How to Prepare for the Upcoming Uni Year

Whether you’re walking in for the first time or the last time, you’ve no doubt spent the summer amping yourself up, making promises to yourself about what your uni year is going to look like. No staying up until 2am to complete an assignment, no going out during the week, you will keep all your succulents alive, and you’re going to get Turnitin’s similarity percentage down to a nice round 0. If that’s all feeling like it’s way too much, keep reading and let’s see what we can do to make it all feel alright. 

Lay Everything Out
Every new uni year has a new set of demands: first year is your year to establish new friendships, to try new things and to finally be able to start down the path that will lead you to your new career. Second-year is the year when you realize “oh damn, I’ve gone up a level” and maybe that means you begin to panic a little. Third-year is when it all suddenly gets real and you’ve got one last go of it. No matter the year, it’s scary. The most important thing to remember is that fear is not failure and everyone experiences it. Even if they don’t always show it. What’s important is that you focus on yourself and set realistic goals that you feel comfortable accomplishing. Maybe start out the semester with a list of your assignments and their due dates, so you have a clear picture of what the coming weeks hold. Fresh off those summer days at the beach and straight into your assignments, it might feel like someone just dumped a load of bricks on you. If you lay everything out it will feel less like a massive, heavy, crushing pile and more manageable and within your control. 

For a lot of people organizing is literally the least fun thing to do, and that’s completely fair. There are probably more Rachels out there than Monicas. But if you haven’t tried it before and have experienced the assignment/brick crushing feeling, maybe give it a try. For your own sanity, you can always try to make it more fun. Get a fun notebook, colour code different tasks, set reminders on your phone for different deadlines (the duck sound is a personal favourite of mine). Or maybe you literally need to see everything laid out. Stick post-it-notes on your wall or have everything visually set out on a calendar. Organization doesn’t have to be all to-do lists and carefully labelled filing folders. Make it yours! 

Work with Yourself 
As you progress into the semester, you can then break your tasks down even further by setting daily word counts or study hours. Have a 5,000 word essay? Maybe try doing 500 or even 200 words a day. Or maybe you need to prepare for an exam. You could focus on studying one topic a day or you could set aside an hour or two to study for the exam. 

Whichever you chose to organize your schedule is completely up to you and how you work best. By now you probably know what your work style is and it’s important to recognize what that style is and work with it. For some people, the motivation to do work doesn’t kick in until the last minute.  For others, it might start weeks before a deadline. If you’re one of those people that works best under pressure, then you can prepare yourself by setting small daily word counts or maybe even just do an outline. If you need more time to feel at ease with your work then set bigger word counts, or even do smaller ones over a longer period of time. Don’t create a schedule for yourself that doesn’t work with who you are as a person. You don’t have to change who you are as a person to get the grades you want. 

Don’t Overload 
No matter how determined you might be, chances are you’re probably going to break at least one of these promises to yourself at some point this year. But what’s important is that you don’t just throw your hands up in air and give up completely. One dead succulent doesn’t mean the whole garden has to die. Allow yourself to be human. If you miss a day of work, don’t try to make up for it the next day. You don’t have to punish yourself for slipping up by overloading yourself with more work. Take a deep breath and resume where you left off.  

But none of this is possible if you don’t take care of yourself. Release your inner Donna Meagle and treat yo self. While you’re creating your schedule don’t forget to include time for yourself. Do whatever it is you need to do to make yourself feel whole. Take a walk, meet up with friends, do a little Netflix binging. Sometimes part of taking care of yourself might mean breaking your own time table. If you start getting to a point where you feel like you just can’t, then don’t. Go talk to your tutor or your advisor and together come up with a plan that won’t send you spiralling. You might even find that halfway through the semester the plan you’ve made for yourself just isn’t working and that’s okay, you can readjust. 

Having a set plan in place isn’t going to make everything go smoothly, but it will make it easier. Every schedule has room for error and needs to have room for yourself. So, once you’ve got your fresh sheets on your bed and your new plants set out on the window, get out your brightly coloured highlighters and get planning! 

Written by Erica Shepard, Auckland