The first year of study will take some getting used to. Making new friends, finding enough time to study and building your extracurricular resume can be overwhelming at first. Whether you are just starting at a new online college, enrolled in a short course or full-time at a university, here are some simple steps to beat the stress and make the most out of your first year.
- Plan Your Year
Rather than living in blissful ignorance until exam time rolls around, the best strategy is to plan your study year from day one. You may like to use an old-fashioned wall calendar, a daily planner, or an app on your digital devices. Insert your deadlines as they become available, giving you plenty of time to see what’s coming up in the next month. Start your assignments in advance to keep them from piling up, and cross them off the list as you submit.
As well as handing in ongoing assignments, it’s a good idea to leave a little time for revision each week. Whether you like to distill your notes from the week’s lectures, do further reading or simply review the week’s papers, you’ll find that reinforcing key information in small stages will help your exam preparation strategy immensely.
- Focus on Your Health
No matter how busy you are, there is always time to take care of yourself. Go for a quick walk around the block, take an evening class or prepare healthy evening meals to bring the balance back into your life. Not only are these important measures to avoid burnout and fatigue, but taking a break can actually make you more productive in your study as well.
There’s nothing more stressful than getting sick during exam time, or right before a big assignment. Plenty of sleep, some Vitamin D and a good diet will minimise the risk of you being bedridden at the most inconvenient time of year.
- Keep Things Tidy
Whether it be your desk, your laptop filing system or your bag, a little organisation can go a long way to keeping you focused on the task at hand, using your time efficiently. Take a few moments to tidy up after a cram session, make sure everything is in its right place so there’s no chance of misplacing your valuable study aids. A cluttered desk reflects a cluttered mind, and so you’ll feel instantly boosted when you get rid of those dirty dishes and the pile of papers.
- Get Social
We can only do so much on our own before we crave human contact. Surround yourself with a network of friends and study buddies to chat about your concerns, learn from each other, and most importantly, go out and have a good time. Studying hard deserves a little reward on the weekends or after a big project, so treat yourself throughout the year to keep from becoming snowed under.
- Locate Support Services
The great thing about studying at a big institution is that you have access to a number of services to ensure you’re making the most of your time studying. Any particular concerns can be voiced, and you’ll find the resources and guidance you need to get you back on the right path. During the first year, it’s common to question your course of study, experience ups and downs, and miss a deadline every now and then. Seeking out these services early can not only minimise meltdowns, but they can also act as a preventative, equipping you with the necessary coping strategies for the future.
- Start Prepping for Your Career
Holding down a casual or part time job while studying is one of the goals of well-balanced college life. This brings in the cash and keeps financial stress from adding to your list of woes. It also looks great from an early career point of view, demonstrating your dedication and time management skills.
If working in a cafe or a bar isn’t your thing, try to look for career-related work where you can apply your budding skill set in the workplace. Particularly if you are completing a practical short course, or apprentice training, your skills may be more workplace-ready than you know. So long as you negotiate hours that are flexible to your study commitments, working or even volunteering a few hours a week in a role which boosts your employability will put you in good stead for gaining a graduate position.
Caroline Schmidt writes the blogs for Kangan Institute. She is passionate about education, careers, and giving advice to students of all ages.