Tips for success

Tips for success from other students looking back over their 2nd year at UCL.

Tips from UCL students:

The second year of university should feel a lot less daunting in comparison to year 1. By now you will have started to familiarize yourself with what is expected of you, how to work through readings, homework and coursework and you will likely have experienced your first exams as well. Year 2, however, brings its own unique set of both challenges and opportunities and it’s a good idea to be prepared for this.Katie Davies, BA History, Politics & Economics, and Robin-James Zenker, BSc Psychology & Language Sciences, shares their top tips for success in your second year:

1. Understand what worked well for you in first year

You will likely already have developed a solid set of study skills, but it’s still definitely worth the time to reflect on what worked well for you in year 1 and where you still see room for improvement. In your second year, a greater level of academic independence will be expected for you, therefore it’s good to be prepared that things will get a bit harder and see where you need to develop or work on your skills and seek support.

2. Utilise UCL resources

UCL’s resources have truly been game-changing for my studies. For any essay-based subject,  see what the Writing Lab has to offer. It is a free service running workshops, tutorials and support sessions to enhance your academic writing. For each essay, Katie tended to book in at least one session to go through a first draft with a tutor. Their advice is invaluable in helping you clarify your ideas, assisting with structures and ultimately, pushing you into higher grade boundaries.

3. Block out time to work

With the level of work increasing, I found blocking out time to study was great in boosting my productivity. With COVID-19 causing the library service to require bookings, I used this to my advantage, planning when I would study and adding a level of accountability to my work. Further, trying out different libraries can make studying more exciting. For example, UCL students have access to Senate House which is an amazing space to work in.

4. Organise your time to maximise learning and make space for extra-curricular opportunities

It is useful to organize a sustainable working schedule that works well for you. Especially with the emergence of pre-recorded lectures and materials for independent study, I found managing my time well to be a key to a successful and as-least-stressful-as-possible second year.

Proper time management should also leave you with enough time to start looking for opportunities for development outside the classroom. Whereas in your first year you might decide not to take on too many extra responsibilities just to make sure I’d have enough time and energy to adapt to university work, the second year could prove to be the perfect time to start looking for extracurricular forms of engagement. There are plenty of opportunities at UCL which are personally rewarding and can also look good on your CV if that’s something that you’re looking for. You might want to take a committee role in of UCL’s clubs or societies. Another extremely rewarding thing to do some volunteering, UCL offers a wide range of volunteering opportunities across London, but you could also decide to start a Student-Led Project of your own. If you are looking for a way to earn a bit of extra money alongside your studies, there are plenty of part-time internships and projects to work on at UCL, many of which can be find via UniTemps

If you are looking to make changes to your Education, you could partner up with a member of staff and get funding for a ChangeMakers project, or earn £150 being a Student Quality Reviewer to provide a student perspective on a range of education-related enhancements from programem and assessment design through to observing a member of staff's teaching or reviewing the curriculum to ensure it is inspiring and inclusive for all. 

4. Pre-study activity

Going from watching Netflix straight into focused work can be challenging. Katie recommends doing a short warm-up activity to get you in the zone to study. For example, completing a Sudoku puzzle, watching a short Ted talk, or reading a news article. Although it may sound trivial, it really does help make starting studying less daunting, as well as building your commercial awareness.

5. Consider study abroad

Robin suggests second year is the time to start seriously thinking about and planning a year abroad:

"If you think you’d be interested in spending a term or more abroad, this is the prime time to think about it more seriously. As a 3rd year student currently on a term abroad in Copenhagen, I couldn’t be happier with my decision to apply to study abroad. If you’re unsure, whether this would be for you, there is plenty of information about studying abroad on UCL’s website, as well as UCL’s Go Abroad Week in November!"

6. Go easy on yourself

Don't be too hard on yourself in your 2nd year. At time it can seem a bit confusing – the novelty of the 1st year has passed but you’re not yet a 3rd or 4th year student looking towards the “next chapter”. It’s perfectly okay and normal not to have everything figured out at this point. So try and grab every opportunity that sounds interesting, take care of your wellbeing and enjoy the experience!