How do I actually do well at uni?

Once the fun of freshers’ week is over it’s time for the hard work to begin. Yes, you actually have to study to get that degree you came to uni for! I found university very different from A Level study and it took me some time to adapt to the changes in teaching methods and the amount of work I had to do. At first I found the changes quite overwhelming, but Essex provides a lot of help and resources in order to make sure that the transition goes as smoothly as possible. This post is about some of the new academic experiences you will most likely encounter at Essex and how to deal with them.

Reference, Reference, Reference!

I can’t stress the importance of referencing correctly enough! Even if you’re familiar with referencing through doing coursework at A Level (like I was), it can still be a pretty tedious process but it is essential. In order to make sure that you’re not accused of plagiarism, which is probably the most serious academic offence you can commit, always pay attention to where your information is from. My department at Essex (the Department of Government) has a study skills officer who you can talk to about referencing and other essay related questions. The Talent Development Centre also runs workshops on essay writing and referencing to help make sure that those essays you stay up all night writing are top notch!

Peer Mentors

peer mentoring

Peer mentors are 2nd or 3rd year students from your department who have volunteered to help new students transition to university life. They are a source of knowledge for all things Essex (I should know, I am one!). Sometimes you may be emailed by your peer mentor before you even come to Essex, so you can ask them any and all questions you may have about starting uni beforehand. During freshers’ week you should be scheduled to meet with your peer mentor, this also gives you the chance to meet other students in your department as well as some of the staff. In my first year I asked my peer mentor loads of questions about what certain modules were like, how heavy the workload was and various other random things that only really another student can answer. That’s the best thing about peer mentors; as fellow students they’ve stood in your shoes and know exactly how it feels to be an Essex fresher!

First Year Doesn’t Count

I know what you’re thinking “first year doesn’t count, I can go to Sub Zero every night and miss lectures whenever I want”, that’s not exactly right. Whilst first year doesn’t count towards your degree classification, it definitely counts in other respects. If you want to do either a year abroad or a placement year as part of your course, you’ll need at least a 53 in first year to do either. Allocations for year abroad are also made based on your first year mark, so the better you do the more likely you are to be flying off to your first choice dream destination. The fact that first year doesn’t count also allows you to make mistakes and learn from them. So you did badly on an essay? Look at how you can improve it and do better next time. First year gives you the opportunity to discover what works for you and what doesn’t and is a great stepping stone to do brilliantly in your second year and beyond.

Going to university is a big change and there will be so many new things coming at you all at once, but take it slow and if you get overwhelmed always ask for help. I’m sure you’ll be acing those essays and exams pretty soon!

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