‘Whats your best advice for someone going into first year?’
The people I asked couldn’t offer much extensive advice in a few minutes of chatter though. So, In this post, i’ll attempt to share some stuff I would’ve appreciated to know when I was me one year ago asking that question. Without further ado, here’s my top tips (from my experience as an ex-fresher):
1) Go to every lecture. Everyone I asked a year ago mentioned this first. Lectures, unlike labs and tutorials, aren’t mandatory. Missing a few lectures consecutively will lead you to a downward spiral – you miss out on the content, you lose interest, you feel out of place and before you know it, you’re in a hole you won’t be able to dig yourself out of.
[UPDATE: Only lecture material can show up in the exam, so don’t fret yourself out if you didn’t read the recommended texts. That’s the beauty of it, if the lecturer was sick and the lectures were cancelled, they’ll take that part out of the exam. Keep in mind though, some unit exams include material from labs)
2) Be as social as possible Nobody know you yet, so no stakes. Make as many familiars as possible – initially. As it can be a great way of settling in. Its not necessary to make a lot of new friends and to be popular. Introduce yourself, get to know a few people and thats it – it will pay dividends in your tutes and labs.
3) Explore campus as much as possible It sucks to find out about something you didn’t know about late into the year. Take some time out to find the best eating spots, or best studying spots or just places to relax. Try out a few different places to develop a preference.
4) Budget your spending on food I use to feel bad every time I bought a milkshake or a chocolate bar. I felt I was spending way too much on a weekly basis. So I budgeted. I’d cash out $50 a fortnight ($5 a day). This allowed me to spend with piece of mind, knowing I wouldn’t go over a set amount. Guilt: eliminated. Find out how much you’d feel comfortable spending per fortnight and budget accordingly.
5) Manage your Time, Systematically Have a systematic approach to how you study, relax and work. Be methodical. Don’t just wing it. For me, living strictly to a routine (automated decision making) works best. Adhere to a morning ritual, batch when you check Facebook and email (for example once-a-week cleanup), setup rules (for example same day lecture revision) and guidelines to how you allow people access to your time and attention. Don’t blur the lines between study, social life, and recreation. Keep them separate by separating their physical domains (for example, don’t use your phone for email, limit that to your laptop). The point is, have a method to your madness.
6) Go into the exam with a 100% average I wish I knew about this early on. Because its completely possible. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t get 100% (or close to) in all your assignments and online quizzes. You have plenty of time, a detailed rubric to follow and access to unlimited resources. With an extremely high average, even a mediocre score in the exam can get you a possible HD for the unit.
7) Be Effective over Efficient, every time Busywork, time spent organising and doing the wrong things efficiently are all time killers (and forms of laziness). Be effective and do the right things, and you will find yourself spending less time studying in total. Also, studying less isn’t laziness. You know that feeling you get when you’re really ‘productive’? You don’t have to have that feeling to be productive. Its an illusion.
“Most things make no difference. Being busy is a form of laziness – lazy thinking and indiscriminate action.” – Tim Ferriss
8) Always be up to date, if you want to study less ‘You can never get top marks if you’re always catching up’ – advice from a 4th year med student. When you’re behind, your workload is doubled: previous work piled on top of current work. If you stay up to date, you’d have spent less time on uni work in total over the semester. As well as not having to stay up late nights, ever again, even on exam nights.
9) Sleep early, wake early If I were to follow just one piece of advice from this list, it’d be this one. So many rushed assignments, missed lectures, late labs and ‘falling-behinds’ result from this issue. Its such a pain. Become a morning person. Don’t cater your life around waking up late. Sleep early to wake early for Fajr, then don’t sleep. Do this everyday, even in the holidays. Start this habit now to get your body clock adjusted. It’ll probably take about a month to achieve this but once you do, you won’t go back.
10) Have a life outside uni Your source of self-worth shouldn’t come from your results. Invest your time and focus on things other than just study. Although limit how many things you do to two to three things. Juggling study, work, and other commitments may result in a decline in at least one of those things.
11) I wish I’d read this article early on If you want high distinctions, this is all you need: http://www.davidbudden.com/high-distinctions/
First year is a time to experiment with study methods and timetables to find what best suits you. Essentially, by the end of first year, you’d want to have figured out a crystallised blueprint that unleashes your maximum potential whilst keeping your sanity intact. So have a bit of fun with it, stick to what you’ve chosen as a degree and slug it through. Good luck!