In my previous post, I presented my opening three pieces of advice that I have used to succeed in my studies at the University of Leicester. My final three tips are as follows:
- Print Out The Lecture Slides on Paper
Granted, students will spend most of their money on rent, travel, books, food and alcohol and will probably have very little cash left over. As a result, most students prefer to take notes from lectures in a big notebook or to use laptops and tablets to take notes electronically. But if you value getting the best possible grades, I will argue that printing the lecture slides is money well spent. A paper copy of lecture slides allows you to make notes of things the lecturers discuss which are not on the slides. Furthermore, it is easier to link points together on paper rather than on screen. This is invaluable help when planning assignments or revising for exams.
- Start Assignments Early
How long does it take to produce a really good essay or report? That answer will differ for every student and is additionally dependent on previous knowledge of the relevant topics. Nevertheless, irrespective of knowledge, crafting an excellent assignment is not a short process. Considerable reading, writing, editing and referencing is involved.
Arguably, however, the most important part of an assignment required to gain the top marks is thinking. For example:
- What are the key arguments?
- What are the key counterarguments?
- Which is stronger: the argument or the counterargument?
- What is the best order to present the key points?
- How do the key theories explain the main counterarguments?
- What are the weaknesses of a particular source or study?
- Are findings from older research studies still relevant today? Why or why not?
That is a mere eight questions. There are many others.
My point is this: many students may have previously excelled at leaving coursework until near the deadline. And it’s important to acknowledge that a lot of reading and writing can still be worked through near a deadline. But if you want to get a First in a social science subject dominated by 2,500+ word assignments, you cannot leave them until the last minute. It will take several drafts and numerous periods of extended contemplation to craft a high quality undergraduate assignment. The earlier you start the process, the more time you have.
- Maximise Your Resources
Granted, successful studying at university as opposed to school is primarily dependent on your own efforts. It is up to you how much you read and what you read. It is up to you how much preparation you put into a seminar or tutorial. It is up to you how well you concentrate during lectures. It is up to you how much effort you put into an assignment.
Nevertheless, despite how it might sometimes feel, you are not alone. Your lecturers will offer drop-in times or discuss things by phone or email. You should maximise use of your personal tutor. At Leicester, there is a wealth of resources on the virtual learning environment, Blackboard. Each subject has a specific librarian. And there is the excellent Student Learning Development department. More details can be found here:
In short, you are not alone. Maximise your resources and never be afraid to ask for help. The vast majority of academics and administrative staff are approachable and supportive – make the most of them.