Posted in Education Help and Advice

What I Have Learnt from my Undergrad Degree

I am currently going into my third (and last!) year of my undergraduate degree and realised that there may be some of you out there who are starting university next month! Therefore I decided to give you some tips of things that have helped me and things that haven’t worked for me during my time at university, some of you may already do these things and think I’m an idiot for not knowing that but hey we are all here to learn!


1. You do not need to go out and spend £394839439 on textbooks.

Contrary to popular belief you do not need every single textbook that a lecturer mentions or that is on a reading list, you also don’t need to buy them brand new either. Ebay is your best friend, always check Ebay for your textbooks as that is generally where you are going to find them the cheapest. You don’t even actually have to buy textbooks, libraries exist! And every university will have at least one library, at my university you can even check for the books online without having to go in. Most importantly never buy a textbook in a shop, I guarantee it’s cheaper online. Plus you can always sell your textbooks on at the end of the year! Ebay, amazon trade-in and blackwells are all good ideas! But I always put mine on Ebay to help out those in need in the years below me.

2. Printing off the lecture and taking it in with you may actually make you less likely to concentrate.

This may sound a little strange but I’m sure those of you who are in university currently will know what I mean. I’m assuming this is the same with all universities but my lecturers put up a copy of their powerpoint slides before a lecture for you to print off and take in with you so you only have to take notes when they say anything extra, which is great if you have a good attention span… which I don’t. What I found works for me is not taking the powerpoint slides in and making notes on all the things I think are important, that way my attention is kept the whole 2 hours of a lecture instead of staring off into space because the lecturer isn’t saying anything that I haven’t already printed out.

3. Filofax’s are your best friend.

When I started university I decided I wanted to get a Filofax. If you don’t know what a Filofax is, it’s essentially an organiser with a diary in, to do lists etc but it’s set as a sort of little ringbinder so you can personalise it to what you want to have inside and then every year you don’t have to buy a diary you just have to buy the pages to go inside your filofax! I got mine at the beginning of first year from paperchase (you don’t have to get the make filofax you can get a “personal organiser” which is the same thing but a lot cheaper) for £12, I have the A5 size, but there are plenty of different sizes to suit you and loads of different inserts, you can even print off and make your own!

4. Plan ahead for deadlines.

I was incredibly bad at this in first year. From going to college where they tell you when to start and what you should have done by certain times to going to university where you just get given the deadlines for the whole year at the start and then you’re on your own… It’s pretty difficult to know what the hell to do. I would suggest planning for deadlines, write down in your diary what you’re going to get done for each essay/coursework/lab report. So you could say on one day you want to collect all the journal articles, next day you want to have your plan done, whatever works for you, but make sure you plan ahead and don’t try to cram it in the week before because it will never be as good!

5. You do not need a trillion textbooks, one for each module is fine.

Generally I would say to buy at least one textbook for every module you have and try to get one that is a broad textbook with lots of topics, for instance my lifesaver in statistics was Discovering Statistics using IBM SPSS Statistics by Andy Field (if you are a Psychology student and don’t want to spend money on a load of books, at least get this one, it lasts all three years and will help so much trust me). I would say if you are struggling with what book to get maybe going into a shop, looking at a few textbooks to seeing what may be right for you and then buying it online is the best way to go, I’ve done that a few times myself. 

6. You don’t always need the latest edition of a textbook.

Quite often in textbook lists it will say a certain edition of a book that you need, but if you ask a lecturer you can sometimes have an edition or two before the latest and still be fine which will make the books a lot cheaper so it’s definitely worth finding out.

7. Make sure you write down when a lecturer explains a word on a slide or gives more information.

Plenty of times I’ve been reading back slides and there’s been a word which I haven’t wrote the meaning to or I haven’t wrote the simple explanation for a diagram and have no idea what it’s about even if I understood it at the time. So make sure you write down everything you need, you may think you won’t forget but trust me, there’s a chance you will!

8. Sticky tab notes. Lots of Sticky Tab notes.

I actually didn’t discover these until my Auntie bought me them for Christmas in my first year of university in a cute little set with sticky notes. These are a life saver when it comes to textbooks/journals, you can stick the notes on a specific section and write on the notes and they come right off again, perfect if you’re loaning a book from a library or want to sell your books on again at the end of the year!

9. When writing essays, write down where you got a piece of information from as you go along.

So many times I will have wrote down a piece of information, it’s really good and useful for my essay, I go to write it in and… I can’t find the reference. Make sure you write what reference things are from as you go along, don’t ever think you will remember, make sure you do it!

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