Ten tips for thriving at Lancaster University

by Amy Oloo

There’s so much I’ve learned from my year at Lancaster. Seeing as it’s all coming to a head, I feel that now’s a great opportunity for me to share all the things I’ve picked up during my time as a postgraduate distance learning student.

Think about your dissertation topic early

Firstly, it is super important to start thinking about your dissertation topic early; the semesters roll around quite quickly and by the time you get round to your first meeting with your dissertation supervisor in May, they typically expect you to have a general idea of what direction you’d like your dissertation to go in.

Learn how to write a good essay

Another great idea is to attend essay writing workshops. Coming into postgraduate study, professors tend to have high expectations of students. Therefore, it may be useful to book a writing workshop before the first batch of essay submissions in the Michaelmas term. I took such a workshop before my dissertation writing process and learned how I could’ve improved on my essay writing throughout the year, e.g. through strengthening my essay structure.

Make sure you do all your reading

Thirdly, I would highly recommend that you do all your assigned reading as professors can usually tell when you haven’t. Additionally, knowing the material helps you write much stronger essays as you’ll be able to critically analyse the main arguments of your topic. Knowing the material also helps you meaningfully contribute to classroom discussions, which is a definite expectation of professors.

Talk about your essay topics

On that note, I’d also recommend deciding on your essay topics early and speaking to professors about your topic, essay question and proposed structure so that you can get feedback about what may or may not work. This will allow you to prepare an essay that is more aligned to your professor’s expectations.

Peer review your essays

I’d also recommend getting your essay peer reviewed by other academics to get a critical evaluation on how you can improve your essay. This has really been helpful to me as I sometimes get blind spots on areas of improvement on my essay, so receiving feedback from readers such as my sister has been super useful.

Keep up with current affairs

Keep up with current events so that you can see the application of the issues of your course in real time. This is especially relevant to politics and international students. On a personal level, observing China-U.S.A and Russia and Western relations has been really helpful in helping me understand some of the concepts that I have learned while studying.

Find some part-time work

Get part-time work experience and placements if possible, doing so will help position you as a more qualified candidate for postgraduate opportunities. Earning a little spare money can be incredibly useful and empowering.

Make the most of the Careers Service

Take advantage of the career services at the university, and have someone review your CV, Cover letters and Linkedin page. Also use the career services to help brush up on your interview and job assessment skills. This will be helpful when trying to find a permanent opportunity after graduation.

Network with academics

Network with professors and ask them if they know of any professionals in your chosen field that they can connect you to post-graduation. Ideally, this can lead to you earning a placement at an organisation that is relevant to your area of study.

Connect with your fellow students

Even as a distance learning student, you can still make an effort to connect with fellow students. For instance, you can engage with other classmates on forum boards, connect with them on Linkedin and even attend virtual events that allow you to get familiar with some of the other students. Of course, as an on-campus student, you should definitely make the effort to get to know your flatmates and fellow students better by inviting them out to various places, and by joining clubs and societies that will allow you to meet like-minded people.

This list includes things that have been super helpful to me, but also things that I wish someone would have told me. I hope that they will be of use to you, and that they will help you thrive at Lancaster University.


Amy is studying LLM in Diplomacy and International Law by distance learning at Lancaster University.

Lancaster University employs students to create authentic content from a student perspective. All views expressed in this article are those of the students, and do not necessarily reflect the views or position of Lancaster University.