First things first, if you are an A Level student applying for university you need to be aware of the fact that, even though it may only come up in passing at open days, the work load will be hugely different from A Levels at school. This is mainly down to the style of delivery which shifts in university from a course that is mainly delivered by the teacher to the students, to a course where the lecturers and tutors give you the very basics and you need to put your own research and work into forming your own ideas.
For example, in English Literature you can see one of the greatest differences. In school the teacher would be able to read each text through with the class and teach the class about the meaning of each important passage. On the other hand, in university you have nowhere near this amount of time with your lectures and tutors and so they give you the basic ideas surrounding the text, however it is up to you to read through it and decide what certain passages may mean, and how significant they may be. This is a massive jump which I, personally, felt very unprepared for.
However, as I stated earlier, this is the first half of the battle. You need to be prepared for the shift and even if it does make you feel uncomfortable you need to show your adaptability and you need to hit the ground running and work hard, this will even impress your tutors and stand you in good stead for the rest of your university life.
I know it’s very easy to say that you simply just need to be prepared to hit the ground running and trust me, I know that the increase in work load will be scary and stressful, but you need to control it and it won’t be able to stress you out, because the more that you get stressed the less productive you may be.
You need to be aware that, no matter how small the amount of contact hours you have may be, you still need to spend time doing independent study. This can also be difficult when you are trying to make new friends, try new things and be involved, however there are ways around this.
If you plan out your time effectively, normally down to the hour, then you will find your activities and life far easier to balance. Planners, both physical and technological, will be useful here as well as possibly making your own time table, if you know that your activities won’t change a lot from week to week.
This is where you need to learn the skill of increased independence, because there will be times when you have to turn down an invitation to simply go to the library and get some work done. However through planning out your time effectively you won’t have to become ‘that anti-social friend’ because you can set aside time for yourself and time to get your work done. University is a good place to develop this habit because the other students around you, who you are making friends with, should be in roughly the same position as you, so they will understand what you need to do and why it is important that you have that time to get your work done. Social media can also help you with this, if you need to turn something down in order to work, simply message your friend when you get home later on in the day and talk for a bit or arrange another day to catch up with them.
After you are aware of the amount of time that you have, I think that the easiest way of getting through your work load is to simply know what you have to do and put it in order of possibly importance, how fast you believe you can get it done, or how easy it is for you to understand and so you may want to get the easier or harder tasks done first. This can mainly be done through making a to-do list and you can’t allow yourself to be scared of long lists at this stage it is simply there to help you.
Ultimately you need to treat university like a job that has a certain amount of hours that need to be completed. In order to complete these certain hours you need to be aware of when you need to be in lectures and when you have a convenient slot of time to do independent study, or group work if required, in the library for example. Then when these things are figured out you will find fitting everything else in around your work a lot easier.