Surviving Studenthood

Surviving Studenthood

Top Tips for Student Life: Undergraduates, Postgraduates and online learning

Undergraduate

Leaving home, family and friends for the first time can be a difficult adjustment. Especially when you’re thrown into halls with a bunch of strangers who are all in the same boat as you—socially awkward, homesick and nervous. 

Health professionals agree that this time of a young person’s life can be one of the most stressful and if you have a consistently low mood or lack of motivation, to seek advice from those around you.

On top of this, you have to deal with student loans. These seem great fun at first. Down the money in cheap SU bar beer until you’re eating ketchup sandwiches and dry cereal after forgetting to pay the electric bill. Don’t forget room inspections on campus, hangovers in lecture halls, assignments, and exams. 

If you live like a real student for just a few weeks, you should go home looking withdrawn and your parents start to wonder what drugs you’ve been taking. 

Living with other people can be particularly challenging. This is increased if you have conditions such as OCD or anxiety. Also, it heavily impacts neat-freaks. Prepare to turn into a young mother (symbolically speaking) upon move in day.

Take a gander at the below tips, written by a previous uni student who lived with four boys, three Welsh and one Scot, who promised her they had tidy habits. If you think we missed anything – comment below. 

Top Tips To Remember

1. Don’t forget you’re independent – The domestic goddess you call Mother won’t leave ghostly piles of folded laundry on your beds and empty baskets in the room. A fridge doesn’t magically restock. So, unless you want a bad smell hanging around and a faint feeling of starvation, I would set a day a week for house chores and shopping. Start making dinner plans. You could cook in bulk and eat frozen meals for days on end if the task seems too daunting.

2. Make lunches – This saves a tonne of cash and avoids that nasty cheap cafeteria food they serve up on campus. It seems cheap at fifty pence an item, but it all adds up and unless your studying maths you need to admit you’re bad at it.

3. Budget before booze – You can’t blow all your cash on booze. Food isn’t free. Think about how you can pay bills, buy household items, use public transportation. Be wise and don’t leave yourself short. If you’ve ever walked three hours from the club in town home at four in the morning staggering through wet grass in open toed heels because there weren’t enough pennies in your pocket to cover a cab ride, the blisters bubbling on your heels probably taught you this lesson.

4. Cut out that copy paste habit – As well as using Wikipedia as a source of information. However, you could use the mass list of references that are used within Wikipedia articles going straight to the source of the data. Time saving trick. You’re welcome.

5. Plagiarism is taken seriously within the academic world, the best bet is to write your references and bibliography as you go along. Instead of reaching the end of a 2000 word essay full of quotations and having no idea where they came from. Make friends with the people on your course – Throw a party or take them on a night out, either way, you’re going to be stuck with these people for years so you may as well make the best of it. It’s better than those long silences where you wish there was a tumbleweed rolling across the carpet so you had something else to look at.

6. Work & study balance – Most students have to get a part-time job to support themselves through their degree but don’t overdo it. You came to university for a qualification, not to work. Twelve hours a week should be enough for a bit of pocket money without exhausting yourself. Nobody wants to crash, that leaves you missing your alarm clock and turning up to lectures in your pyjamas.

7. Use the academic library – Buying books all the time is a real money-sucker, even if cheap online companies are used. Utilise your campus library, but remember the due dates! Library fines can build up too. 
*Side note: don’t forget to check out local second handbook stores. If you’re lucky you can buy and sell your course reading list in the same shop. 

8. Calendars are your friend– Keep one hung up in your room, circle all the dates of your assignments, exams and deadlines. It’s unlikely that pulling an all-nighter to finish your work will get you a good grade. This can also be digital; on your phone, laptop, iPad, or these insane tablet-phone-iPod hybrids that exist now because why the hell not.

9. Medicine, fruit and vegetables – If you stop eating your greens then you’ll be prone to getting sick more. Having a handy draw of fruit and veg in the fridge can be a lifesaver. As well as keeping a medicine box in your room. Who doesn’t need aspirin when they have a hangover? If you think you can give up vitamins and minerals, scurvy will prove you sadly mistaken.

10. Clubs and societies – Great way to meet new people but make sure you don’t sign up for everything or your e-mail inbox will be full for the next year. If you go to the Fresher’s Fair, these guys will hand out goodies for free. Do you need a pen, a slice of pizza, a lanyard or measuring tape? Get yourself down to the Fresher’s Fair and talking to those crazy clubs. You can just pretend you’re listening.

Post-Graduate

How the fun part of studying (procrastinating, partying and avoiding any actual studying) can seem like a distant dream in comparison to this dark, looming nightmare. Is it daunting? Yes. It’s scary, but worth it. 

All jokes aside, I personally preferred studying for my MA. However, I chose to do this online. As an introvert, the BA undergraduate experience scarred me somewhat. One memory of a Welshman vomiting in my handbag summaries it perfectly. 

As an MA student you have a variety of options. 
1) Study part-time and work full-time
2) Study full-time, work part-time and house-share
3) Study full-time online and work full-time
If you’re extra lucky you might even have an additional option…
4) [Bonus] Study full-time, live at home with relatives/partner.

I chose working full-time, so I can live comfortably and get started teaching. 

Life could be more relaxed. Post graduate studies are taken more seriously by the students that apply to them, as they have a larger number of mature students or students without a BA (if applicable). You don’t have any 18-year-old freshers living away from mummy and daddy for the first time. An entire change of atmosphere. 

Take a look at these top tips that will help whether your part-time online or full-time on campus. 

Top Tips To Remember

1. You’re out of the playpen now – You’re not a fresher anymore. This means buckling down from the start and making sure you’ve gone through any lecture materials, planned any assignments and stocked your fridge freezer before buying that tempting new tech. 

2. Routine is your best friend – Studying isn’t all you do. There’s so much more to you. Maybe it’s the gym, your crafting hobby, a rock band or parenting responsibilities. Making sure you know what your doing each day, and when, is essential to a smooth study run. Especially if you want to fit in exercise and down-time. 

3. Mental & physical health matters – Life causes pressure. COVID-19 has taught us the world can shake up something new at any given moment so be on your toes. Your education is paramount in important but when it comes to health, your well-being trumps your qualifications any day. If you start struggling with anything like sleep, mood, motivation, get in touch with both your university and a healthcare professional. 

4. Erase the phrase ‘all-nighter’ from your memory forever – That’s not a possibility now. A five thousand word, well researched assignment cannot be adequately written in one single night without any prior work or drafting. You will flop, you will be sad, so avoid it at all costs. 

5. Take some sanity time out – Higher education isn’t easy, not because of the students knowledge or intelligence, but due to the pressure. We can have high expectations of ourselves or be slaves to the high expectations of others. On days where you might lose the plot, take a time out. Read or watch something for pure enjoyment, nothing else. Give yourself permission to rest. 

6. Discover your zen zone and work there. It might be in your garden being immersed in nature. Maybe there’s a cosy snuggle seat you can claim to get creative in. Even a shed or summer house could work. Whatever fills you with a sense of peace is sure to help you get into the flow of a good mindset.   

7. Up the game  – This means not solely relying on the references materials from your course notes, but actively doing outside reading relevant to the topic you are studying for each module. Keeping a master document of references from start to finish of your course will allow you to accumulate a lot of sources without having to continuously search or re-write them. 

8. Timetable your tasks – For your dissertation or thesis, make sure you have a step by step plan at the ready from the first day you begin your studies. Big projects can be stressful and complex, being well-prepared and following a strict regime for word counts weekly will ensure you stay on track for success. 

9.  Always have a master document and back ups – Any notes, assignments, research or materials provided by the university must be kept secure . So many students have fallen victim to the corrupted hard drive or broken tablet. I myself lost 50k words of my first novel while studying my undergraduate degree. There were tears. 

10. Keep your ideas  Have a pocket notebook and pen to scrawl ideas on. You never know when you may see, hear, touch, taste, or smell something new. It could relate to your work, there could be quotes or conversations that pertain to your course that gives you the edge of individuality. 

Leave a Reply