There’s no denying it, after the Christmas break second semester can seem impossible to get back into. Here’s how to get ahead…
I’m probably the worst at giving up in second semester, so take it from me- procrastinating is a bad idea. I make the same plan every year, and every year I abandon it, but I’m determined to stick to it this time. Might as well end my degree on top. So, here are my top tips for getting ahead in semester two.
Make a rough plan for the semester
You don’t have to stick to it, but try to make a plan of everything you need to achieve in the week. I write everything in my diary and then try to cross off two or three things a day. I’m never as detailed at setting times to do things- I’ll never stick to it so it’s not worth getting stressed over. I make lists of everything. From essay dates to when I want to do my seminar preparation, it all goes in the book. You could write a to-do list at the beginning of the week, or note things on a whiteboard. I find that the best technique is one you never forget to check, and it’s totally fine if that’s your phone. If you can see everything you need to do then it’s not as daunting.
Write down deadlines as soon as you find out about them
I try to write down every essay I have, plus the basic rubrics and date due, the moment I know about it. That way, I don’t have any nasty surprises in week 4 when I turn up to an essay workshop for an essay I didn’t know I had. From then, I work out roughly how long it will take to research and write, and schedule time pretty early on. Usually, I try to choose my question at least three weeks before the deadline. If I don’t have too many deadlines at once, I’ll usually spend a couple of hours a day, three days a week. If I have a lot, those three days are often back to back and followed by two more three day sessions. Sticking to my schedule makes me feel a lot less stressed.
Use the first week back to get ahead
As an English student, I try to use the first week of the semester to read two or three weeks ahead. Otherwise I get stuck reading a 500 page book in three days. Even if I end up behind, I know that I can wing my way through the last weeks of the module if I’m prepared at the beginning. The more reading you do when your workload is quieter, the easier you’ll find it. It’s also good to use the first couple of weeks back to settle into a routine. Exercising, eating healthily and taking time for yourself are all so important. (Check out our tips for taking care of your mental health).
Start your exam notes now
Thankfully, I picked third year modules that didn’t have any exams. But when I did have exams, I liked making my notes for the exam from week one. It sounds extreme, but coming home from a lecture or seminar and rewriting my notes into flash cards, a mind map or just in colour, really helps to solidify my understanding. Plus, when exams loomed, I already had neat, easy to understand notes to refer to. I’m terrible at trying to remember what I meant at the time. Even something as simple as rereading the notes you made helps you understand the material.
My best advice for second semester? Don’t let yourself get bogged down. Second and third year can be crazy stressful. Now is the perfect time to work out how you work at university level. Enjoy your studies. You chose your course for a reason. If you’re not stressed, you’re more likely to remember why.