Second year: how to cope when it counts

Second year: how to cope when it counts

Firstly, I’m going to reassure you that your workload won’t be drastically different in second year. What does change is the fact that second year counts towards your final degree classification, which makes it important to do as well as you can in assignments and exams. Here’s some tips for how to cope with going into second year. I promise it’s not as scary as it sounds.


Being organised is the best way to make sure your second year goes as well as possible. Although most universities count second year as a third of your degree, and third year as two thirds, second year is still important as good grades now help with any disasters in third year. Get yourself a diary, and make a note of everything you need to achieve weekly, monthly and semesterly.

I like having a diary for basic descriptions on the date due, and a notebook for detailed lists, plans and things to remember. Write down everything from essay due dates to seminar readings. Tick off things as you go along so you don’t feel overwhelmed. It’s also useful to spend 5 minutes at the beginning of every day to make a list of what you want to achieve. Try to be as detailed as possible to keep you feeling organised and calm, even in the deepest depths of exam periods.

Second year: how to cope when it counts


Read everything! Make sure to read your set texts or critical readings at least once before your seminar or lecture. You’ll feel more prepared, you’ll understand more and you won’t panic when essays loom. It’s also useful to read around the topics to fully understand it. I took a module on neoconservative framings of crime in film this year. It took a lot of reading before the seminars to really wrap my head around it. Now I understand it, my essays are much easier to write because I’m not desperately trying to understand a topic whilst writing about it. It also gives you time to speak to your lecturers and tutors at the time you’re studying the topic.


Try to start your assignments early. This gives you plenty of time to really research the topic, and make sure the presentation is good. I aim to give myself three weeks for an essay so I can space out when I’m writing and not get too bogged down by it. It’s also a good idea to look back at feedback for old essays and make a note of things you consistently get wrong. It took me ages to get the referencing perfect.

Second year: how to cope when it counts


Think about how long you revised for exams this year. If it felt like enough, you weren’t stressed and were happy with your grades then great. If not, try starting two weeks earlier. Slowly increase the amount of time you revise for. Start by working for 2 hours a day, rewriting notes or making flash cards. Then work up to the amount of time you feel comfortable revising each day. Don’t forget to take productive breaks for exercise and food, and to rest your eyes, especially if you’re revising with a screen.

Checking in

Checking in means lots of things. Check in with friends, your tutors and yourself. Make plans for a study date with friends to go over difficult topics. Arrange meetings with your tutors about essays, ask to go over questions, materials or essay plans. Take time to understand how you’re feeling. Give yourself breaks. Burn out is no joke, and your health comes first. Schedule in time for yourself. If you are organised and work productively then you don’t need to be at full steam ahead all the time. Allow yourself time to enjoy your degree, to remember why you’re learning.

Second year: how to cope when it counts

On a final note, if you’re moving off campus for second year, make sure you actually go to lectures and seminars. It’s easy to get lazy if you have to walk or get a bus to university, rather than rolling out of bed 5 minutes before you start, which I did a lot of in first year.

Not much is going to change in second year when it comes to your learning, or the way seminars are run. What can change is your attitude to work. I know I wish I’d pushed myself a little harder at the beginning of second year. When I work hard, I do really well. Funny that.

If you’re struggling, or want more advice than I’ve given, leave a comment, contact tyfy on social media, or even reach out to me on Instagram. I promise we’re a friendly team.

Second year: how to cope when it counts

Rebecca Ford

Student Advice Writer. Rebecca studies English at Keele University and writes a weekly advice column for First Years.

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