Returning to University: Third Year Top Tips

Tanya Bhayani, University of Aberdeen (MA Psychology, Year 3)

When I came into third year, one aspect of university life that felt daunting was the pressure of knowing that I had to solidify my learning techniques and be prepared for the imminent increased work-load. In retrospect, I realise that I was far better at dealing with this in my second semester than my first because it’s difficult to learn what you’re handling incorrectly whilst its happening. The following tips are what I’d strongly recommend thinking about before third year arrives, and pointers to keep in mind whilst you’re there:

  1. Experiment with revision techniques early on in the first semester:
    Rather than giving you a method of revision, I think it’s important that you find what’s best for you. Think about the last two years and what has felt most helpful. Often, we find the best techniques when pressure is intense and exams are close by, so it’s important to move that process earlier. In my experience, rewriting my notes has been a very time-consuming and ultimately unhelpful method of revision, and I realised I wasted a lot of time in doing so. Sometimes, what ‘feels’ productive isn’t necessarily the most productive in the end.
  2. Come in to university with the intention of staying after class:
    Something that has been helpful for me is to pack my bag with essentials that I need outside of my timetabled classes. This motivates me to go to the library after my class to work on assignments or tutorial preparation. This leaves me with no excuse to go home as I have everything I need in order to complete my work effectively. Additionally, make sure you pack enough snacks, food and water to keep you going throughout the day, because another excuse you might find yourself experiencing is to go home to eat (and then taking a nap). You’ll feel much more productive at the end of the day and you’ll return home guilt-free and relaxed.
  3. Work little and often:
    Take advantage of any free time you might have between classes, where the awkward one-hour gap between modules actually becomes productive instead of something you need to kill time for. Plan out the day or the week in advance and think about what you might be able to do productively in an hour. It might be that you want to respond to some emails, or write a blog post, neaten some notes or plan an essay. These sorts of tasks are easier to accomplish in an hour, whereas it might be harder to get into other tasks, such as writing an actual essay. I recommend Google Calendar in becoming your organisational best friend.
  4. Your mental health comes first, before anything:
    Usually, in blog posts such as these, there’s always a tip that relates to taking time for yourself and it’s easy to brush over it. However, it’s one of the most important things you can do for yourself, especially for getting into the mindset for university. If you ever find yourself getting overwhelmed, accept that you feel this way and try not to compare yourself to others. Sometimes, it’s easy to convince ourselves that others are coping better than we are and this makes us question our thoughts or abilities. However, it’s always important to keep in mind that whatever you feel is valid. If you need anyone to talk to, the University offers services such as NightLine (an anonymous and non-judgmental service for students) and you can also make an appointment with your personal tutor.

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