(The things I’m about to say really only come from my own experiences, we’re all different and all courses are different so please don’t assume that what I’m saying will definitely be applicable to you)
The summer before I started university, I was keen to be as prepared as possible before I started my course. I bought the books on the reading list as soon as I could. Despite this, I was only a couple of weeks ahead (at the most) of my classmates who hadn’t done anything to prepare, so I wouldn’t worry if for whatever reason you can’t start reading in advance. However, once you’re at university the reading really must be done as soon as possible. To be honest, I found first year easier than Sixth Form. I could easily handle the essays and reading that I needed to do. The only thing that took a bit of time to get used to was learning to reference my essays properly, but this became second nature to me eventually. First year went by in a blissful haze full of relatively good marks.
When I started second year I went into a state of shock for about a month. I would say that the workload tripled. I don’t want this to scare any of you like it did me; it’s not as bad as it seems, honest. But at the time I didn’t know how to handle it. But I eventually did, and this is how: I read three books a week, every week (one for each module) and completed any additional work for seminars that I was asked to do (there was a fair bit – but this all depends on the tutor and the module). I also squeezed in writing essays whenever I needed to, normally over the holidays and Reading Weeks when I had a bit more time. It wasn’t easy, my grades weren’t as good as first year (although still decent), but eventually I made it through.
Third year was less of a jump in terms of workload. Although it did still increase a bit from second year, I was able to manage it better. I’d perfected my technique in getting my reading done and I learnt how much time to put aside to get my essays written properly, even though now they were required to be longer than ever before. My grades went up, and I managed to have a really decent social life at the same time. Third year was wonderful, I really enjoyed it. It really was all about gathering the skills I’d learnt over the years and pulling them together to succeed. Tomorrow I will be graduating with a 2:1 and I couldn’t be happier!