February already! A New Year has started again, and many have made New Year’s resolutions. For some, it is time to quit smoking, cut back on drinking, start at the gym and so much more, including apply and enroll in an undergraduate or graduate program. This starts by submitting the application. I want you to stop and consider the journey you are about to embark on. Let’s relate it to training for a marathon. For example, if I asked you to join me for Sydney’s City to Surf, or the New York Marathon, we would not arrive in Sydney or New York and start the race without any preparation.
Firstly, we would check the start date. We would buy running shoes, and other equipment to help us feel good and comfortable. We may work with a coach, or join a running club, and set a training schedule to prepare for the event. However, many people do not take the time to do the same when returning to study. Returning to study is time consuming and expensive, and it deserves the same amount of planning as we would for a race or other major event.
Imagine you have been accepted into the program. Let’s look at what can be done to make this a fantastic experience.
- Have you organized time to study? Tutorials and lectures form part of the commitment, regardless of the format. Students often comment on the amount of time needed to complete the required reading.
- Consider the following:
The library: The electronic resources, including academic journals, are essential to graduate study. It is essential to learn how to use the library effectively.
Note-taking: This is a necessary skill. I prefer to use a combination of electronic and handwritten notes. I scan handwritten notes into electronic folders. By doing this, I have my notes when I travel; additionally, it minimizes the need for excess luggage.
A study space: A quiet study space where you can study without being disturbed makes life easier. If this is not possible at home visit the local, regional, state or university library and study there. Modern libraries provide cubicles, free Wi-Fi, phone charging spots, and even coffee machines. If you travel to study prepare a bag containing your study materials. A small travel suitcase is excellent. The bag can be pre-packed and ready to go; you can even include your favourite coffee bags or teabags and a travel cup. I have a checklist, with key items to include in your study bag, which you can download.
Computer skills: The first response to this is usually, “all good”. I will be providing tutorials related to various software in later posts, my YouTube and podcast channel. I will provide tips and information related to studying ‘smarter not harder’ on my YouTube and podcast channel. In the meantime, conduct a self-check to determine if you can easily do the following:
- Insert a cover page, without headers, footers and page numbers.
- Insert headers, footer and page numbers.
- Insert an auto table of contents, using headings and subheadings.
- Insert images with captions and a list of images.
- Use the ‘Smart Art’ tool to produce hierarchal charts, flowcharts, and relationship diagrams.
- Insert citations, using a specific referencing style. There is software available including, but not limited to, EndNote and Mendeley. This software will be discussed in a later forum.
- PowerPoints or Keynotes are often used to give presentations. Verbal presentations to the class, or via an electronic platform, are common in undergraduate and postgraduate programs. As such, you need to know how to use these applications. When assessments are due, you do not want to be wasting valuable time trying to learn how to upload a video clip and embed it, or how to insert a chart.
Organization skills: Nearly everyone I know who returned to formal study, including myself, found that it seems to coincide with some drama. This includes family members being ill, a relocation, a new role, or job, personal illness, or even a combination of dramas. A good plan helps you to cope with some of these issues. Do you use an electronic or paper diary? If your response is “I keep it in my head”; it is time to try using a diary. Due dates are ‘due’ dates, not ‘do’ dates. Late assessments result in lost marks. Exams cannot be rescheduled easily, and a doctor’s note is usually required to receive an extension.
It is worth taking the time to prepare before the study period commences. Over the years, I have seen students struggle to meet assessment deadlines. Often this was because they did not have sufficient computer skills or because they could not find information. This was not because there were insufficient articles, but because they did not know where to look to find the academic journals required.
Preparation is essential. You are about to invest both financially and with your time. Do not waste either.
Please feel welcome to download the “Study Tools Checklist” and follow me on LinkedIn and Facebook to receive updates on my latest podcasts and YouTubes.
Have a great 2019 and enjoy studying.
Best wishes Julie