I have submitted my first assignment. My desk is littered with a combination of notes, books and snack debris and it’s possible that new life forms have evolved under there. It feels as if I have been sitting here forever, waiting for my Muse to arrive (preferably Calliope the goddess of epic poetry given that it’s the subject of my essay). But it is done, oh yes.
For many students, this is a watershed moment. We are told from the first day that writing for an undergraduate course is different to writing for ‘A’ Levels. As a (very) mature student the last thing I wrote before starting University was a business report, and this first assignment has been looming large for the last 5 weeks. So, what do you need to know to survive your ‘first time’ and thereafter?
Number one: no matter how time consuming your new social life is, go to the library and find out how it works. Book yourself onto the seminars that they offer, such as note taking, referencing and essay writing. It’s not nerdy and you will thank me for this advice many times over. A university essay has particular requirements and you need to find that out much earlier than the 24 hours before your deadline. Plus, you can save yourself a lot of money on books by getting in there early.
Number two: read (yes, seriously) or at least have a passing knowledge of your course handbook. They tend to have course-specific guidance on writing and referencing essays. If it’s not there, ask someone where to find it. Again, this is best done ahead of the red-hot terror in the last few hours before that first essay is due.
Number three: Be on the group chat for your course. It will motivate you to start working (there’s nothing quite like Group anxiety and the questions asked by really keen people to get you going) and it will keep you sane once you have started. Yesterday I found myself crying with laughter at a time when I was bogged down in the detail of my essay and needed cheering up. The chat that did that? “I want to die and a hippo eat my carcass”. You had to be there (thanks, Kate).
Number four: Make your motto “Do it now”. As I sit here a group of my classmates have found themselves stranded at Euston Station because their trains have been cancelled. Imagine being there and having not finished: not started: not thought about the assignment that is due tomorrow. And no, a cancelled train does not count as mitigating circumstances. You want to be the person who submitted his essay a week ago, you really do.
Number 5: Go easy on the Memes. Focus on your essay, at least until the thing is done. After that, the world is yours. Until next time.