UMASS Blog

If You Fail to Plan…

You plan to fail! Read about Adam’s experiences of adapting to University study, and find some tips to help your current study.

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One of the main differences between university and college is the way that you are assessed. Time management is a fundamental skill that has to be learnt throughout your degree to succeed within higher education. With assignments to research and write, office hours to attend with your academic tutors, and group projects to carry out, on top of your timetabled lecture and seminar times, your empty schedule can quickly become populated by an assortment of small but essential tasks.

One of the best ways to ensure that you have enough time to complete your work is to plan out your week properly. On some days, it may be that you only have one or two hours of lecture, seminar, or tutorial time. It is best to take advantage of the free hours while you have them early on in the semester, as the workload can increase dramatically closer to the exam periods.

As I am studying English Literature and Linguistics, I do not spend much time in classes and lectures. On most weeks, I am only in classes for nine to eleven hours per week. However, even though I have few contact hours, I am still expected to spend a significant amount of time completing assignments and tasks set by my course leaders. Most of my time is spent reading the selected works for each module that I take. Instead of going home after my lectures, I usually go to the library and spend a few hours completing my work there. I found in my first year as an undergraduate that I struggled to focus after returning home from university; for me, it is best to stay on campus to prevent myself from relaxing for the rest of the day! One of my third-year friends once told me to treat a degree as a full-time job, which is how I now plan out my time. In term time, I often work until 5pm from whatever time I wake up. By doing this, I’ve found that my assignments have often been done far before their deadlines, giving me time to proofread and edit them to order to obtain the best grade possible.

Unlike college, tutors do not keep reminding their students about deadlines and rarely check to see if selected readings have been completed. It is up to the students themselves to ensure that the required learning for each week has been studied in detail and consolidated. When first starting university, I often found that I started researching essays too late, resulting in the rushed writing of my assignments. However, through practice, I learnt how to manage my time properly. Getting a diary, or using technology like Google Calendars or Apple’s iCalendar can help you get to grips with the tasks that need completing each day. My calendar, notes, and reminders are synced between my computer, phone, and iPad, which is great for planning out what needs to be completed. I almost always write tasks down on my computer or phone as soon as I know they need doing, ensuring that I’m informed of my schedule everywhere I go.

Apart from studying at university, I often engage in student-orientated activities, such as going on nights out in Manchester and attending LinguistMix, a fortnightly event held for English language and linguistics students, where the lecturers within the department present their current research projects and work. By planning my time wisely, I am able to uphold my vibrant social life, while ensuring that all of my work is completed to the best of my ability.

 If you have any work to be completed, I would advise getting on top of that planning so you don’t have to worry about it over Christmas!

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!