What to do over the Christmas holiday

So you approaching the end of term and the holidays are under way. Time to relax. Well yes it is. In a way. But I have a brief piece of advice for this time of year.

If your work is running to plan, then all you need to do is stick to your plan. If you included in your plans doing some work over the holidays (and I think it should do!), then my advice is simple. Just make sure you stick to the plan. By all means eat, drink and be merry or do whatever you like to do to relax. But make sure you actually do the work you planned to. So pretty simple advice.

However, if you have got behind during the term, you must not ignore this. Be honest with yourself about how much revision you need to do or what coursework you need to be working on. If things are slipping, you have to face up to the facts and deal with it. This is even more important if you are getting badly behind. Ignoring the difficulties you are in will only result in making them worse. And I find students are so much more relaxed once they have faced up to the situation they are in. Until you do so, you will worry and become stressed.

If you think you have SO much work that is over due that you don’t see how you could possible get back on schedule, then this is also a good time to work out what to do about it. You might think you have an insurmountable pile of work and seemingly vast amounts of work that you don’t understand. But help is at hand.

My advice is to get it all down on paper. Get a large piece of paper (decorators lining paper is very cheap and good for this or perhaps the back of Christmas wrapping paper) and write it all out. I suggest you use a mind map with a cluster for each topic and write on the spiders what you need to do. From this, create a list of things that have to be done right now. And work out a plan (and be realistic about this) for catching up with the rest. You might even have to get tactical and think about how many marks are being allocated for each piece of work. I know many of my colleagues would disagree with this but I have seen that one key thing that students who manage to retrieve an apparently impossible situation do is to be very tactical about how they spend their time and what they focus their attention on. A piece of coursework that is work 10% for example should be done but is not necessarily the place where you should expend a great deal of time and effort. A piece of coursework that constitutes the whole module assessment requires an appropriate amount of time spending on it. And it is very unlikely that you can gain a good mark without the relevant amount of work. Your markers are only interested in the quality of the work and not the amount of effort you put in. However, your lecturers will tell you that it is obvious when something has been rushed or not enough time spent on it.

So. Be brutally honest with yourself about the work you need to do over this short holiday. Please do rest and relax too but you don’t want to regret that you didn’t take the time necessary or expend the intellectual effort to get the best out of your degree. In doing so, you will be far more able to start the new year in the right frame of mind to enjoy university – and do well. Of course, you should also make use of support provided by your institution in terms of study support and your personal tutor. More of this in a future blog. And if you want to know about my tips on exams, they are here and revision is demystified here.

There is more in my book which covers other ideas about everything else you need to know about studying at University.

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