No need to suffer: the help and support available to you at university

University is a place for you to grow. A place where you can become the person you want to be. People say that at university you can be independent but it can seem daunting at first, especially if you are living away from home for the first time. All those things that other people may have done for you in the past will now become your responsibility.

There is cooking to do, shopping, washing, studying, socialising and relaxing: in truth it does feel like you are at the deep end when it comes to being independent and looking after yourself.

But that doesn’t mean that you should face it alone. Never suffer in silence if the whole university experience or even your personal life becomes too much. There are so many services and people who can help with a wide range of issues- while this may not be representative of all universities, the information below is certainly true of Essex.

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Nightline: a confidential listening, emotional support, information and supplies service, run for students by students at the University of Essex.

It runs every night during term time from 10pm until 8am. Students can either visit in person where you can enter the Nightline flat at the back of Keynes Tower (North Towers), or you can email or give them a call.

Student Support Hub: The Silberrad Student Centre is the one-stop shop for the majority of student concerns.

Whether it is do with living in university residences; changing your course; replacement registration cards; disability support; exam extenuating circumstances; coping with stress and anxiety; counselling; immigration advice; or funding advice (phew!) the “Hub” will be able to help you.24477446640_ac9b4c7ac7_k

Personal Tutor: All students will be assigned a personal tutor within their department for the duration of their study. These are the people that you can go to with course specific questions, additionally they are also able to signpost you to other services if they feel that they cannot help you personally.

Peer Mentor: Most departments will assign first year students a peer mentor, a student normally in their second or third year. The peer mentor is able to give you honest advice and help from the student prospective. They can also direct you to the specific people or services which can help your position.

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Multi-Faith Chaplaincy: a welcoming place for staff, students and the wider community to meet, interact and engage in a positive and peaceful manner. It doesn’t matter if you are religious or not, the Chaplaincy and its staff are a friendly group and an oasis of calm.

Student Union: As a member of the university you are automatically a member of the student union. This is a service which runs some of the venues on campus as well as being an organisation that is centred wholly around supporting students. There are representatives who handle educational concerns, concerns with welfare and also people who help and represent groups such as BAME students, LGBT+ students, postgraduate and mature students. Their job is to listen and react to your issues.

uni-essex-student-union-ambassador-logo-400x400Health Centre: Hopefully you will never need to use it whilst you are here, but it is important to register with the on-campus health centre in case you do need it. Located behind Rayleigh Tower (North Towers) they provide NHS services from GP appointments to nurse clinics and provide help and assistance for asthma, diabetes, sexual health and contraception.

Talent Development Centre Helpdesk: Located on the ground floor of the Student Centre they offer a number of services including: 1:1 academic advising; Maths support; English language support; and advice on PhD thesis writing.

Whilst your family and friends can be the perfect shoulder to cry on if you need one, there is other help available if you need it. With so much available, never feel embarrassed to ask for more support should you ever need it.

Brain Snacks: the best food and drinks to have when you’re revising

When revising it is important to keep your brain active and yourself motivated to work. This blog is going to give you some ideas of food and drink that you can have either as a snack or as part of a meal to get you through those tough days.

  • Fruit and Vegetables

There are many vitamins, minerals, and ions in fruit and vegetables; therefore they will give you an energy boost. The fructose and healthy sugar in them coverts into energy. Some of the best fruits to have are apples, bananas, berries and avocados.

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• Peanut butter

Peanut butter is not necessarily unhealthy in small portions. It contains healthy fats, similar to avocados, and it has lots of protein. Peanut butter can be put on toast, crackers or even in porridge and it also can store for a long time in your cupboard before expiring. An essential student food!

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• Eggs

These are very filling and a great food for breakfast to start off your day. There are many different ways to cook them; such as boiled, scrambled, poached and fried, therefore they are hard to get bored of! Start your day right with a filling breakfast and you’ll find yourself being more productive!

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• Pumpkin seeds and Walnuts

These have omega-3 and zinc in them, which helps to stimulate your memory. They are a great snack, or something you can add to your main meal, such as a salad.

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• Coffee

This is a great drink to keep you awake! This is sometimes a necessity to get through your studying. Just make sure you don’t over do it!

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• Squash

We all know that water is the best drink to drink to stay hydrated and studies have shown that it can actually help you to perform better in tests. However, it can sometimes get boring, so why not change it up a bit by adding some squash!

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Also, as well as drinking and eating the right things, remember to stay hydrated with water and get enough sleep! These will keep your brain awake and more motivated, so you don’t fall asleep whilst studying!

Revision tips depending on your personality

Revision is a bore! Long and tedious. Boring and dull. Did I mention it was boring? It is hard to get motivated for revising and essay writing but your success in an exam or essay could rest on how well you revise.

a14cab5a3f5402daa8014fe1340f3cb0So depending on who you are a person I have prepared some tips which might help you:

improve-memory-1-1The Meticulous planner

  • Create a Revision Timetable: Start revising several weeks before your exams are due to start. Exam timetables are normally released well in advance. Be realistic with the time you have and remember to factor in a fair amount of rest time.
  • Identify key topics: For each course, identify what you need to revise. Look back at past papers and the course content in order to work out what you should revise. An old teacher of mine used to say “Revise the trees, not the forest”- basically don’t try and revise everything as you won’t have time and you’ll start to panic.

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The Memory reviser 

Ok, so you have a great memory. You make people jealous with how well and quick you remember things. Or perhaps you struggle to remember things?

  • Don’t leave things until the last minute! Never a good idea, give yourself plenty of time to look over things.
  • Good notes taken in classes mean you can spend more time revising and less time researching.
  • If you’re struggling to remember words or terms try to associate it with an image or song to see if it makes it easier to remember.

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The Procrastinator 

“I’ll do it later” but later never comes. Those texts need checking every 10 minutes and that new series isn’t going to watch itself!

Procrastinators what you need is time. Time to revise and time to relax.

  • Set yourself small, achievable targets each day. This could be a minimum number of words to write or even how long you work. Perhaps work for 20 minutes and have a 10 minute break (just be strict with yourself)
  • Remove distractions- yes that series is good but perhaps wait until the evening before you binge. Whilst trying to revise turn off your phone/ TV/ music if they are a distraction. Additionally while you can’t simply remove that one distracting flatmate, you can find a space that you can work easily in.
  • Reward yourself- need encouragement to write? Try: http://writtenkitten.net which rewards you every 100 words with a picture of a cute cat!

Whatever your style, I hope this helps!

5 ways to spot your perfect University

Choosing the right university is an important decision and you want to get it right! You go round to all the open days and talks and you can’t decide which one is the best option for you. I believe their are 6 factors when choosing the right university. And I will tell you why these 6 factors lead me to choosing Essex!

Your degree subject

By now you may  know what subject you want to do, so the first thing to ask yourself is does the university you’re looking at do your perfect degree? I don’t just mean ‘do they run the degree you want’ I mean, ‘does the course sound interesting and does it cover the aspects of the topic that you’re interested in?’

I found Essex when my local university didn’t do the Psychology degree I wanted. I was considering a few universities and then I saw the Psychology department at Essex and it just had everything I wanted! They have lots of computer labs, testing booths and equipment and the course itself sounded really interesting; that’s when I knew I had to come to Essex!

My tip: Go and look round departments, go to any talks they offer, read the prospectus or check them out on the web and see what they can offer you!

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Studying Facilities

Another important factor when choosing a university is the facilities they have for you to study. I know that you might be more excited for the social life uni will give you, but considering how and where you’re going to be sitting until 3am writing essays, or your dissertation, is a huge factor when it comes to deciding which University you think is the best for you. Surprisingly, not all Universities have many places that you can actually sit down and study that isn’t a silent library!

Essex stood out to me because it has a lot of different studying facilities. There are 23 different places around the university that have computers for your to use, including PC labs, the student centre and the library. There are 5 floors in the library filled with books to help you do your essays. There are plenty of quiet study spaces dotted around each floor, and don’t forget the reading room on the ground floor! Or, if you like a quiet but a little more social environment, the newly built student centre has a number of computers and study spaces perfect for this!

Essex is not short of places to study which was an important factor for me, especially now I commute so spend a lot of my day in the student centre!

My tip: If a University has got a particularly good facility for students, it will be showing it off! Look out for the Universities that promote their study spaces and have information about them. If a University isn’t saying much about it, you’ve got to ask why that might be.

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Location Location Location

The location of your uni is extremely important. Is your chosen uni a 4-hour drive away and you want to move as far away from home as possible? Or is it just down the road which is exactly what you want, when you want to pop back home for a Sunday roast? What drew me to Essex was that I lived far enough to be living in a different town, but I then had to option to commute too.

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It’s also really important to think about what you want to be near when you’re at Uni. Being in a city might seem like a great idea, but can you afford the prices around there, or could you be within commutable distance to a city, without the city prices?! Would you be happy to have to travel quite far on buses or trams to get to your lectures, or would you prefer everywhere to be nearby to each other and within greener surroundings? Access to the great outdoors might be especially important for those sporty people out there!

I love Essex because it has everything in one place with various restaurants, shops, bars and their own nightclub all a few minutes of each other!  I loved the idea of everything being in one place.  It often meant in first year when I lived on campus I didn’t need to leave campus very often, but if you did want to go in to town it’s just a cheap 20-minute bus ride and nearby train stations mean that it’s easy to get into London too! It’s the ideal location to get the best of both worlds: a green campus, but close to a bustling town and city.

My tip: Think about what you really couldn’t live without before you decide where you want to spend the next 3+ years of your life. Whilst university is the perfect time to live life completely differently, the novelty of living in a way you’re unused to can quickly wear off if you haven’t really thought it through. Take a look at student profiles or blogs on the web to see how they feel about living and studying at that particular university – genuine insights are the best way to figure out what might be right for you.

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Extra curricular activities

University is an experience and not just a degree. You will gain so many life skills and experiences – not just what your degree teaches you! Even if right now you think you wouldn’t want to get involved in any clubs or societies, you have to think down the line and what might look good on your CV too.

Perhaps at some point you’d like to learn a language, do a placement year, or do a year studying abroad? Find out what each university offers – even if you don’t think you’d be interested in those opportunities right now, you might be in three years. Some unis offer opportunities much cheaper than others, so it’s definitely worth bearing in mind.

Essex does has a lot to offer someone who wants to get fully involved in university life. There are over 40 different sports clubs for you to get involved in! There is also lots of different choice in society’s and volunteering opportunities, as well as the opportunity to learn languages in several different ways alongside your degree and a lot of courses also have the option to study abroad for a year in loads of different countries! I was drawn by the idea there was lots of opportunity to get involved during my time at Essex!

My tip: Check out stats to see how your university is rated for student satisfaction – this is a great indication of how many experiences and opportunities are available, as well as the overall happiness of the students that have already been there. A uni with a low rating probably doesn’t have much to offer and students probably didn’t have that good of an experience!

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Work opportunities

Although you go to university to get a degree, it is handy to get gain some experience along the way and money. If you know you’ll need a job while at university then make sure you look at the employability options at the universities! Another thing to consider is how can you make your CV look better for when you graduate?

Something Essex focuses on  is learning employability skills, so that once we finish our degrees, we are well equipped to go out in the big wide world!  Essex provides a lot of opportunity to gain them skills, from on campus jobs to earn a bit of extra money,  to the frontrunner scheme and volunteering opportunities. Essex was right for me because it helped me to build a CV and make me more prepared to leave university and find a job. I have participated in a number of job opportunities, including a frontrunner placement and advise anyone who comes here to get involved!

My tip: I know it seems like a way off now, but you really do have to think about what you’re going to do after University and what help you can get during your degree. These days, graduates have more than just a degree under their belt, so how is your university going to help you stand out from everyone else?

I hope these 5 factors will help you choose the university that is right for you! For me personally, Essex was the perfect choice! If you have any questions just comment below, or send your questions to the uni on Facebook or Twitter 🙂

5 tips to help you study for your exams

We’ve all been there! Three days before a deadline and you need to use all your energy to focus on your coursework. More often than not, in my case, procrastination kicks in, which leads to me doing everything the night before. Now, I like to think I got better at this thing called “university” and maybe became a bit more responsible, so in the hopes that you will not go through the same struggles I did, I made a list of the things that worked for me and improved my productivity this academic year!

1. Avoid any distraction

I don’t know about you, but I get so easily distracted. Once when I was doing my reading, I stopped and messaged a friend for an hour,  then went to take shower and after that I decided I was too sleepy to do anything else and ended up going to bed. So, it should not come a surprise that my first tip for you is to just turn off your phone (or at least the wi-fi) when you study. It helps so much!

2. Make sure you eat healthily

I know we are all students and eating healthy is not very realistic over long periods of time, but it would help immensely if you do it at least during the exam period. Eating fruits and making sure you get all the right vitamins in your body helps a lot! Food like walnuts, apples, blueberries and bananas improve your ability to focus, help you to retain information and remain mentally alert.

3. Get enough sleep

I know this may seem like common knowledge, but not many people seem to do this. It is more important to sleep properly the night before an exam rather than try to cram as much information as possible. I tried the cramming a few times and, although it worked the first two times, on the third test I just crashed. I could not remember anything of what I studied the night before and I almost failed. So make sure you are well-rested!

4. Use colours to help you study

One of the techniques that I found to be very helpful was just marking every one of my subjects with a different colour whenever I took notes. That way I could memorise them much faster. Simple things life markers and post-it notes can make a big difference if you actually take the time to use them.

1. Treat yourself!

After taking an exam or just spending an entire night to finish a coursework, just take a breather! Meet one of your friends for coffee, go to the cinema, or just take a well-deserved break before studying for your next assignment. You deserve it 🙂

 

Campus Boredom Busters

Every so often we all get a little bit bored. Maybe it’s the weekend, you actually have no work to do for once and you’ve watched enough Netflix to last you at least a week. Or maybe you are just plain old bored. It happens to everyone. But with a campus like Essex where there’s always something going on, that doesn’t have to be the way. Take at look at this list of six boredom busters on campus.

1. Play some disc golf

basket-871276857848l3st Ever wondered what this is?

You’ve probably seen those strange metal basket things dotted around campus and absentmindedly wondered what they were. They’re actually holes on the frisbee golf course at Essex. You can get a disc and a score sheet from the reception desk at the gym, it’s only 50p. I can tell you from experience that it’s not exactly easy but it is very fun!

2. Go and see a Cine10 film

Going all the way to the cinema in town can be expensive and a bit of a trek, especially considering we have one right on campus. Cine10 movies are shown in the lecture theatre building and are a great chance to see the latest films without paying top dollar. Recent films include La La Land, T2 Trainspotting and The Lego Batman Movie.

3. Discover a new sport through Just Play

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Just Play is a great chance to try out a new sport or play one just for fun. There are loads of sports you can do for free or a small fee including swimming, ice skating and baseball and more. Just play is how I got into playing hockey and went on to play in BUCS games. It’s also great to go to with friends to see how competitive you can get! Have a look at the timetable here.

4. Visit ESCALA

You are probably wondering what on earth ESCALA is. It stands for Essex Collection of Art from Latin America. The majority of the artwork is housed in a special space in the Constable Building up by Wivenhoe House and you can go and visit it when there are exhibitions and events on. At other times though the art that is in the Silberrad Student Centre is part of ESCALA.

5. Go for afternoon tea at Wivenhoe House

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If you’re feeling fancy, head over to Wivenhoe House for some afternoon tea. Be quintessentially British and treat yourself some scones, finger sandwiches and some pastries. And, of course, they also have a huge variety of tea. If you fancy anything else they’ve also got you covered for dinner!

6. Take a fitness class

I really am not a fan of the gym but I do really enjoy going to fitness classes. Essex has loads of them at the gym. If you’re a member of the gym then they’re free but for all other students they’re £3.50. My favourite has to be yoga but there are loads more like zumba, insanity and dance classes.

So if you’re ever bored on campus or just itching for something new to try why not give this list a go!

How to prepare for the independence of university months before you go!

University isn’t just about the studying and getting a degree. It is also about learning life lessons and most importantly gaining independence. But this is a big step. One day you go from mums home cooked dinner, cleaning (and lets face it she probably packed half your stuff!) to staring at the hob with a saucepan in hand thinking “right how do I turn this thing on?” But this step might not be so big if you do some preparing now.

Step 1: Buy the university essentials

So the first step to preparing for your independence is buying the things you’ll need to cook, clean and survive at university! Things such as saucepans, frying pan, cutlery, iron, can opener etc. Don’t go over board, buying things that you’re not even sure how to use it! Buy the things you’ll think you need. Do you never peel potatoes? Then don’t worry with the peeler! Hate grated cheese? Then leave the cheese grater out! Save yourself some money (which you can then use for freshers!) Starting to buy stuff now eliminates the pressure of having to buy everything in one go and inevitably forgetting something!

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Step 2: Learn to cook your own meals

If you’re anything like me, before I started uni the extent to my cooking was putting pasta in a saucepan or putting bread in a toaster. I had no idea how to cook for myself. And I never needed to, so it was great that going to uni gave me this opportunity. And just a FYI there is no toaster in towers…so you can’t just live off toast like you might be planning on!

Learn how to cook simple and quick meals (as well as cheap!). There are some great blogs on the i am essex blog page to give you ideas on the type of meals you could try at uni. My suggestions would be spaghetti bolognese, stir fry, and sweet and sour chicken. These are all easy meals that involve just a frying pan and saucepan! (You don’t even need to learn how to turn the oven on!)

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Step 3: Learn how manage money

So you’re in the process of applying for your student loan, and soon you will know how much money you’ll have to live off at university. The good thing is you get your student loan in termly instalments so if you go a bit mad first term you have a chance to pull it back!

When you know how much you’ll have each term you can start to work out a budget. How much will I have left once I’ve paid for accommodation? How much can I save for freshers week? Will I need to get a job? If you start becoming aware of the money you’ll be living off you can start to manage it! Check out the i am essex page for blogs on budgeting.

You should also start thinking about student bank accounts. I went for Santander which offers a free railcard and a reasonable overdraft! So if you are worried your spending, you’ll always have that to fall back to!

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Step 4: Learn some basic household chores

Another learning step at uni is learning to clean up after yourself and do some chores! One of the most interesting experiences at uni was every 2 weeks (or as long as I could hold on without doing any washing!) I’d have to carry all my washing across campus to the laundry room and try and work out how to use the washing machine!

Before coming to university it is a good idea to learn how to do your washing and ironing. Don’t be that person that put the red sock in with whites and now the clothes are pink! I have to say I really tried to avoid ironing and I pretty much got away with it apart from that one dress that always creased! Learning to iron is a good skill and you’ll be everyone’s favourite!

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Step 5: Getting ready to become an independent university student

Making these steps will help you prepare to become independent! Next step is to put them to test on your university journey.

The things I wished I’d know about university before starting: Busting the four big myths about university

If you have a strong, preconceived idea about what life will be like at university then this blog may ruin that. If however, you are happy to have those ideas challenged then continue reading. Essentially this is what I wished I’d known about university all the way back when I was a young and naive fresher.mythbusting-min

Myth: Students drink and party all the time

Truth: I would be lying if I said students didn’t drink, of course they do. As someone who doesn’t drink that often, I was worried that I wouldn’t fit in at university or that people would pressure me to drink. But that didn’t happen, in fact people have been very accepting. There are tons of people who don’t drink and there are tons of people who do, so there will always be people in the same position as you.

While I can’t speak for other universities, at Essex a great deal of effort goes into ensuring that there is a good mix between events that involve drinking and those that don’t. So there should be something for everyone.

Myth: You’ll meet you best friend on the first day

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Truth: Unfortunately there are no guarantees of this. University is a big place with thousands of people, so don’t be surprised if it takes a while to “click” with people. I met someone who I regard as one of my closest friends during the first week of term and the rest of my friendship group evolved over a number of months.

It has certainly been romanticised that you’ll move in or arrive on your first day and meet your new best friend. Having spoken to a number of people this isn’t always the case, but don’t be disheartened as you’ll make friends eventually.

Myth: Everyone will be smarter than me

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Truth: Don’t sell yourself short. Everyone will have come from different backgrounds and will have learnt different things. As an English Literature student I’ve found that the Literature I studied at school is different from the Literature that someone else studied- yet we both have an A-level in Literature.

There will be people who have extensive knowledge in certain areas, but then you might outwit them in another area. Remember one of the points of first year is to get everyone up to the same level of knowledge.

Myth: You have to buy everything before you arrive

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Truth: No! No! No! No! Ok, so you may think that you are a whizz in the kitchen but even Gordon Ramsey doesn’t need six toasters and three kettles!

Firstly, check what the university provides (normally listed on the accommodation pages). Secondly, check if your university allows you to contact your new house/ flat mates- this is something that you can do at Essex and is a great way to make initial introductions and arrange what to bring for communal use. Thirdly, don’t forget that shops exist! So you don’t need to bring a weeks worth of food, a years supply of clothes and all the bedding to last a lifetime. Quite simply you can save space in the car by thinking ahead for the less essential things and buying them at a later date – panic over!

Essay writing tips from a uni student

Essay writing is a huge part of university life and no one enjoys doing them. This blog is going to give you tips on how to write a good essay and avoid more stress!

Make sure you keep your work organised

Throughout the year you should create a folder for each module, so that all of your work is in one place. Lecture notes are usually really useful for writing essays, as they sometimes give you hints and tips throughout the lectures. The lecturer is likely to give extra information that you can write down, instead of just reading the lecture slides.

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Plan your essay

You can do this by first destructing the question. After this, read the recommended reading that is usually found on Moodle and pick out any key and information and quotes that are relevant to the essay question.

You can then write bullet point notes under headings. The essay should start with an introduction, outlining what the essay will be about and how it will be structured. This will be followed by the main part of the essay with your arguments. Finally, a conclusion should be made at the end, summarising your assignment and what your final answer is. However, this structure can change between departments, so make sure you double check with yours!

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Presentation

The presentation of your assignment can actually sometimes gain you marks. In your module outline it should mention how they expect you to format your essay. For example, this could include font, font size, line spacing and whether to include page numbers. Also make sure that your paragraphs make sense and always check your spelling and grammar.

References

The way you reference depends on your department, so you should check your module outline for this. Many students use Harvard referencing style, which involves in-text referencing, using the surname of the author/s, date it was published and sometimes the page number in brackets. There is also a reference list needed at the end, which includes all of your references in full. There are many website online that show you how to do this, or some even do it for you!

Time management

Many students cram writing an essay in the night before it’s due. However, this is not the best idea because if you need to find references in the library or you need to ask your lecturer or teacher a question, then it is too late! Also it is best to have time to plan your essay and have time to thoroughly look for good and valid references. By giving yourself time, you can still socialise without worrying about the 3000 word essay you have to write.

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I hope that this has helped you to understand a bit more about essay writing at Uni standard!

Making Big Life Choices: Getting Past the Fear

Leaving uni is another big step and new chapter of your life. It is moving out of your comfort zone and starting something new. Are you worried about getting a job after uni? Or wondering whether you want to do a Masters? There are many options out there for you to choose from, so it can be a bit daunting, but this blog is here to help you get over that!

Fear of losing fun.

University is possibly one of the most fun times of your life and you may feel that once you leave uni you will miss out and no longer have any fun. However, having a job means that you will have a regular income and you can save up to do fun things with your friends, such as go on exciting, exotic holidays which you may not be able to afford to do at uni!

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Fear of getting a job that you’re unhappy with.

This is why it is good to get an internship, frontrunner placement or part-time job whilst at uni. This way you can filter out what you like and dislike within a working environment. For example, you can find out if you hate working in an office environment, or you may love it!

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What if I don’t get a job at all?

You should start looking in to jobs at the beginning of your final year at uni. Many graduate schemes open around this time and the job usually starts in the September after you graduate. If you get a graduate scheme then this will take the pressure off you throughout the year, knowing that you have a job once you finish uni. It is also good to get an internship over the summer months. This way if employees like you they may offer you a job for when you graduate. You should sign up to job sites online and filter in your job preferences. This way they can email you any jobs that come up that they think will suit your job preferences.

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Should I do a masters?

This completely depends on what you want to do when you finish uni. For some jobs a Masters is needed, so you should look in to this. If you enjoy education and want to stay at uni longer then this could be for you. It is always worth looking in to, but you also have to consider the cost and another year or so where you won’t be in full-time work.

Your life after uni isn’t as scary as you think! Your friends around you are all in the same situation. It’s good to ask people on your course what they are thinking of doing to get some ideas on what’s out there and what might suit you.