Managing the Workload At Uni.

26 December 2018


The biggest difference between A levels and University level study is the amount of independent work required, this is true for every course, you will be expected to come to classes having done the preparation work at home beforehand. Personally I found this one of the biggest challenges and the odd time I have learnt the hard way that you need to be proactive about keeping on top of your work. With that being said there are a few techniques I have picked up which have helped me to become more organised and manage the workload on my course.

Keep Deadlines in Mind 
The start of each academic year or term is the best time to work out when all your deadlines are, usually they will be listed on the canvas page for each module. This is a really important first step to take as every course has different deadline dates (and times) and the last thing you want to do is realise you actually have much less time than you thought to write your assignment. 
Having a clear deadline in mind helps me have a rough idea of what I need to be doing, this allows me plenty of time to plan and review content for an essay or attend my lecturers office hours if I need to. Suffice to say in first year I was nowhere near this organised and I usually didn’t even realise I had deadlines until a week or so before when everyone was talking about them, which is not an experience I wish to repeat.

Organise your reading list
This is something that I’ve only really started doing this year, but it has actually helped a lot and I wish I’d started it sooner. I’ve put together a chart which shows me at a glance exactly what reading I have for each module every week. This way I can easily see how heavy the workload is and work out roughly how long preparation might take. It also helps if there are particular texts you might need to purchase in advance or check out of the library. One of the biggest obstacles to not completing reading on time is underestimating how long it will take or leaving it until the last minute, but planning out your reading like this helps to eliminate that problem and is also really useful for providing an overview of each module which is helpful when it comes to assignments and revision. 

Print out your reading
Again, I have only been doing this regularly this year, but I can only imagine how much easier life would’ve been in first and second year if I had been doing this all along. All students are given a reasonable amount of printing credit each year, so if you don’t fancy bringing a printer to uni then this is really easy and free way of getting paper copies of your readings. The reason I suggest this is because from personal experience I engage much better with critical readings when they’re printed out, I don’t get so easily distracted as I do when I’m reading on a screen, and its nearly always easier to highlight and annotate on a page.

Keep a record of your grades
If you have mid-year assessment its really useful to keep a breakdown of your grades for each assessment and what the weighting is for each assignment. This has helped me to keep track of my overall achievement each year and what grades I need to be aiming for to achieve a good mark overall. As well as this, having a rough idea of the weighting for each assessment helps me to prioritise my workload and give me some perspective on what percentage of each year or my overall degree each assignment is worth.

Do your best to attend everything
This is probably the most important thing to emphasise for keeping on top of work, in previous years missing contact hours has been a slippery slope and left me feeling more and more behind. Although the temptation is to catch up on lecture recordings I actually find that this takes me quite a lot longer than the fifty minutes it should take as I’m always having to rewind and go back over sections. From my experience I’ve also found that even if you haven’t finished all the preparation for a seminar its still worth going because seminars aren’t recorded which makes then much harder to catch up and you can nearly always learn something useful from group discussion. Overall I’ve found that keeping up my attendance this year has not only given me more structure and routine to my week but also made me feel more on top of work and left me in a much better position than in previous years.

I hope these tips will help you feel more ready to take on the academic side of university, some of these things I really wish I thought to do in first and second year, but its never too late for a fresh start. If you do try out any of these tips please send me a message as I would love to hear about it. I’ve also included a template for the grade tracker and reading list planner which you can download if you’d like to give it a try. 

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