracted; it really helps me engage with content and I take written notes to keep up my concentration. Youtube has become my best friend as a base point for some concepts. I use word to plan my work schedule, I know there is better software but I like to keep things basic as it can easily be changed. I probably should use more resources but I am quite basic – I find study posters are good too. Oh but I have started using envivo but that is for my dissertation (and is very confusing).
Do you use your reading list and do you find it helpful?
Yes, I do. Two weeks before I come back to uni I check out my reading list and try and take out the books I can find in the library or order them online. I have a little flick through before I start back at uni so I am prepared and know what to expect. After all if the books are not useful you can always return them. But 80% of the time the core readings will be necessary at some point.
What study advice do you have for 1st and 2nd years?
Okay firstly, find what works for you and stick with it. Use your first year to experiment!
Don’t be afraid to ask for help, that’s what your teachers and peers are for! Personally I spent a long time dwelling, when in reality if I just planned my work early I could have checked with a teacher if I was on the right track… Read the mark scheme before and during your work as a constant checker you are on the right route. Do the reading first; then spend a few weeks really understanding the topic and reading deeply before you write so you have more grounded knowledge of the subject.
Take notes of all the important details the lecturer/seminar tutor draws attention to, trust me it will make revision so much easier! I spent my first year revising everything when actually teachers can provide some helpful hints for what to focus on – so listen! Structure your revision and practise papers; the content may repeat itself (often does in some way) so get familiar with arguing your point.
Uni life can be tough! – It can be stressful at times, so look after yourself! It sounds basic but it’s so important. Eat well, I mean regularly, workout or at least gentle exercise and find time to be social, see your friends and do something you enjoy other than uni. If you are to succeed at uni, your health comes first and you will see the benefits. Sometimes we think the only option is to work 24/7 but this will only benefit in the short term, it doesn’t work for everyone, but I have found sometimes I need to rest my mind.
What do you do to manage your academic commitments with social ones?
Interesting question… I am the president of the business society, have a part time job, am working on developing my online business and a student mentor; whilst also applying for jobs, finding time for fitness, dance, yoga and having a social life.I am not going to lie to you, it can be really hard! Managing time is everything. Get an online diary, use a planner software if you have to know your deadlines and have a rough schedule of what you are going to work on and where you want to be. If you are like me and have a habit of feeling guilty for ‘me’ time then put it in your diary as scheduled time and stick with it. But its also okay to rest if you are struggling and just pick yourself up the next day.
I find it helps to remind yourself long term of why you are doing this and this will help push you when maybe you are feeling a little demotivated. In everything balance is so important, so find time for laughs and find time for studying (or try both at once). I find there will be times when I have to commit solely to work but I won’t let fitness and friends slack as I know I wouldn’t get through uni without them. I guess what I am saying is don’t isolate yourself – make the most of the uni experience and you will learn we all feel the same and work will seem more manageable.
Tara’s Top Tips:
- Meal Prep – For long days at uni that require fuel.
- Bus Rides & Coffee – When I’m feeling tired I will hop on the bus and drink a large coffee and all is fine.
- Walk to Uni – If you’re feeling stressed, take a deep breath and walk to uni.
What resources do you think could benefit you more in your studies that academics don’t currently use in their modules?
- Videos -because I love a good visual.
- Teach how to edit online pdf’s – How to take notes etc and generally how to better use the software for time management.
- Business magazines – Ideally, readily available in the Jubilee building so I can read them between classes.
- Possibly study apps – Connected to the modules, so you can easily access their content on the go without having to go through different sites or Sussex direct app.
- IT Training Course – To teach/involve study software.
Basically, for me, an option other than reading alone if possible… I know that is tricky for final year content.
Finally, if there is one thing you could tell your 1st year self what would that be?
Believe in yourself! Work can seem hard at times but honestly if you didn’t have the ability to do it you wouldn’t be here. So, don’t waste time having a defeatist attitude and work towards reaching those goals. Again, this is just me but everyone can be their worse critic, use that energy to push yourself to reach your goals and if you can stress less – do! Oooh yes and join all the societies you like the sound of – don’t be afraid to go! Enjoy uni and you will be fine in the end, think of graduation! (touch wood)
Thank you Tara, for taking time out of your very busy schedule to do this interview for us!
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