‘What I didn’t realise…’ You need to be organised. Seriously.


By Catherine Taylor

Before arriving at university I had been assured that, at least in my first year, I wouldn’t have much work to do. And for a while that was true.

In the first few weeks I spent more time in the pub than I did in lectures; I went on as many nights out as I could handle and even took a part-time job in retail to ‘keep me occupied’ on my days off. It wasn’t until around week six, when I’d fallen two weeks behind in my reading and had three fast-approaching deadlines, that I realised I’d bitten off far more than I could chew.

As a self-confessed serial procrastinator I was used to doing everything in high school at the last minute. Back then I had the safety net of teachers to keep an eye on me or give me a row if I hadn’t done my homework. At university, your timekeeping is up to you.

Contact hours can be as few as six per week or as many as forty, depending on what you study. Lectures and tutorials aside there’s also preparation for groupwork and presentations, research for assignments and the writing (and re-writing) of lecture notes and essays. All of this combined makes university feel like a full-time job, and many students struggle to cope with the studies alone.

Add a real part-time job into the mix and things can get even more difficult. Life turns into a vicious circle of not being able to study because you have to work, then not being able to go to work because you have to study. I ended up phoning my manager on more than one occasion to tell her I wouldn’t make my shift that afternoon as I had to finish an assignment – an excuse that never went down well, by the way.

And then there’s the social life. It’s no secret that socialising is one of the most important (and enjoyable) parts of university life. Freshers’ week allows you time to bond with your flatmates, meet other people on your course and drink a bottle of vodka or five, but as the weeks go on there seems to be less and less time to party and more time spent in the library. Sometimes a night out has to be sacrificed in order to finish a 3,000 word assignment due a few days later, that’s just the way it is. It’s easy to sit and wallow in self-pity when you hear your flatmates having pre-drinks in the kitchen without you but there’s no need to worry, this is first year – there’s always going to be another night out next week.

So it turns out university is a bit of a juggling game. Finding a good balance between work, studying and socialising was a lot more difficult than I expected, but it’s by no means impossible. Invest in a diary or a planner, keep track of all your assignments and try to start everything as early as you can if you want to stay on top of things. It’s a good idea to get yourself into a routine, but you don’t always have to stick to it.

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