The university year has kicked off, and it's time to get knee-deep in study again. Throughout this week our Back To Uni guide will be sharing tips, technologies and tricks to make university easier. First up: five time-tested ways to make sure you get the most of university.
Student picture from Shutterstock
To be clear: we are not offering earth-shattering revelations here. While technology makes some aspects of studying easier than with previous generations, the basic rules haven't changed. Making the most of university takes effort — and given that you'll be running up a fairly substantial debt during your studies, it makes sense to put that effort in.
1. Set a schedule
More than at any other time in your life, what you do will be dictated by a timetable. You'll have a fixed schedule for lectures, tutorials and hands-on sessions, and quite possibly a fixed schedule for work too. (If you're living in university accommodation, you'll also have a fixed schedule for meals.) Into the spare time that's left you need to insert additional study hours, the dates for assignments and exams, life maintenance (shopping, laundry and cleaning) and extra-curricular and social activities. Schedule picture from Shutterstock
Keeping this under control requires planning — a schedule which you set up and maintain, whether that's online, within an app on your smartphone, or even just on paper. While we'd argue that a cloud-based calendar is the easiest to maintain and access, it's your commitment to the process that really counts.
Not only do you need to set a schedule, you need to maintain it. Set aside 15 minutes at the end of the week to review the upcoming week's schedule and make sure everything is included. That can make a big difference to how well your schedule serves you.
2. Don't make your schedule too ambitious
Having said all that, there's an equally important point to be made: there are only so many hours in the day. University is full of tempting extra-curricular activities, of both the formal and informal kind. You should absolutely take advantage of these when you can — but you also need to recognise that you can't fit everything in. A full-time study load, a part-time job, multiple sports teams and a place on the university council is more than most people will be able to manage. Appointment picture from Shutterstock
Again, this is why regular schedule reviews are important — because you can't always predict what's going to come up, or how long some activities will take. Some subjects will prove easier than others, and you may not need the same amount of study time you originally assumed. Others will require extra effort. You can't always know this in advance, so you need to be prepared to be flexible. Being flexible will be difficult if your every minute is already assigned.
3. Make sure you sleep properly
All-nighters before an essay is due might seem inevitable, but if you don't get regular sleep, you'll find your results and your health suffering. Check out our comprehensive guide to sleeping better for lots of tips. A key point in the uni context? You can't actually catch up on sleep — a regular sleep pattern is much healthier than minimal sleep during the week then lazing about all weekend. Sleeping picture from Shutterstock
4. Pay attention to diet and fitness
Your ability to perform will be heavily influenced by your health, so don't neglect diet and exercise. That can be challenging, especially if you're living out of home for the first time and don't have much cooking experience or money, but it isn't impossible. Food picture from Shutterstock
If you're a beginning cook, check out our guide to the most confusing cooking terms and our guide to healthy eating for people who hate cooking. If your budget is tight, check out our Mastercheap series for inspiration — everything you need to eat for $25 a week.
On the fitness front, you don't need an expensive gym membership or to sign up for team sports if that's not your thing — you can exercise at home without equipment. Merely fitting in 30 minutes walking a day will put you a long way down the road to fitness.
5. Make friends
While a large proportion of your study may end up being solitary, the social aspect of university life is equally important — both for your results and your overall mental health. Make friends with people doing the same subjects as you: that ensures you have someone to revise with, gives you access to notes if you happen to miss a lecture, and means you have someone other than your lecturer to ask if something isn't entirely clear. Friends picture from Shutterstock
What tips are helping you survive university? Share them in the comments.