Tip Three for the New Semester – Do Your Research
Starting university and a new semester can be a daunting prospect as well as an exciting one. It is something that we have never done before, and we normally have a whole host of questions, wonders and fears that need to be answered. Whilst every student has different worries, and no two institutions are the same, questions about where you need to go for lectures, who to talk to about any problems you have, where the best bars are, what books and equipment you actually need to have are common amongst many first-time students.
You shouldn’t have to live with these worries throughout the summer, but bothering the wrong person with all these questions may begin to annoy them, and they answers they provide might not be helpful. So, reaching out to the right people about the right questions, as well as networking with people who will be on your course or in your year, can help dispel the worries and anxieties you may have, allowing you to relax in your summer and look forward to the new semester.
Before you begin throwing questions and worries at people, do your research. Most universities and colleges have their own website which contain a wealth of knowledge about what you can expect when you get there, and many students’ unions have their own personal website to give you an idea about the more social side of the university. This may give you quite a glossy view of the institution, so it may be worth having a look at what others have said about their experiences at wherever it is you are going to study on forums such as The Student Room. It may even be worthwhile looking up some news articles about the university to get a better view of it, or read the last few editions of the student newspaper.
First, try and find out who your director of studies and tutor will be, and reach out to them via email. If you don’t have any specific questions for them about your studies, reach out to them anyway just to say hello and familiarise yourself with them. These are the people that are going to be helping you through the academic side of university and so it is good to get to know them so you feel you can go to them from the start of the year for help and advice. Equally, unlike relationships with teachers at school, relationships with directors of studies, tutors and professors can be a lot less formal, so striking up a friendly rapport from the start can only work to your advantage.
Next, try and network with people who are going to be on your course. Talking to people who will be there with you when you start term not only means you can gauge the type of people you will be meeting at university, it also means there will be some friendly faces when you start, making the prospect less daunting, and you can share some of the uncertainties you may have in common. Social media is vital for this. If you are on Twitter, perhaps put out a tweet asking if there is anyone who will be on your course or in your year, using the hashtag for your university. If you are on Facebook, try looking for fresher groups; most universities have one every year that has been set up by someone in the same position as you. If you want, you can even ask around people you know to see if they know anyone that they can put you in touch with who is also going to the same institution.
Try to network not just with people who will be in your year when you start the new semester, but also those in the years above you who have already spent time at the university. These are the people who will have the best idea of what it will be like for you, having just lived it themselves. If you have any questions about workload, social life and the specific quirks of that university, these are the people to ask. Equally, it is always worthwhile being friendly with those in higher years to you, as they may be in a position to help you with your studies if they have done the same thing in the past.
For those of us already at university, it is worth keeping in touch with those you have already met at university throughout the summer break; your friendship with them doesn’t end as soon as the new semester does. Talk to them through whatever social media suits, and perhaps organise meet-ups throughout the summer. It may be unlikely, but if you have the money to spare, perhaps planning a trip with them will create a great bonding experience. Equally, researching the course doesn’t only apply to freshers; just because you have complete a year or two doesn’t mean you know everything about the next year of your course. Take some time to find out what is ahead of you academically – this may include reaching out to friends in years above you. The key is always: make sure you research thoroughly and talk to people, so you are always well-informed.
Make sure you check out the rest of the articles in our series on Tips for the perfect start for the next semester: