University requires a different kind of learning than school and this change can be very challenging. While at school the subject matter was usually still manageable and clearly defined, at university this task is often more difficult. This article will help you better understand and manage some of these initial uncertainties.
Bad grade – am I good enough?
It might be that you had no problem with getting good grades in school and that you did not have to try very hard. Maybe you even expected that learning for University would be easy since you would be dealing with a topic that you are really interested in. Or maybe the contrary is true and you were already afraid before the exam phase that everything would be very difficult. In any case, it can be very frustrating if the first exam phase does not work out as planned.
This does not necessarily mean that you have chosen the wrong degree programme, or even that you are not good enough. A university has different demands than school: the topics are usually more complex and diverse, the learning material is often not very clearly defined and the exam types can differ very strongly. This can lead to uncertainty, especially during the first STEOP exams, and you may need some time to find the right learning strategies for you – all students feel the same way.
Embrace the gap
Maybe during the learning process you keep having the feeling that you are not progressing well enough and that you are running out of time before the exam. This can happen, especially when you have to prepare for multiple exams at once. However, with time you will acquire a useful ability: prioritising what to learn. Mastering the exam material does not necessarily mean knowing every detail by heart. It is much more about understanding the contents and connections and about recognising the relevant information. Overzealous perfectionism and self-doubt can hinder your study progress. So the motto is: Embrace the gap.
You could also think about your expectations towards yourself and your grades. Are your expectations realistic or do you need to make adjustments to do well in your studies? With the help of your learning experience you can better assess your progress and flexibly use your own learning strategies. This way you can feel secure in your exam preparation and avoid stress.
Our tip: Skimming a text – or shitty first read
The scope of a lecture is large and there are often multiple sources that you need to consult for learning, be it the lecture slides, your own notes, lecture notes or recommended books. But where to start?
Lecture slides with a short summary of the most important content are often made available. They are ideal for starting your learning process. Try to get an overview first and skim all the material without trying to remember or understand every detail: we call this a “shitty first read”. The term is derived from a “shitty first draft”, a strategy from writing mentoring helping against writing block. This is about writing down one’s thoughts first when composing a text, without paying much attention to quality. This is very helpful to start the writing process and the same goes for the learning process.
Then try to delve into the individual chapters step by step, without getting too lost in the details of one chapter. As mentioned before, the ability to prioritise can be very helpful. You will notice that a sharp eye for the essentials and connections can make it easier for you to progress in your studies. You will notice that understanding concepts and learning important basics will help you to memorise the related details.
You will also notice that there are topic areas in your degree programme, that are more interesting to you than others. However, if you have learning difficulties in a lot of courses or notice that you are not really interested in the material, it might make sense to reflect again on the reasons for this. What could be the causes of the learning difficulties and how can you deal with them? The Psychological Counselling Services offer professional support and advice if, for example, you have motivation problems or want to find out whether your interests, skills and resources match your choice of degree programme.