School started two weeks ago and I wrote this guide for myself a couple of weeks before that to help me identify the key problematic areas and find ways to tackle them effectively so that I don’t fail anything this year and be on track to get my degree by the end of 2017.
What I’ve learned:
- Going to class
Being a part-time student means that I have very little time for class because I already work from 8-5 and may have some work stress, those four to five waking hours after a work day are very precious to be able to undo that stress. It’s a challenge when I don’t have time to unwind from a hard day’s work and still have to concentrate for three to four hours in class.
5 subjects 10 classes a week, each class about 90 minutes. That’s 15 hours of lectures from Monday to Thursday.
The quality of lectures is poor. Sometimes I sleep in those classes; if I don’t fall asleep I actually do learn something of value.
The mistake I make is I go to classes I don’t learn anything in because the lecturer sucks, I fall asleep due to lack of sleep and I only go to these sucky classes because my then fiancé pressured me into attending all classes.
If I don’t go to class, I don’t use that time to learn anything, I do something unproductive instead. I think practical classes can be done at home but I don’t practice when I am at home.
I think I can learn more from on-line lecture videos than my own lecturers but I end up overloading myself with information that might not be part of the curriculum or the information just confuses me even more.
- Cycle tests
Some of the lecturers aren’t very organized in the sense that we only learn about test dates and venues a couple of weeks before the test, making it increasingly difficult to plan well in advance for tests.
Another issue with tests is that they are all clustered together. You might write up to 3 tests in one week. Tests can be back to back. It feels like you’re drowning if other parts of your life aren’t on point. These tests can send you into a tailspin.
Don’t try to study everything a day or two before. Have notes ready as soon as possible because making notes a day before test or exam is just stupid.
Make use of all sources available. I often try to do things on my own but friends and study groups can really help out. They can explain things better than lecturers sometimes and also share some key information that you might have missed.
Be 100% sure how much each test counts towards your semester mark. Know when the test dates are. Prepare for the unknown.
- Assignments and quizzes
Assignments can count a lot towards your semester mark, more than half sometimes. Problem is, we don’t get the assignment details early enough so that you can start way ahead of time. Also, even if I did get the assignment details way ahead of time, I wouldn’t start until a week or two before the deadline date anyway.
I also learned that you should not leave group assignments to one member or a select few and just trust them. I got seriously burnt in the last semester where I thought someone had the group assignment covered, I depended on those marks to improve my semester mark and I almost failed that subject.
I will also never forget the night I was up until early hours of the morning trying to finish a programming assignment. I had to call in sick that day because I didn’t get any sleep and the assignment was due at noon and I still didn’t finish. I was so stressed that night I couldn’t even think straight.
The key to assignments is to start early and keep working on it day-to-day. Apply the new material you’ve learned. Never leave it till the last day. Try to complete it way ahead of time so that if you get stuck, you have enough time to ask for help. It’s impossible to get help from your classmates when they are also stressing to meet the assignment deadline.
Quizzes do them. I didn’t do them. That’s it. I could’ve had a much better semester mark if I just completed all my quizzes. I also left these for the last day. I should use it to test my knowledge of material just covered because I usually have more than one attempt at a quiz.
I think I’m fine in this area. Instead of one extra leave day for studies, I think I should take two. Last year I would take leave for the amount of subjects I would write plus one day. Now that things are a bit calmer at work, I think I could take 2, maybe even 3. This is my second year, so things are going to step up a notch. Studying all the material in one day and one night might not be enough.
I should have all my notes by the time I write my final test or submit my final assignment. This is very vital. If I keep myself updated and not leave everything for the last minute, the exam shouldn’t be as tough, but things don’t always go as planned. Well, almost never as planned.
Get enough sleep. Don’t go to the exam venue stressed. Only go with the necessary stationery. No study material.
- The material
Lecture slides won’t cut it anymore. That might’ve worked for first year, but it’s definitely not going to work in my second year.
As early as possible, download everything from the online portal before they change or delete things. You never know what useful stuff you can find, like memos to past papers.
I’m studying IT so all the information should be readily available on the internet. Download books and videos. I should keep my notes up-to-date.
That’s it for now. Until next time. Thanks for reading.