There is a particular delusion that many first years seem to share: it is a ridiculous belief that the first year of university does not count. As you can read in this article, it is a lie.
Indeed, the way you spend your first year can either make or break your entire university experience – and, in some cases, your future employment prospects. If you have just started university, you might want to pay attention to seven warning signs that clearly indicate that your first year is not going as well as it should. Here they are:
1. You’ve got too much time on your hands
It is true that after all that A-level related pressure the first year feels like ‘a gap year you have never intended to take’. People spread rumours that the first year does not count towards your studies, you do not have that many contact hours with your lecturers, the essay deadlines and the exams seem light-years away… It’s only natural that students feel like they have to fill their time somehow and slip into procrastination and the clutches of mid-week parties.
No matter what you do at university, if you have too much time it means you are not doing enough! Find a productive way to fill your time. Do some independent studying; join a student society and start helping the executive committee run it; sign up to volunteer or get a part-time job. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you do something that counts towards your future. Your first year counts – and it is up to you to make it count for real.
2. You’ve got no work experience
You cannot imagine how lucky you are to be at university – not the least because it’s one of the places where you can get work experience and enhance your CV without even holding a paid job.
If you do have a paid job, the better for you. If you haven’t got it yet, no worries. While you are a student, you can afford to volunteer even if you think you can’t. Moreover, you can get actively involved in the life of a student society and acquire awesome transferable skills by organising events, managing the society’s Facebook page or simply helping with whatever is keeping the executive committee busy. You do not have to occupy a position of power to make your CV shine. All you have to do is become active.
3. You think you might fail a module or two
Whenever a thought like that visits your head, you are in trouble. Either due to not having taken your studies too seriously, or because there is something you don’t like about a particular module, thinking that you might fail is as bad as it can be. It’s true, sometimes your work can be pushed aside by more important things like family commitments or personal issues, but you must never think you will fail. Fight till the end and give it your best! And stop stressing, too – it will only make things worse.
4. You are not taking part in the life of a student society
What do most students expect when joining a society? The answer is very simple: they expect to become consumers of a great product/service. Sports societies give you training sessions, games and great social events. Interest-based societies give you a chance to meet people who share the same passions you have. Language and nationality-based societies provide you with an opportunity to practice your language skills, or, if you are a foreign student, feel closer to home being with the people with whom you share a language and a culture.
But what about giving as well as taking?
Sadly, many people who join student societies remain consumers. They fail to realise that membership in a student society is an excellent opportunity to get involved, gain valuable work experience as well as transferrable skills that will make you employable!
You should take advantage of student societies, because this can prove to be an asset in your CV and help you develop useful skills.
5. You still haven’t written a CV
If your first year is gathering speed and you still haven’t written a CV, it’s time to do it. It’s important to have your CV ready because you never know when you might need it; in life, opportunities can come unexpectedly. It’s better to learn how to write a CV in your first year, when you have time, than later when you might have to do it in a hurry. The fact that you still haven’t written one can only mean two things: either you don’t know how to write one, or you’ve got nothing to write about. In either case you’ve got to take action. Go to your university careers service and borrow a book or two on CV writing (don’t forget that you can also get one from this website – just follow this link). Read the first four points of this article, follow the advice that is given there and do something you can proudly put on your CV! Be active. Be smart.
6. You don’t have good professional relations with your lecturers
In your first year, your lecturers mean everything to you, even if you don’t realise it. First of all, it is worth making some effort in classes for the lecturer to notice you. Even if during the exam period you feel you’re just a student among hundreds of others and the lecturer does not know your name, you can visit them during their office hours and ask about anything about the subject you may not have understood. Moreover, you can ask where you can get additional information to expand your knowledge. Your lecturer will be happy to direct you to books and articles and will take note of your passion for knowledge. Lecturers appreciate people who make effort and listen to them. What is more, your lecturers will probably be among the first people who will provide you with a reference for employment – it is worth showing you are serious about your studies. After all, when your future employer sees that you have been a hard-working student, they are much more likely to think you will be a hard-working employee.
7. You are not enjoying what you’re doing
This symptom is the worst one, and I hope that none of you will ever have to experience this feeling. If you don’t like what you’re doing, it means you have got no reason to do it. It’s good if you don’t like one particular module of your course because once it’s been assessed, you will never have to think of it again. It is fine if you don’t like being a member of a particular student society – you can always say that you have too much academic work, and leave.
However, if you don’t like your entire course, it really means you have made a wrong decision. Still, even that is not tragic – it did happen to me, I did change my course and have been happy ever since. It’s better to realise you don’t like your course and change it, than waste your time and be unhappy.
I hope that your first year will be productive, fruitful, and, above all, enjoyable. Have fun and keep up the good work!
P.S. This article is based on Vlad Mackevic’s new book CAMP UK 10/2012: THE ULTIMATE POST-2012 UNIVERSITY SURVIVAL GUIDE, in which Vlad explains how to make the most out of your university experience. The book is coming out in October 2012, but extracts from it as well as related articles will be published on The Lecture Room as well as www.FirstYearCounts.com throughout the rest of the year.
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