Returning to study after a break
As the new academic year approaches, I hope you’re excited to begin or continue your journey at Warwick! Getting back into the swing of studying isn’t always easy after a long summer break, but it can feel like even more of a challenge if you’ve had a gap year or an extended length of time away from life as a student. After having a year out, I definitely felt nervous about getting back into studying and adjusting to undergraduate-level work. In this post, I’ve written a few pieces of advice to hopefully reassure you if you’re worried about returning to academia after a gap year (or several), or if you’re just feeling a little rusty after the summer break.
Take things gradually
Although you might feel like you’re facing an impossible reading list, it probably looks more overwhelming than it really is. Break down the work you’ve been set as much as you can – it’s better to break things down into manageable chunks than to panic-read your way through everything as quickly as possible! It’s also a good idea to prioritise your tasks and to do list. This way, even if you can’t get everything done, you’ll hopefully have ticked off some of the most important readings and tasks. Try not to panic too much about future assignments – they might seem scary now, but by the time you actually need to start working on them, you’ll probably feel much more ready to take them on.
Manage your time
In order to be able to take things gradually, you need to plan properly! Write a list of your work and spread it over the week, making sure you leave space for your social life and downtime. It’s really important not to be too rigid with your planning – avoid overloading yourself and don’t worry too much if your plans don’t work out for whatever reason. I’ve found that if I’m feeling particularly swamped with reading, spending a set amount of time on each chapter on the list (even if this means I only read about half of each chapter) helps me get by in my lectures as it means I have some knowledge on every piece of reading rather than lots on one and none on another. It’s okay if you’re not completely on top of everything all the time, and you can always revisit things you’ve missed.
Don’t compare yourself to others
Although it’s great to work with and support other students, it’s important not to get too worried about how much work others have done in comparison to yourself. It’s easy to psych yourself out by thinking you’ve done less than everyone else or less than you ‘should’ have done, but just focus on what you’re doing and have faith that you’re heading in the right direction.
Be confident in what you can do!
Following on from this, believe in yourself! It’s harder than it sounds (and definitely something I’ve struggled with at times) but having confidence in your abilities will help you to stay calm, tackle your work with more productivity and enjoy what you’re doing more. You wouldn’t have made it this far if you weren’t capable of doing the work; university staff saw potential in you and believed you could do it. Remember that you are good enough and deserve to be where you are!
Over my time at uni, I’ve found that doing well isn’t necessarily about how talented you are at your subject, but about how much effort you put in. There might always be someone who knows more than you do, but if you channel your time and energy into improving your skills and learning as much as you can, your hard work will pay off. All you can ever do is try your best, keep in mind why you love your subject and remember how far you’ve already come.