How university study is different to school:
Lectures are the main source of information from the university. Everyone taking the module sits in a large lecture theatre and listens to a professor’s talk on the weekly topic. Sometimes, there is an opportunity to ask questions and interact, but most lectures are silent on the part of the students.
Seminars are when students get the chance to ask questions about module content and assessments. This is also where group discussions take place. It is like a regular classroom setting, except instead of learning new content in the seminar, you discuss the week’s lectures and readings.
Lectures are usually 1-2 hours long and seminars are usually an hour long. Depending on how many modules you have in your course, you will have between 6-12 contact hours a week. This is a lot less than in school because most of your study at university is independent study. This means you must adjust to motivate yourself to discover information and go beyond the basics of a concept.
What/How I study:
Personally, as I do Sociology, my independent study is heavily influenced by reading books and articles. I usually have two compulsory readings a week for each of my modules and several suggested readings to widen my understanding of the topic. This means that, outside of my lectures and seminars, I spend a lot of my time reading and taking notes.
My subject is essay-based. Therefore, all the reading I do gradually builds my knowledge in order to write a cohesive essay at the end of the year or term. When it comes to writing essays, I’ve found that I work best in the library. At home, I’m too tempted to get into bed or scroll on my phone, whereas in public I feel the pressure to finish what I’m working on to go home.
I think it will take a while to find your optimum working environment. In first year, I would go to the library at 10pm and leave to go home at 4am. This would drain me physically and mentally, but it taught me to manage my time better. I still do work better later in the day, but now I happily put my laptop away at 10pm rather than get it out.
University study can be difficult, so here are some tips I’m hoping can apply to any subject you choose to study:
This is the hardest one to follow but stop letting yourself get away with slacking. Tell yourself what you are going to do today, and don’t stop until you’ve done it (or at least done your best).
Plan your week, plan your day, plan your study. This will help to keep you on top of your workload and prevent unnecessary stress.
Enjoy your studies
If you don’t enjoy your subject, think seriously about if this is what you want to do. University can be stressful, but it shouldn’t be dreadful. You should enjoy educating yourself, discussing with others, and listening to professors talk about topics. Find the topics that excite you, and really delve into them.
Most of all, remember that university isn’t compulsory (in fact you’re paying to attend!), so make the most of your education! Use all the tools the university offers you and interact with your professors too. All the staff I’ve ever interacted with at the University of York are kind and helpful, and any university you choose to attend will be the same.
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