Three things I learnt during my first and second year of University
1. A balanced life is more important than studying all the time.
During my GCSE’s, A levels and my first year of University, I put a lot of emphasis on the number of hours that I spent studying. I felt guilty if I had spent a couple of days not studying. As a result, I did not have much of a social life. Quite frankly, it was depressing.
During my first term of the second year, it became apparent that this was a counter-productive strategy. I spent several hours a day completing coursework/revising. It got to a point where I was sacrificing both my physical and mental wellbeing to study. For instance, I developed anemia due to inadequate nutrition and became tired and light-headed all the time. I was isolating myself from my friends and struggling to concentrate on content. During this period, despite putting more effort in, I went from getting mostly 2:2’s. This is compared to the 1sts and 2:1’s that I previously received.
However, during the exam season, I decided to focus less on studying and more on the other aspects of life that I had been ignoring. I spent term three drawing, exploring Coventry and seeing family and friends. Of course, I did a lot of revision, but only when I felt like doing it. In fact, the week before my exams started, I was only revising one or two hours a day. Overall, this worked for me and averaged at a 2:1 at the end of my second year. I think allowing myself to take a break because it meant my brain was abler to efficiently do work.
2. Asking questions does not make you look stupid.
When I started University, I was advised to avoid asking my lecturers any questions. Apparently, asking questions would make me look stupid. I did not want to embarrass myself but by week three, I started to ask questions. I was confused about some of the lecture content and I tried to resolve the issue by re-watching the lecture and googling content, but it did not help. Therefore, I emailed the lecturer asking the questions. I was expecting her to just respond and that it would be the end of that. However, she invited me to come to her drop-in hours to discuss the questions that I had. She was very enthusiastic about the fact that I had questions and appreciated that I actually asked them. She did not find my questions stupid even though they came out in an inarticulate way. Asking my lecturer, a question was not as horrific as other people made out. After that, I started to realise that asking questions does not make someone look stupid. University is about acquiring knowledge, and no one starts off knowing everything to know about their degree.
3. Asking for help when you need it is important.
Also, during university, I was struggling with my mental health and needed help with maintaining it. Initially, I was very reluctant too as I was in denial about my issues. However, my mental health started to have a detrimental effect on my academic progress. I was considering taking a temporary withdrawal because it did not seem possible to do university and manage my mental health at the same time. However, after accessing support, I successfully completed my second year, both doing well academically and coping with my mental health. I realised that I didn’t have to go through it alone if I am struggling and that the University is eager to help where they can. For instance, I now take exams in a small room and receive extra time which really helps aid my high anxiety levels.