Preparing for Academic Life at University: What to do before you begin your new course
by Rebecca Davison
The months leading up to the start of your first year at University can feel quite overwhelming if you aren't sure what to expect from your course. Luckily, there are some things you can do to make your transition into University life easier! Here, I offer some advice on how you can best prepare yourself in the weeks before the start of term based on my own experiences with starting a new course at Lancaster University. I’ve been studying Film at Lancaster for 4 years now, first for my undergraduate degree and now for my Master’s, so I am eager to share some of the things I have learned about how best to prepare for the new academic year!
Find coursemates by joining a group chat
It can feel daunting when you're about to start a brand-new course without knowing any of your classmates, but remember you aren't alone in that feeling! Many people are in the same position when starting a class and are eager to make friends or find others to talk to about the course. There are plenty of groups for freshers that you can find on Facebook that are easy to join. Try and join a few and have a look to see if anyone has made a post relating to your subject. There are usually posts from others asking if people beginning the same course would like to start a group chat. If you comment on one of these posts, you can ask to be added to a group chat and begin to get to know your peers before the course begins. And if there aren't any posts, you can always make one of your own. Others will thank you for it, trust me!
I joined a group chat in the Summer before my first year and organised a meet up with others on the course once we all arrived on campus. The friends I made through that Film Studies group chat are still my friends today! Even if you’re anxious about joining in the conversation online, being part of a group chat means you’ll likely see some familiar faces in your first lectures which can help ease some of the nerves.
Know your way around key online resources
The Student portal, Moodle & iLancaster
Before term begins, set aside an hour or so to play around with the online resources that you will use once the year begins. The Student Portal is probably the online space you will be using the most to access course content and your timetable, as well as other student services. Exploring the site ahead of time will help you feel more confident when your course begins as you won't be stuck wasting time trying to figure out how to access the content you need for a seminar!
Moodle is where you will find your module content. It is accessible via the student portal. When you first open Moodle, the site will offer you a tour which is useful for figuring out where different resources are and how to access them. Your lecturers will show you how to use Moodle when term begins, but it doesn’t hurt to have a virtual wander around beforehand!
iLancaster is the University app. You can download it on your phone or access it on a PC. Before you arrive, you can sign in with a future student profile and play around with the different sections on the app to explore campus and its facilities. Once you’re in Lancaster and fully registered to your course, you can find your timetable on the app as well as the page you will need to check in to lectures and other timetabled sessions.
Get a planner and start using it!
Planners are underrated lifesavers. Find one you like and take it everywhere with you when you’re studying or attending classes. I can’t tell you how many times my planner has saved me from missing a meeting or a deadline. Having one planner or journal that you write every important piece of information in will save you a lot of time and avoid the stressful last-minute panic when someone reminds you there’s an assignment due the next day that you didn’t even know existed. At the start of term, help your future self by writing down the important stuff into your planner like your key deadlines, the email addresses and office hours of your tutors, and a copy of your timetable.
Also keep a note of your deadlines somewhere you will regularly see them. This is the best piece of advice I have ever been given. Even if you think you have a vague idea of when things are due, it is still easy for deadlines to creep up on you when you are busy with other commitments. Having your deadlines written down in a visible spot means you can start preparing for them in advance and you won't have to worry about feeling like you have forgotten something important. The week before the start of term, I always write my deadlines down in my bullet journal and on post-it notes which I stick above my desk.
Just being aware of the due dates and the requirements for your coursework can alleviate a lot of stress and anxiety about assignments, and knowing you’re organised will help you feel more confident in your work.
Those are just a few course-related tips that I hope you might find useful! Remember most of all to enjoy your time at University. Your first year will be full of exciting new experiences in your studies and your social life. Have fun with everything you do, and good luck!
Rebecca is studying MA Film Studies 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.