5 things I wish I knew before starting my degree

University is the next step in your life and can be a very contrasting environment to school life. To follow are some things that I wish I had a better understanding of before I started university.

Don’t be fooled by a day off

The format of an average university today is different to what you may be used to. For example, it may seem like you have much shorter days than you do at school, perhaps having just the one lecture on a particular day and maybe even none! Don’t be fooled by this, thinking you’ve got “a long weekend” or a “day off”.

The university day is designed specifically to give you enough guidance to further your own knowledge by following the reading lists or doing your own research. I spend most my days on campus, and between lectures and seminars I usually find myself in the library doing work. I find once I’m on campus it is worth my while to stay and be productive.

The Library has different zones including a silent zone for individual work and an area called the ‘studious buzz’ zone which is great for group work or a more relaxed environment.

What’s the difference between lectures, practicals and seminars?

I have different types of teaching: lectures, practical and seminars. Now you should go to these as it is in your best interest to do so!

Lectures are held in large groups and are mostly information delivered to you by a lecturer often aided with a PowerPoint. Some of this may be found on the VLE (the Virtual Learning Environment – an online site for the university where a lot of academic material and notices are posted). Practical sessions are usually coverage of an exercise you are expected to complete beforehand. Finally, a seminar is the small group “lesson-style” aspect to your learning. Sometimes you have to submit work before the seminar which will be covered by the tutor.

The mixture of the three provides a dynamic learning environment to give you the balance between taught and independent learning.

Take note!

Something that has made university easier for me is staying on top of my notes. I make notes as I go along throughout the term and do not leave things until last minute.

Time management is an incredibly valuable skill and doing work little and often it’s amazing what an extra half an hour here and there can do wonders when you come to revising. It all adds up!

Develop your CV as soon as possible

Now this next tip may seem a little premature but it’s one piece of advice I wish I had known. In today’s competitive world getting a foot on the career ladder early is advantageous. I am not saying it’s the end of the world if you don’t, but there are many opportunities for students to test the water in different industries.

Most people have heard of internships, which typically take place in the summer before your final year of university (between second and third year). What a lot of people are unaware of are the opportunities available to first year students. In many industries there are opportunities to spend a few days (or more) gaining valuable experience and getting ideas for what path you may wish to take. This experience also makes you a prime candidate for the increasingly competitive internships.

Get involved!

Lastly, when you get to university there will be lots of chances to join things and sign up to societies – I say go for it! Don’t be shy, no one is here to judge and no one cares if you don’t get things right the first time. There are lots of Facebook groups and emails you can sign up for which keep you in the loop. University is a great place to try something new and meet new people.

A few of the societies that I am a part of are the economics society, the investment and finance society and also my college netball team. These are just a small number of the things you can join. There is something for everyone: at the beginning of the year there will be fairs where you can find out all about what is on offer here at York.

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