Firstly- Congratulations on making the big step to Third Level Education!!
Yes, it will be very different from secondary school, or if you’re a mature student like I was, it will be like you’ve entered a whole new world of information, learning, stress, laughter, and the making of friends that you thought you were too old to ever make!
No, it won’t all be sitting down writing, reading, and learning.
Yes, there will always be last minute assignments, no matter how much you prepare!
And Yes, if you enjoy the topic you are studying, college really will be some of the best days of your life!
Starting or returning to college can be quite daunting in a number of ways: the abundance of blogs, posters around college and your Student’s Union, and handouts from lectures cover most aspects- but the one thing which always stopped me in my tracks, however, was Academic Skills!!!
Those dreaded two words together always made my hands sweat, my brain freeze, and my thoughts think that I was nothing but an imposter who doesn’t belong in a class full of people who always knew more than I did- how wrong was I!!
Over the next few weeks, I will offer some advice and tips on how to improve your academic skills. There is no one way of writing essays, creating projects, or answering exam questions and there is never a replacement for going to your academic skills classes put on by your college.
Each department has their own preferred way of referencing, I learned this the hard way with my psychology assignments versus my history coursework, and each discipline has its own nuanced way of writing essays. What I did find, however, was all the technical, and academic language was so overwhelming, so much so, I had considered quitting the course a few months in as I felt I would never grasp it all. Now I’ve finished with an Honours Degree in English and History and as my years of study progressed, my grades also increased.
Hopefully, the tips that I give over the next few blogs will help ease the transition to college life. If there is any particular topic you would like covered please post below and I will try my best to cover it!
Before you even read my tips, please remember, we are ALL learning, every single one of us in the world, we learn something new every single day, even if we don’t realize it!
We all make mistakes, and we all have to start somewhere. So that Doctor of English or Professor of History standing at the top of the room, looking so confident in their skin talking to you about Postcolonial Theory, or Feminist Sensibility, was just like you only a few years ago, sitting there thinking, what was that all about and walking out of the class wondering how you’re ever going to understand or remember any of what was just said, especially if you’re a philosophy student. (I remember thinking one philosopher’s ideas were exactly what the writer of Star Trek was thinking when he wrote about the Borg, we’re all just one big collective, it was literally the only way I could remember what the lecturer was teaching us).
Tip Number 1: Read, Read, Read, Read, and em yeah, Read.
I really cannot stress this enough, reading a varied amount of different authors on your research topic, is the only way to get a balanced and objective viewpoint of your topic- a skill which is absolutely necessary to create your own opinion.
I will say, don’t be afraid to read websites, some are absolutely fantastic, but always remember the context in which they are written. I will give examples of what to watch out for when reading in my next blog.
Tip Number 2: Use your local library
Your local library is invaluable. When you have an assignment and thirty of your classmates are all looking for the same book, 9 times out of 10, it will be available in your local library, and if not, you can order it into your local library from any library in the country! And the fines for returning them late are always cheaper than your college library 🙂
In another blog post, I will go further into detail about how your local library can be used to find academic sources other than books.
Tip Number 3: Use YouTube, or other media sources such as movies or plays.
YouTube is a fantastic source if you are a visual learner like me. There are many academic lectures on the site, which help bring everything you learned in a lecture together and can sometimes lead to the ‘Ahhhh I get it now‘ moments. As with the written sources, you always have to take in to account the bias and context in which some videos are made.
That’s all for today but watch out for more posts. My next one will cover how to know which books to use and how you can help your research without reading every single book prescribed on your course from cover to cover.
Thanks for reading, and as always, Do what you love & love what you do!