Seven tips for first year students

2058323The freedom of starting out as a student is exciting for many first years, but it can be a double-edged sword that needs to be handled carefully if they are to avoid wasting this precious opportunity, an education expert says.

School-leavers may find their newfound freedom intoxicating, suggests Nola Payne, Head of Faculty: Information Technology at The Independent Institute of Education.

“This is probably the first time in your life that you now hold most of the control over the rest of your life, your career and your success. It’s up to you to make the right choices, remain motivated and committed to achieving the qualification to set you on this path. A journey always starts with the first step. Your first step starts now,” Payne says.

While it may be tempting to leave the serious stuff until after orientation, the right way to go about it is to start the way you want to continue.

Here are seven steps new students can take to make the best of their new environment:

  1. Ensure that you have the correct stationery and resources for class, including notebooks and textbooks. You don’t want to waste valuable study time by missioning from bookshop to bookshop for the next few weeks.
  2. Your class timetable will probably have gaps between classes – this time should be used constructively and not spent on too much social interaction. The demands of higher education and the amount of independent work required to be done outside of the classroom can be overwhelming. Spend this free time in the library doing homework, pre-reading for an upcoming lecture or engaging with other students in your class on the topics covered in the lecture.
  3. Arrive early at the assigned venue for your classes. No one is going to come looking for you if you’re lost or don’t arrive on time. You may be refused entry to the classroom if you’re late. This is common practice so as not to disrupt the lecture.
  4. Use a diary or notebook – whether electronic or hardcopy – to monitor when your assignments are due, what homework needs completing and when meetings take place. Always be aware of what needs to be done next week, a week from now, and a month from now, so that you can plan properly.
  5. Draw up a study timetable. With the volume of work expected to be completed, a clear plan of when you’ll be studying for tests and exams should be planned. Your first set of tests could be as early as a month into the semester.
  6. Plan ahead of each class. You will be given (or be expected to download) a subject guide which will provide a breakdown of the structure and learning outcomes of each subject, as well as the important details for that subject – such as the learning resources required. These study guides often also provide a week by week breakdown of topics to be covered in class as well as how the assessments contribute to your final mark. This valuable information can help you prepare ahead of the lecture and provide you with the opportunity to get in some self-study and reading of the content beforehand. This will go a long way towards making you feel comfortable and familiar with the content, and more confident in class, so you won’t leave the lecture feeling overwhelmed and confused.
  7. Lastly, if you’re confused in a lecture or don’t understand a concept, raise your hand! Lecturers will be happy to give further explanations when required or will guide you to where you can get further explanations. They will also have consultation times where you can go and see them in their offices, usually by appointment only.

“Student years can be the best years of a person’s life. Seize the opportunity with both hands and make lasting memories, but most importantly, make it count,” concludes Payne.

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