During my first year in university, it’s safe to say that I hit rock bottom every week– or maybe I just stayed there the whole year.
This specific blog is dedicated to all the university students who could relate, and I know there’s plenty of you; my friends included.
University is no joke. It is a mission of survival. Alright, I’m being dramatic. But in all seriousness, uni is a big yellow bus hitting you every day going 120 km per hour. I ceaselessly wonder why we have to go through tremendous, and often quite unreasonable amounts of stress and strain just for a damn ‘degree’. It’s all ridiculous to me, and I wish there were other ways– or perhaps a diverse program to cater to those who just don’t do well in school. Everybody learns differently, but apparently we all have to be saturated in caffeine, depression, mental/emotional/physical breakdowns, and go through this university thing.
I suppose I should provide a brief glimpse into what my first year of uni looked like… I basically took all prerequisites for nursing. That being said, it didn’t mean I was fixed on becoming a nurse. It wasn’t until my second year that I really just fell in ~like~ with this career path (it’s not quite love, yet). I was actually reluctant, and to be frank, I just didn’t give a fuck at that point. I went to my classes, did the bare minimum and stressed later on when midterms and finals came around. I just had it coming. I was immensely unmotivated and felt this sinking feeling every day I was at school. But of course there were times when I tried to get back up and tried my best to be positive– but my habits were just so bad that it was very difficult to recover.
Now, a month away from finishing my second school year, I can say that this was a much better year for me. It’s my first year to finish a class with an A+ and overall just improved in a lot of ways. Compared to my first year of C’s and B’s, I’ve definitely come a long way and here’s 5 tips on how I did it.
1.) Have a goal / purpose.
I can’t stress this enough. If you don’t know what you want, or at least have an idea of where you want to end up, school will just be even more challenging. I say this because this is where you get your motivation. This is your ‘why’, and ‘why are you doing this’. If you don’t know why you’re doing the things you do, you’ll end up just like me in my first year. Going to class, aiming for nothing, completely unhappy, etc., the list goes on.
Although I know this is the hardest to achieve, because it’s undeniably difficult to find your calling; but this is the reason why it’s the most important thing you need to know going into uni. If you’re completely lost and unsure of where you want your life to be, take a year off. If anything, taking that year to think things through will benefit you way more. Some studies I’ve read show that people who take a year off, or some people call ‘gap year’, do way better once they go to school again. Take that year or semester off. You’ll probably thank yourself later on.
I’m pretty confident to say that having a goal or a purpose helped me a lot. I knew my hard work was going into something I want for myself– which makes it motivating. I’m working towards something I want, and my hard work isn’t going to waste. If you’re interested, you’ll be determined and you’ll be successful.
2.) Ask questions!
This, I failed to do on my first year. Even though everyone, profs and experienced uni peers have encouraged and suggested it many times, I just didn’t do it. One reason being, I was super shy and intimidated. Secondary schooling just made me feel like I was dumb if I asked questions. That was kind of the stigma in high school, I think. No one really asked questions, or asked for help. But I think the biggest reason why I didn’t do it was because I didn’t even know what I didn’t know. I know many of you can relate; been there, done that. I didn’t look over my notes, or studied at all on my first year. I thought it was like high school where I could get away with just studying all the material 3 days before the exam. Honey, it don’t work like dat. You can’t possibly ask questions if you don’t even know what to ask.
Come my second year, I learned my mistakes and knew what I had to do. If I was unsure of something, I emailed my profs right away– even if it’s just to clarify or confirm a small detail. I’m still pretty shy to talk to them after lectures, so I just email them (also a good alternative if you’re a little shy like me! lol). It worked wonders for me. I’m taking Physiology right now and it’s by far the hardest class I’ve ever taken– but I really need a good grade since it would help with getting into nursing, so imagine how determined I am to do well. I email my prof plenty of times, even met up during his office hours to go over material I don’t understand. I am both happy and proud that I’ve done this because it totally paid off with that A I earned from my my midterm. During my labs, I ask questions. I even attended the question and answer class before the midterm, and it definitely helped.
Ask all the questions! Use all your resources! Ask for help! You’re paying them thousands of dollars, so take advantage! A lot of profs are literally so happy when you come see them because those who do have high chances of succeeding.
3.) Study often, keep up with your lectures
Everyone said it. I was just stubborn and careless. It is super important to look over notes before and after classes. Come to class prepared; know what material you will be learning that day, so you at least have an idea. Even if you just straight up read your notes– you don’t need to understand it, just know the gist of it. So that when you come into class, you’ll know where the lecture is going, what points will be discussed, etc.
Personally, I do a lot more of the after. Sometimes I get too lazy to look over notes before class– if I get to school early and I have nothing to do, then I’ll probably read over notes. Otherwise I don’t do it as often. What’s important is the after part. I’d say it’s better to look over the notes as soon as you can, because it’s still fresh in your mind from the lecture. You’ll just have a better grasp of the ideas that way. If you decide to look over them a few days later, you might just forget some important details discussed in class. However, looking over them at all is better than not. I just feel that immediately after lectures is the best time to do it. I found that when I did that, and later start reviewing for exams, I just knew my shit already– rather than trying to teach myself the material all over again or trying to recall the lecture.
This helps a lot if you’re a ~procrastinator~ like me. I noticed a significant difference and I don’t cram as much anymore. Often we put things off because “studying” sometimes entails you sitting on your desk for half a day and that’s just brutal. We have that image in our heads because we’re crammers, we think it takes THAT long to study. But it honestly doesn’t. It only takes that long for us because our time is so limited due to putting it off til the last week before exams; so we end up having to soak in silly amounts of info in one sitting. BUT, if you study in little sessions, you won’t need to force yourself in front of your books all day long. It’s definitely a good habit to start. An hour a day looking over lecture material is all you need, trust me. You will never be behind in lectures or have a pile of shit to study later on. If you’re determined, do more than an hour. But that hour can make a huge difference once you start studying for exams. That way, you’re not cramming all this info in your head a week before– which will result to burnouts and that’s the last thing you want.
4.) Study with a friend
I actually learned this in my first year. I had tons of friends in my classes and I always had someone to study with. Before university, I didn’t like studying with other people because I thought I studied better alone. But because I was just so behind and didn’t know a lot of my class material, studying with friends saved me.
They’d create flash cards on their laptops and we’d put them up on a projector and take turns answering them. And when one of us didn’t know the answer, another will teach and explain it. It’s pretty much the teaching is the best way to learn concept. My friends helped by explaining the material to me, and I helped them by letting them teach it to me, lol. If it were the other way around, I’d be more than happy to teach others because that just showed I knew my material well enough to teach someone else.
Studying with a friend is absolutely beneficial, because you can both learn from and teach each other!
5.) Get organized — update your calendar
There’s nothing worse than forgetting about an assignment, or even forgetting a nearing exam date…
It’s highly recommended that you keep a little calendar for yourself and list all the important dates and events you have. This helped my time management. If my exam was 2 or 3 weeks from now, I’d plan out the days I needed to study and what I needed to study on that specific date.
I can’t stress this enough either. Ever since I laid out a calendar and listed all the tasks and studying I needed to get done, I just got so much more shit done. If there’s anything that I realized while in uni, nothing is too far away from now. I literally just finished a midterm, but I already need to start planning my study days for the final. It’s better to be prepared and know what’s next rather than getting caught off guard. I tend to underestimate time and often think, ‘hey I got like 3 weeks before my final, I’ll be good!’, but in reality– I need to get hustlin’! I have three weeks to study bits and pieces rather than cramming it all in one week. It just goes back to what I talked about above, study in sessions!
What worked best for me was writing an arbitrary to-do list for each day of the week leading up to my exam. What I mean by arbitrary list is, it isn’t anything specific. I’d maybe write down, study Physio or catch up on Comp 2 for April 1st to the 4th, without being particular on what I needed to focus on. Sometimes, if I really struggle with a topic, I’d dedicate a full day on something like, “Study the Cardiac System”, and that would be the only thing I needed to accomplish on that day. The arbitrary list is just there so you know you have to get some studying in on that set time, without getting down to the specific of what. Just write down your plan to study, and you’re a step closer!
I also have assignments and quizzes, so I make sure I get those out of the way so that I have more time to study for bigger finals. And if you think you have to do something every day of the week, you don’t. I usually don’t study weekends unless it’s the last weekend before the exam. I just make sure I do the studying on weekdays, a.k.a. days that you have to be doing school related stuff anyway.
…And that concludes my 5 Helpful Tips To Get Through Uni, friends! If you stuck around and learned something helpful, I’m very glad and thank you for stopping by!