It’s that time of year again, of best-laid plans, and well-intentioned aims, when, full of hope as a new year dawns, we draw up a list of pledges to ourselves. How about making them achievable this year?
Plan the year ahead
Don’t ignore longer-term planning in favour of the next deadline! Map out what the next 12 months will look like to you. Buy a splendid calendar in the January sales (we’ll even allow Cliff Richard) and mark out your major deadlines for the year ahead. Are there any conferences you’d like to attend? Put them on the calendar so you don’t miss them. What major milestones do you have coming up – deciding on a dissertation topic, finding a supervisor, starting revision – get ’em down so you can’t go into denial later on in the year!
Now you’re mapped out to the max you’ll hopefully be feeling a little bit smug and organised – relish this feeling before the deadlines start rolling in again, and when your head’s next in a spin refer back to your calendar of wisdom.
Make this the year you get some work experience
Unfortunately, there is no longer a dependable, obstacle-free trajectory from degree to employment. Increasingly, employers want a good degree together with some work experience, so now’s the time to see what you can fix-up for the long summer holidays that right now seem far off in the distance, but will come round all too quickly. Look at employers that provide a good fit with your degree and start getting some letters out in the new year. Take the initiative and go cold calling.
In the meantime, see what you can find locally. Every job will provide useful experience and provided your studies remain the priority, you’ll also have a bit of extra cash coming in to support you.
Go to lectures and seminars
This boils down to good old time management; not just in making time for studying, but of your whole lifestyle whilst at uni. Make the time to have fun AND attend your lectures. Whatever the reason you’re not turning up to lectures, barring a bout of bubonic plague, it won’t be a good enough reason and you’re just kidding yourself if you think that just this once won’t hurt.
This might sound harsh, but before you skip another lecture, ask yourself this: why am I choosing to miss part of an education that costs me £9,000 a year? Lectures cover the material you will be tested on and by missing them you will fall behind.
In addition, when you’ve left university, potential employers may ask for a reference from your lecturers. So are those hangover-induced lie-ins really worth the gamble that you’ll miss out on your dream job?
Improve your productivity
Take a moment to think about your work environment. Is it a filthy, stinking pit of despair, or is it a tranquil homage to Feng shui, an inspirational hub of creativity? Make it so.
What measures will you be taking to fight procrastination this year? What metaphorical Senokot will be getting your creative juices flowing? Maintain your focus and preserve a safe distance from social media when you have assignments to complete.
Make sure you have the right tools. Is there any software or hardware that could accelerate your workflow? Is it time for a new laptop?
Now, at the risk of sounding like your mum, I’d just like to say - outside of the drinking/partying/clubbing - eat well and look after your health!
Your body is a temple. Treat it wisely. The healthier state your body is in, the more resilient it will be to the relentless onslaught of drinking and all-nighters that university life throws at you, and the quicker it will recover and allow you to get on with your studying and attending lectures.
As an addendum to this resolution I’d like you to consider the ‘all-day breakfast’. Have as many as you can whilst at university, as a general health ‘tonic’, if you will, and as an all-round hit of a meal. Follow the great advice of David Ellis, editor of studentmoneysaver.co.uk: “Have as many [all-day breakfasts] as you can while you are a student; they are an uncelebrated joy you will miss once your rights to them are revoked.”
Don’t run out of money
Manage your finances well from the start! It’ll take away a major source of stress from your life at university. There’s plenty of advice out there, but here’s a few pointers:
• Choose a student bank account. Shop around. Make sure there's a branch of the bank near your campus or accommodation.
• Figure out a budget. Add up your income, including your student loan, any grants, bursaries, or scholarships, plus money from your parents or guardians, income from a job, and any savings (yeah, right!). Then take off your essential outgoings: tuition fees, rent, bills, travel costs, debts, phone bill, and food. Whatever’s left you can spend on other things, like books, music, social activities, clothes and shoes etc.
• Look out for student discounts. There are many student cards and IDs which can get you a discount in some high street shops.
• Balance any work and studies. Plenty of students get a job during university, it's just about getting the balance right.
And while we’re on the topic: save energy, save money
Living in an environmentally aware manner is not just kind to the planet, it’ll be easy on your pocket too.
In student accommodation, gas and electricity is covered, but as soon as you move out into private housing you’ll have to foot the bill yourself! So, turn off the lights when you’re not using them, and don’t leave your laptop charging 24/7. Don’t spend hours languishing in the bath when a shower saves you water, energy and time.
Basically, cut the waste out of your life and save your precious pennies!
If we can push the envelope just a little bit further: take a pee in the shower!
Take a leaf out of Debs Torr and Chris Dobson’s book and take your first wee of the day whilst having your morning shower.
Yes, you’ve read that correctly! According to the University of East Anglia students’ ‘Go with the Flow’ campaign, if a university body of 15,000 students took up this act of urinary redeployment, enough water would be saved to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool 26 times over. That’s food for thought. Indeed, if everybody in the UK took part in the campaign 720m litres of water would be saved annually, with massive monetary savings.
According to Mr Dobson, “As long as the water is flowing there is no hygiene risk as urine is sterile…” That’s all fine then.
It’s now or never! Now’s the time to push the boundaries and dress as boldly/strangely as you wish (within the realms of common decency that is). Release your inner David Bowie, life’s too short to dress boringly.
Unless you’re destined to be one of the most creative of creatives, chances are you’ll find yourself in an office environment at some point in your post-university life, where even the most liberal of employers will have some kind of dress code to which you will have to conform, so dress crazily now! And that’s an order…
Better to be remembered as the class weirdo, than not be remembered at all.
And finally, remember to be a student!
Study hard, party hard.
You’ll have seen the stories in the media. Apparently, young people today are more boring than their parents. Blame it on austerity and rocketing house prices, competition for jobs and the rise of the unpaid internships, but young people today are just far too sensible for their own good.
Reports in the Financial Times maintain that students today drink less and study more. This is fantastic news, of course, but don’t forget to experience student life while you’re there!
Enjoy the freedom! University should be fun, just make sure you get the balance right! After a week of partying, you can quite easily forget you’re actually studying for a degree. If you've got a raging hangover, you'll be lucky to get out of bed. The answer is to ration your nights out with your nights in, or your degree might get lost along with your memories of the night before.
What are your New Year's resolutions? Or do you prefer not to make them? Share your thoughts with us now…go on…