With the first term of the academic year now upon us, it is time to stop relaxing and start preparing. Whether you are heading into your first or final year at university, the dread of a new school year haunts us all. In this post, I share my experiences of what to expect from term one and how to deal with the changes that it brings.
First things first – freshers! Week one is the shining beacon of hope that makes all of the stress of a new academic year fade away. This week is busy with social events, career evenings (for those who are eager) and admin, such as sorting out your accommodation, joining societies and signing up to a GP. Prepare to get ill with freshers’ flu and be tired, but also be ready for a super fun week with new friends that will quickly submerge you into university life. You may also have some initial lectures showing you how to use the online learning platforms and the library, as well as faculty welcome talks and study skill workshops. While I encourage you to get stuck in with freshers, I also strongly suggest taking some time out from this hectic week to prepare for your first lectures. Panicking the weekend before lectures start because you haven’t done any preparation is a situation that can be easily avoided by simply sitting down and getting ahead early.
The second week of term is usually when lectures start, but don’t fret too much if you are still not over your freshers’ flu; they are usually warm up lectures and not overly intense. I found that the first half of my lectures in the first week were introductory, with the syllabus starting slowly in the second hour, easing you into the heavier learning. Remember to use this week to prepare for next week’s lectures too and consolidate your notes to ensure that you don’t forget what you have been taught.
As workloads start to pile up, other commitments such as societies, social engagements and career events also begin causing most people to face what my head of faculty liked to call ‘The Wobble’. Expect stress, anxiety and feeling like you can never read all of the pages allocated in time for the next class. However, this will pass and you will soon fall into a routine that works for you. Remember to prioritise, and don’t let other commitments become a source of stress due to feeling out of your depth.
Most universities have a reading week in October, which is basically a half term break during which you will have no lectures and can go home for the week. In first year, on a course as demanding as law, it is common to be set formative essays during this period. These don’t count towards your final grade but are marked, and if you take them seriously it can really help to reassure you that you are studying well and writing in the style that your department is looking for. In higher years, these formatives become summative and therefore more pressure exists in these weeks. However, I found that my essays (four in total) took about one full day of work each, so you can still have a rest as well!
The last stretch
After reading week things will fall into place more easily as you get to grips with a routine. Halloween is always such fun at uni and invitations to Christmas formals will begin to pop up too. This is when I think most people settle in properly. As lectures wind down, exams may start to be mentioned. We had formative exams after the Christmas holidays which meant that the break was mostly spent revising, but if you do have exams try to see them as a practice opportunity rather than a test. Also, some modules may let you take the exam home to complete, which eases the pressure.
The first term will fly by and Christmas will arrive before you know it – remember this when the stress of settling in, living in a new city, finding new friends and balancing a new workload all take their toll! Also remember to embrace all of these things, as the first term is often the most fun as well!