Managing your study
As a new student, you choose what you learn and decide how and when you will learn it. Part of being a successful student is learning to manage your study. For some students, this responsibility will feel new – high school students will no longer be able to rely on parents to be contacted if there is a problem with enrolment or if classes are not being attended. Older students, who have undertaken careers or started a family, are usually better prepared to take responsibility and to manage their study effectively.
Choosing what to study
The great thing about uni is that you can design your study around your interests and goals. It is a good idea to be familiar with the structure of your degree so that you know what to expect, and pick subjects that suit you best. Unis provide lots of information about their study areas to help you – just search from any uni homepage. Carefully choosing your subjects also helps you stay focussed and motivated – even if you like your degree, there may be some subjects you have to do that you don’t enjoy. Having subjects that you have picked to look forward to will help keep you on track.
By accepting your place as a student, you are accepting responsibility for keeping up to date with important tasks around the administration of your course. This includes things like
- Enrolling in your subjects for each semester on time
- Knowing cut off dates for subject changes
- Knowing due dates for fee payments
You can keep yourself informed of these by reading all information sent to you by your uni, whether by email or by post, and by marking key dates on calendars or setting yourself reminders. Aspiring students can visit the uni homepage of their choice to search for that unis key dates and academic calendar.
Being organised and prepared for these dates can have a big impact on your semester – for example, students who quickly select their preferred lectures and tutorials are able to choose times that suit them best. Knowing about administration also develops awareness of the flexibility available in different study options. This can help keep study flexible, and life more manageable.
Time management & individual study
Once semester begins, you are in charge of how you use your time each week to meet study objectives. This includes tasks such as
- weekly readings
- lecture and tutorial preparation
- note taking
- group work
- exam revision
- assignment research
- assignment writing
How can you make sure that you keep on track, and avoid excess stress as the semester progresses?
Being organised is a big part of individual study. You will need to plan both what to do, when to do it, and also where you will do it. For students living with family or in share houses, it can be hard to find peace and quiet to study in. Unis know this and provide spaces for your individual study, often found in the library.
At orientation, you’ll probably receive a student diary, an academic calendar or a wall planner – perhaps all three. These are important tools to help you plan out your time – from the big picture of the whole semester, to how you will use your time day to day. These are given to you early on so that you can start to plan your time before semester starts – this way you will be prepared to study well from the first week and form good study habits more easily. QUT's Studywell has a range of tips and resources to help you plan your time. A common way to plan time use is to manage it like a budget. You have 168 hours to use every week – how many of these will you use for study and learning?
Thinking about contact time and study time will help you form your plan for study week to week. Each subject will also include various assessment items, the completion of which you will need to plan over the semester. The due dates for assessment are normally given to you in the first week of study, so you can plan your semester and prepare for busy weeks. The Studywell assignment calculator can help you plan out when to complete your assignment tasks. Early on, take note of how long you need to complete routine study tasks (such as your weekly readings) and prepare different types of assessment (such as presentations or written assignments). Being observant to these things will help you to tailor your time usage to your own preferences, strengths and weaknesses.
As semester progresses, find a regular time each week to consider how you are performing against your plan for managing time – are you really doing what you planned? Think of ways you can encourage, and reward, your good behaviour – take a break, watch a movie or call a friend. It is important to celebrate goals both big and small. Remember to also consider other priorities in your life, such as paid employment, family, friends and hobbies, when budgeting your weekly time. During busy times, you may have to cut back on your household responsibilities or say no to friends in order to complete your study load. The trick is to keep others informed, plan ahead and ask for help if you need it.
Be realistic, and expect to experience times when you will be lacking in motivation. Being able to deal with challenges such as procrastination is something that you can prepare for, and get better at with practice. Uni services such as counselling help students overcome ongoing problems with managing study.