Image: Unsplash
Image: Unsplash

The start of the new academic year should not terrify us

The main purpose of university is to gain new experiences and opportunities. Socially, individuals may join societies for hobbies they never previously expressed interest in. Personally, students could meet friends for life who stay in touch long after graduation. Academically, students, of whatever age, are exposed to new ideas, thoughts and beliefs about how the world operates.

The latter of those experiences has begun this October. Reading lists have been released. Despite the chaos of module and seminar sign-ups, students at Warwick will now start the learning for their respective courses. Combining online lectures with in-person lab work and seminars, it promises to be a curious, unusual term. Unsurprisingly, this may prove unsettling for many. This is perfectly understandable.

The most important thing is to remember why you’re here

Freshers are beginning university for the first time and most likely won’t have been able to complete their A-levels. Second-year students never received the chance to try exams for the first time. Finalists will have had a portion of their degree classification confirmed in a non-stereotypical manner. Coronavirus, inside or outside of university, has transformed the education system.

It’s therefore fine to feel uneasy, even slightly unnerved, about opening up reading lists. Whether this is for the first time or something that individuals haven’t engaged in for months – it will feel odd to both read and analyse academic literature. Though some teaching is in-person, that lots of the learning will take place online means university will be different.

The most important thing is to remember why you’re here. We all choose our course because it interested us. Both the content and broad aims of the course must have been convincing enough to move away from home, often for the first time, and descend on a university campus. When times are tough, academically, it’s important to keep that aim and purpose in mind. For both employment prospects and academic interests, being at university is beneficial.

It is natural to feel uncertain

It’s also vital to structure one’s time effectively. While many students served as key workers throughout the pandemic, lots of people won’t have had any proper structure since March. Inevitably, this might come as a shock to the system. A paper diary has always provided me with enough space for writing information about the week ahead. It has provided a good level of order and structure. With timetables now filled, it will be easier to structure your week accordingly.

This is most likely to be important when watching lectures. In normal circumstances, they would have a specific place and time. For the foreseeable future, they will be online. This means individuals will be able to choose when precisely they watch them. While this could provide a degree of liberation and control, it is also important individuals dedicate time to the full hour.

Time management is also essential when completing readings, which are just as much a part of the university course. This is where personal tutors can come in handy. The style of reading and the notes taken may differ from A-level, depending on the course. It is natural to feel uncertain. Although individuals may wish to rebel, remembering that there are figures of authority to help can be reassuring. Whether it’s personal tutors, module directors, seminar teachers or older students, individuals are there to provide advice and support.

It’s important to balance hard work and productivity

It’s also necessary therefore to spend time with others. Completing work and revision with other people can work to varying degrees. It depends on the people, location and whether you’re in the mindset for working hard. However, there is no doubt that shared moral support, not least when it comes to a tricky part of the course, is useful and helpful in times of hardship.

Nearer to exam times, attending revision sessions is likely to be an essential part of doing well. Often, this can seem like a form of humiliation and embarrassment, not least when they are in-person. Yet, receiving the necessary help to perform academically successfully is much better than performing poorly because you were worried about asking for help.

It’s important to balance hard work and productivity, both of which are desirable, with spending time away from learning. Whether it’s watching a good TV series, attending a society event or going out for an evening with friends, enjoying time away from learning means someone is far more likely to come back to their computer with a refreshed mindset. Working all the time means you won’t be productive. Academia is deeply important, but things won’t go to plan if that’s all you spend your time on.

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