I received my final degree classification result yesterday and I was extremely pleased to find out that I got a 1st !!!! It still hasn’t quite sunk in yet as I remember thinking a few years ago that I wouldn’t even get into university. I came into higher education with no more than a grade C at GCSE science and no relevant further education qualifications, so to get a 1st is something i’m extremely proud of.
I’ve thought about how I achieved this and have put together a few hints and tips for those who are thinking about studying at degree level;
- Choose a subject that you love- It may sound obvious but there’s lots of people who pick a subject because friends or family members have done so, because they done okay at the subject in school or perhaps because of the promise of a good salary. Although there’s nothing wrong with taking into consideration things like this, it’s more important that you choose an area that you enjoy and are passionate about. To get a good degree classification you have to study for long periods of time and to do this you need to be dedicated and motivated; this is much easier to do if you enjoy the subject.
- Start assignments as soon as you are given them- If you are given six weeks to do an assignment do not wait until a few days before to start. I always started my work early and I think this is what gets you higher marks. I often spent a few days gathering thoughts and just thinking about how I was going to approach the assignment, jotting down ideas and familiarising myself with the learning outcomes and marking criteria. You should then allow enough time to produce a first, second and sometimes a third draft of your work. Ask your tutors to have a look over the work before you hand it in and act on the feedback that you are given. Allow time for unexpected problems such as printer ink running out, or trains or buses getting cancelled…. try to avoid waiting until the day that the assignment is due before handing it in. University can sometimes be stressful and waiting until the night before to start work will put you under a huge amount of pressure, you want to avoid this situation as much as you can because it’s not pleasant and you are unlikely to perform well when you are in this situation.
- Do not rely on memory alone for exams- This is probably one of the biggest mistakes I made at university. Revision at school consisted of learning lots of facts and this was enough to get a decent mark at GCSE’s. University is different, learning facts doesn’t show understanding and critical thinking. For degrees, you need to demonstrate a full, overall understanding of the subject and the ability to see the bigger picture by critically analysing the knowledge in your chosen field. Practice past exam papers, do not waste time writing up notes so they look neat (I did this!), you are the only person who will see them ! Do not rely on notes from lectures alone, keep up to date with current issue in the industry, read anything and everything you can about your subject, take the advice from lecturers if they recommend reading… they know what they are talking about !
- Take control of your own learning- University is not like school, although your tutors are there to help you, they won’t necessarily approach you about your assignments so don’t expect tutors to remind you that you have work due or ‘babysit’ you through your work. A vital part of university is to develop your skills as an adult and prepare you for working life. You need to be pro-active, professional and mature… after all this is how your boss will expect you to behave once you start a career. Ask for help and feedback when you need it, take responsibility and don’t place blame on others if you make mistakes… we all make them, the important thing is that you learn from them. Don’t see work as a burden, enjoy it and try to understand why you have been asked to do it, think about what skills you will gain from it and approach everything with a positive attitude. Get involved, ask to do volunteer work and associate yourself with the right people…. if you find that someone is a bad influence on you try to avoid them ! University is three years of your life, so try and make the best of it… you will regret it if you don’t.
- Enjoy it- Most importably, enjoy your time at university. Achieving a good classification should not require consistently huge amounts of hard work to the point where you are feeling under immense stress. The key is to demonstrate a full understanding of most of the ideas and research techniques covered throughout your course, as well as small but significant bits of extra information required from extra reading. You should demonstrate enthusiasm and intellect, as well as ensuring that you balance university well with your personal life. Look after yourself, eat well, sleep well, socialise and take time off to relax… you will need to be organised and well disiplined in order to get this balance right. Do not get bogged with the thought of getting a 1st or any other classification, the important thing is to try your best… if you do this you will succeed !