This week our guest blogger Alex Staff discusses the repercussions of skipping out on Uni in first year and second year, and why managing your time early on will stand you in good stead in getting that 1st class degree.
So freshers week is but a blurry memory and lectures have well and truly begun. The freedom of living on your own and minimal contact hours a week means that managing your time and motivating yourself to actually be productive is considerably more of a challenge at Uni than at any previous stage of education. I completed A-levels at a college, rather than a 6th form attached to my secondary school, so I was slightly more prepared for the independence. I was only expected to be in when I had lessons and it was down to you to attend. Even so, living at home meant that lounging around watching Netflix all day wasn’t really an option. At Uni, your flatmates won’t care if that’s what you choose to do (it’s your life), so finding the motivation to get out of bed on a freezing morning for a 9am lecture has to come completely from you.
University tutors are not there to spoon-feed you, and you won’t get a detention for missing a seminar. If it becomes a regular occurrence they will chase you up on it, but simply put it’s literally your own time and money that you’re wasting – if you’re not putting in the effort, they will focus on the students that are.
An incentive first-years tend to live by is the idea that ‘first year doesn’t count’. While for most Unis this is true in terms of the end of year percentage that goes toward your degree (although check this, as for some Unis first year is worth 10%), that really doesn’t mean you don’t have to try at all. They say you never get the chance to re-do a first impression, and for some courses the tutors that you have in first year will be the same throughout your whole time. If you completely doss off in first year and don’t put any effort in, they’re not likely to want to give up their own time to help you out later on. Plus, there’s a jump each year in difficulty, so if you didn’t try in first or second year, there’s not a chance you’ll be able to ease through third. The grade you get in second year quite often works as the swing grade that determines what you get overall. Not caring in first and second year but trying really hard in third year can mean that all your hard work in the final year seems a waste – a few people I know could’ve gotten a 1st overall but their second year mark brought their overall grade down
Obviously in first-year there are aspects of University life that are just as important as studying. Making sure you’ve settled in, made friends, joined clubs etc. is really important to ensure you have a happy and positive time, and they should be a top priority. But don’t forget that after all, the whole reason you’re there (and paying an incredible amount of money to be) is to get a degree.
However, there are loads of reasons why you could be struggling to keep up. Whether it be a financial problem, or that you’re not getting along with your flatmates, or that your course is proving a lot harder than you’d anticipated etc., there are loads of reasons outside of your control that can have a real impact on your learning. If this is the case, make sure you seek some help and don’t feel like you have to sort it out yourself. While Uni is a lot more independent than college or 6th form, at all Universities there is a strong aspect of student care. Most offer a counselling service that are there to be used and can be of real help (even financially) if you feel like you’re struggling, so make sure you make use of them.