The shift from high school to university has always been a difficult one for teenagers. It’s that time in your life when you get to experience the changes from adolescence to young adulthood. For me, it has been a moment when I got to see how it is to have more freedom, but more responsibilities as well. Living far away from my family home, I had to learn how to take care of myself, but also how to manage my time and money. Since I’m going to start my last year of university soon, I want to offer some advice to the students who are just beginning their journey, especially during this trying time of online learning.
In terms of organization, this switch to online learning made things difficult for everyone, students, and teachers alike. For me, it messed up my rhythm a lot. I started to receive more homework, there were more deadlines, and my schedule changed suddenly. During this time, I began using a notebook to keep track of everything that was happening. And this leads me to my first piece of advice: note everything down. You’ll probably say: “I don’t need to. I will remember that”. I am here to burst your bubble and tell you this: no, you won’t. Chances are your memory will trick you most of the time. So just write it down, no matter where: in your notebook, on sticky notes, on apps on your phone or laptop.
Also, go to your classes. Take notes there as well. Online classes may give you an advantage because more teachers started sending electronic materials (which some of them failed to do before, by the way). But your teacher’s explanations can help you understand the material better. Besides that, you can ask questions during class, and you may remember what was said back then when you read your notes.
If you missed a class or two, don’t wait until the exam session period to ask for your classmates’ notes. Many won’t have the time (or the patience) to help you if you choose to take an interest in the course last minute. And it’s really hard to keep track of what courses you missed if you let them pile up.
One of the reasons I found it hard to stay focused and motivated was that I let myself slip into old habits. University is much harder than high school and you should treat it accordingly. It’s important to stay on top of your work and don’t let it pile up. Make it a habit to do a little bit of work every day or every two days at least. How can you do that? Give yourself small tasks. Don’t let yourself be intimidated by the end goal and portion your work in a way that’s digestible for you. And don’t leave things for the last minute. Many teachers will probably give you deadlines for papers or projects, so don’t leave them for the last day. Not only there is the looming threat of not finishing on time, but you may miss a lot of errors if you don’t let yourself have some time to reread what you wrote. Moreover, many jobs entail deadlines, so working with them from your university years may prepare you for your future career.
Many people recommend grinding all the information during the exam session period. Maybe it works for them, but I found myself always stressed and worried that I will never finish before the exam day or the deadline. The fear was taking over my brain and I couldn’t concentrate on anything. Maybe you can’t be consistent in every course and that’s fine. Choose a few of them that you like the most or that are the most challenging and focus on them during the semester. If you have to take midterms, then use them to your advantage and see what you have to work on more. Go to all your exams, even if you think there are zero chances that you’ll pass. There is always a chance that you will do it. And even if you don’t, you can see at least how the exam was and what you need to focus on when you retake it.
This period in your life is the best one to meet new people and make new friends. If you have the chance, do some volunteer work or go to the events organized by your university. Talk to your classmates and be open to interacting with others. Also, help each other and lift each other up. Meet up for study groups: not only it’s a great way of learning, but also you get to know one another.
This piece of advice applies to your teachers as well. Many of them are eager to see that you understand what they’re teaching about. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or respond to the ones they have. Feedback is really important for them and I’m sure they’ll appreciate it. This is also a great way to stand out, as they will see that you are interested in their course.
Don’t be that person that doesn’t let other people speak. Everyone knows you’re smart and you know your stuff, but give others the chance to learn as well. Remember that you aren’t the only one in the class. Don’t discourage your classmates from participating by taking over the whole discussion.
While succeeding in your studies gives you a lot of satisfaction, it could be dangerous if you let it take control of your life. By being an overachiever, I felt many times as if I wasn’t doing enough. So don’t put your mental health at risk by trying to get the best grades or to be on top of your class. Don’t blame yourself if you go through a rough patch and you can’t focus on your tasks. And the most important: don’t compare yourself with other people. Everyone has his or her rhythm and you have to find your own.
Exam sessions are the hardest periods for many university students. For me, it meant that half of the time I wasn’t even studying, but just staring at a wall or wandering through my apartment. Don’t lock yourself in your home with the excuse that you have to study. Meet with some friends. Take a walk outside. Do something fun. Take a day off and recharge your batteries. It isn’t a lost day if it helps you be more productive the next day. Just take care of your physical and mental health since these are the most important things in the world.