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The transition from first to second year: what to expect

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You’ve probably heard the phrase “first year doesn’t count anyway” quite a lot during your first year of university. While for many subjects it’s true that first year doesn’t count towards your final degree mark, it definitely doesn’t mean that your time spent studying was pointless – it will have taught you the academic skills you need to succeed in your next few years at university.

Going into second year may seem a little daunting, but as long as you’re prepared for what’s ahead there is no reason why you can’t succeed. Here’s what to expect during your transition from first to second year, and a few things you can do to make sure you do as well and you can this year.

It’s time to get settled into your new routine

Your first year of university may not have been what you’d anticipated, and for many of you this will be the first time you’re fully on campus with in-person teaching and activities. So now campus is back open, you’ve got the opportunity to settle into your surroundings and your routine, which is a great feeling. You’ll also have the chance to become a lot more familiar with the city, and learning the juggling act between studying, taking care of yourself, staying in touch with family, and spending time with friends. If you’re lacking motivation at the start of this academic year, take a look at our top tips on how to get motivated after a summer without studying.

But things are still changing!

One of the great things about university is that there’s always new opportunities around every corner, and with new opportunities comes a chance to meet new people. It’s great if you’ve made friends for life in your first year, but it’s always great to continue getting to know other people throughout your university experience. You may have seen a lot of Manchester in your first year too, but the campus and the city are always changing so never stop exploring!

If you’re looking to meet new people The SU’s Buddy Scheme, which partners up similar students, could help you connect with fellow students and meet new people!

This year counts

Things are getting serious now! You’ll have probably heard in your first year that it doesn’t count – it’s a “practice run” if you like. Second year, however, definitely does count, so the pressure naturally increases slightly. It’s important that, if you haven’t already, you create good study habits. Try to attend all of your lectures and seminars, and if you can’t make it, make use of the academic support available to you. Looking after yourself and staying organised is the best way to get through second year.

Don’t leave coursework essays and assignments until the last minute

Put an end to the last-minute submissions and the all-nighters. Yes, this is easier said than done but it’s important to really make the most of how far in advance essay questions are released. If you have a choice of essay titles, use this time wisely to really get to grips with which one you can answer best, and then put a plan in place over the coming weeks about how you’re going to tackle it and when. A timetable works wonders!

Spend time planning your essays, and break them up into manageable sections

Schedule your time, and aim to complete a certain amount of your assignments each week. This is a lot less intimidating than opening up a word document with nothing but the looming deadline date and a 3,500 word count ahead of you, yes, word counts tend to increase in second year! Not to mention it’s a great motivational tool which makes progress much easier to see. There’s lots of different techniques out there, but we like the Pomodoro Technique, which alternates between focused work sessions and frequent short breaks to promote sustained concentration and stave off mental fatigue.

Make the most of the resources that are available to you

This includes using the office hours that your seminar leaders put aside time each week, specifically to offer one-to-one support and guidance. Times vary between academics, so find out when these are and make the most of the support they can offer. If you didn’t quite grasp something in your seminars, or need help talking through your course material, it’s important to drop your tutor an email so you can ensure that you’re keeping up with everything. Your tutors are specialists in their field – a valuable discussion could offer a whole new perspective on subject matter you may not have even considered beforehand.

Take advantage of My Learning Essentials (MLE)

My Learning Essentials is the library’s award-winning programme which is all about gaining new skills to help you through your studies, as well as developing the abilities you already have! Check out the online resources which develop your expertise in areas such as referencing and how to proof read like a pro.

It’s time to look to the future…

Second year is the time when most students need to start thinking about placements or internships. You’ll notice as well that the emphasis on careers steps up, and you’ll be expected to start doing some proper research into what you’d like to do once you graduate. Be sure to get yourself on LinkedIn, and stay active, and make use of the Careers Service for help with your CV, job applications, and interview preparation.

If you’re doing a dissertation or similar research project in your final year, it’s always a good idea to get a head start when thinking about which topic to base this on. Start to think about what subject areas you enjoy, what you’re passionate about, and what your strengths are. It’ll save a last-minute panic when you start third year and have no ideas to work with!

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