How to Prepare Academically for Starting University | Top Universities

How to Prepare Academically for Starting University

By Guest Writer

Updated March 14, 2021 Updated March 14, 2021

By Charlotte Stevenson

After receiving your exam results and confirming your place at university, you might be wondering what to do next. While it’s possible to start chatting to other first years online and make plans for nights out in freshers’ week, the academic side of university is often harder to prepare for.

What will your lectures, seminars and tutorials at university actually be like? What do you need to know before you arrive? Use these last weeks of the summer to find out the answers to these questions and ground yourself in the foundational knowledge you’re going to need if you don’t want to become too overwhelmed in the first few weeks of term.

Here are some ways to get in the right frame of mind.

Find people who can answer any questions you have

If there are any open days being organized by your university before term, these will be an opportunity to ask questions about your degree and the teaching in person. If this isn’t something you’re able to do, you can always email the university instead, asking for information on what topics you’ll be studying and how they would like you to prepare.

It’s also a good idea to find the university's page on The Student Room or other online forums, as older students should be able to answer your questions and inform you about their own experiences.

See if you can get hold of the reading lists already

Last year, I emailed my lecturers before term started and was able to get one of them to send me a copy of the reading lists for the upcoming term. If your university doesn’t provide these in advance already, I’d highly recommend doing this. It meant I could get a lot of the books I needed second-hand before other students bought them all, which saved me money. It also helps you get an idea of what the workload will be like for the year.

When it comes to reading through your new books, start with the longer or more complex books. They might look scary, but getting them started while you have time to work gradually will make them much easier to complete in the long run.

Stock up on supplies

There is nothing worse than being interrupted by something completely avoidable such as a pen running out of ink or your computer memory being full. For this reason, it is important to make sure you have extra supplies and working equipment right from the beginning.

You don’t have to have a top brand computer or the finest fountain pen, but you do need to make sure that you have enough to last you for at least the first few months at university. Researching in advance can be useful.

Practice your time management

Doing well at university is largely down to how responsibly you can manage your time in order to use it most efficiently. The secret to this is successful scheduling.

A useful way to practice this over the summer is by prioritizing your weekly activities and then putting them into a daily context so you can see when you need to be doing what. By practicing this, you’ll soon see how you can structure days into discrete blocks of time, which will be useful when you need to find time for revision ahead of exams.

Start thinking about questions and discussion points

One of the most important things you can do before term starts is get in the university mindset and start thinking outside of the box. This will help you develop your own voice so you can better enunciate your thoughts articulately when you’re sat in lectures and tutorials.

While working your way through the reading list, keep a daily record of the questions and ideas you come up with. These will prove useful once term begins as you’ll have a head-start on what you want to discuss and maybe even focus on for your assignments.

Continue to enjoy your subject

It is easy to forget why you are passionate about a subject once there are assignments and textbooks to deal with. The most important thing you can achieve is maintaining that love of your field so that what you contribute to the global conversation really is your best work.

Whether it be creating yourself an extra fun reading list that focuses on your favorite areas of interest or attending extra lectures in your nearby area, make sure you’re finding ways to keep yourself motivated and engaged with what you are heading to university to study.

This article was originally published in August 2017 . It was last updated in March 2021

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