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If you have seen the title of this waffle and come to read an epic adventure that leads a group of brave dwarves, elves and hobbits across dark and dangerous terrain then I’m afraid you are going to be be disappointed. I am, of course, talking about the new adventure of starting university. After the hype and emotions of the A-levels results and clearing have subsided, some of you might be thinking ahead, itching to get to university and start your socialising….I mean studying. As you still have some time to wait, this waffle is to get you to start to think about organising yourself for your adventure.

Climbing a mountain

Preparing for the uni adventure (Image from

As I’ve been reading my RSS feeds this week, many have focused on going back to school for both teachers and students. When I was teaching in primary school the approach and subsequent event of the bank holiday meant that I knew that the summer holiday was coming to an end and that the term was about to start. This meant that preparations within school would soon be starting and whether I was starting a new job or class, the feeling of excitement and sometimes nervousness was also there. Starting university can bring similar feelings. Just like in school where the children are buying new uniform and pencil cases, there are some ways you can prepare for the start of university whether you are new or continuing with your course. If you are interested in workflow here is a waffle about working effectively with time.

  • Get a calendar – I would say that a calendar is one of the essential items you need at university. Your life, up to now, has been governed generally but the routine of school, college and the shifts at work. This routine is going to change and there are going to exist times and days when your days appear to be free and empty. The type of calendar you use is up to you. I, naturally, would recommend an electronic version rather than a paper copy, although after waffling about technology in education get a system that works effectively for you. If it doesn’t work effectively, then change it. Electronic versions of calendars have the benefit of being able to synchronise across devices and the web. I use Apple’s own calendar, but Google calendar is also another valid option. Once you get your timetable for lectures, seminars and tutorials, get these into your calendar as well as assignment submission dates and important events – e.g. home visits. When ever you get a new deadline ensure that you add these, it is easy to forget these as they all start to be given to you. Always try and keep your calendar up to date.

  • Note Taking – There is going to be a lot of theoretical information given to you at university. These will come in a variety of forms from electronic to verbal. You need to ensure you have a way to collate all this information and to store it effectively ready for retrieval at a later date. There is nothing worse when you are writing that final assignment to remember a very valid quote that supports your whole argument but not remember who said it or the reference. Presentations will usually be provided for you electronically. My advice is always never to write down what is on a presentation since you will always have access to this. Often you might think that you will remember that point because it is so good but, after completing assignments for my Masters, I can assure you that you won’t. Have a way of organising your notes from the start – different coloured pens? different notebooks for each module, or tags and electronic notebooks. My note taking application of choice is Evernote. Evernote allows you to add a variety of media, including clipping from webpages and synchronises well across devices. There is even a web based version for when you are sat in the library with your battery running low on your mobile device. If you are interested in reading about using Evernote then I wrote a waffle about it.

  • To do lists– I mentioned earlier about keeping your calendar up to date. There will also be a range of tasks and suggested tasks that will be presented to you within tutorials and sessions. Often I will, when talking in tutorials, ask if the student would like to write down what I am saying. Although you think you will remember, you won’t so you need to ensure you have an effect way of recording what you need to complete. These ‘tasks’ can often be placed into your calendar although other tasks like suggested reading or activities might have to be recorded in a different place. Get into the habit of recording these at the time – these might be within your note taking device or within a separate device. I use an application called Things – although Google Keep is a just as good. Electronic versions of to do lists always have the advantage of being able to be synchronised across a range of devices and being available to you constantly, not being dependent on your location.

  • As you will be aware, I live with technology and I would use an electronic version for all the above points. Why should you be looking at these processes now? Well I would suggest that you need to start and use a system so you are familiar with it and that you have it in place and ‘habit formed’ by the time that university starts. Ensure that it is a system that works for you and which is effective.

    Do you have advice or suggestions for people starting university? If you do then please add them in the comments below or send me them to be via twitter(@iwilsonysj), Facebook, google+ or email.

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    Have fun, engage and I’ll catch you later


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