Guide to University Success – 10 Tips

For students at universities or colleges all across the world, a new academic year has either already begun or will begin soon. Summer is over, and we need to get used to using our brain again, to getting up early in the morning.

For those who are only enrolling in university now, it is far more than that: you are facing new challenges, a new world with new people in it. I remember my very first day in university, when I was only 19 years old, very shy and pretty much overwhelmed with everything. I will say, it’s scary, but worth it.

What I would have wished for back then are a few helpful pieces of advice on how to be successful at university. I didn’t have that, though, so I had to make my experiences on my own, and some of them I learned the hard way. So when Jasmin asked me to do a Motivational Monday about the start of the semester, I decided to give you ten tips on how to survive life and studying at university and graduate in the end.

1. In every building, find the cleanest and most quiet bathrooms.

Because usually, people like to pee in peace. From experience I can assure you, the best toilets are never on the first floor (or ground floor, if you’re a Brit). They’re used by far too many people.

2. Don’t get lost on campus.

Make sure you know where the rooms are your lectures take place. If you want to make extra sure, be there a week before lectures start and look for ways to get there, you might even find shortcuts.

3. Make acquaintances in every course.

They don’t need to be your best friends, but you need someone you can ask for help should you ever not be able to show up (be it because you’re sick or because you’re skipping) or should you have serious issues with the subject. If you think you can manage university without help from others, you’re only kidding yourself. And there is a saying that friends you make in college are friends for life.

4. Bring your own food.

At least whenever possible. Trust me when I say that relying on the cafeteria can be fatal when they either have only shitty food or too many people were faster than you and there’s nothing left. Besides, paying for lunch every day will make you indigent faster than you know.

5. Be there early.

In big universities with 20,000 students or more, it is vital you be there early enough to get a seat if you don’t want to end up standing, or sitting on some stairs, or the floor, even. If you’re there half an hour before the lecture starts, you get a seat, I guarantee it. If you’re there even earlier, you still have time to go to the bathroom and get a coffee without being in a hurry, a great thing if the lecture is in the morning hours.

6. Don’t do homework at the last minute.

For homework that you need to hand in to pass the course, don’t do it. Just don’t. It puts you through an unnecessary amount of stress, and since you don’t have enough time to properly proof-read what you wrote, you could fail because of too many minor mistakes.

7. Divide your revising wisely.

Do less work for the courses you know you’re good in, and in return do more work for the courses you are having trouble with. Every lecturer will treat their course as the absolute priority, but you need to figure out in which course you need to invest the most time. In the end it comes out even.

8. Find a studying method that works for you.

For some people it is enough to just memorize the contents, but others also need to practice applying their memorized knowledge to exam-format questions to be able to succeed. You need to find out what applies to you.

9. Don’t panic.

Some lecturers like to make you nervous by rattling off statistics about their exams, like e.g. the failure rate is seventy-five percent, for every lecture you need to do two hours of revising or you will not make it, yadda yadda. My advice is: don’t listen to them too much. If you make yourself crazy before an exam, that doesn’t help anybody, least of all you. You should go into an exam with the appropriate amount of respect, but don’t be scared. If you’re really nervous, you can always find higher semester students and ask them about their experiences.

10. Decide whether you actually want it.

This is the most important advice I can give you. If you only enrolled in university because

a) your parents wanted you to do it, or

b) you didn’t know what else to do, or

c) both of the above,

there is a high chance of it leading you nowhere. Sure, the experiences you make at university are great ones you will not want to miss, but if you know you don’t actually belong there, you should reconsider. When you are studying something you don’t really want to study, going through with it is incredibly hard, and I admit that I could not go through with it when I first enrolled. If you think you are strong enough, go for it. But think about what it is that you want, and pursue that.

“Never give up on what you really want to do. The person with big dreams is more powerful than the one with all the facts.” ~ H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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