In March 2020, when the UK went into national lockdown, I was in my second year of university. I had planned to take part in the Study Abroad programme for the following year. Suddenly, the year abroad was cancelled, my second year was cut short, and I would now be heading into the final year of university in September. Whilst insignificant in comparison to the ongoing world health crisis, it was a daunting moment for me and thousands of university students.
Students up and down the UK were (and are being) affected by the COVID pandemic in many complicated ways. Those finishing university got an anti-climactic conclusion through a virtual graduation after three years of hard work. Those starting university had their wonderful fresher’s year essentially taken away from them. Restaurants, cinemas, pubs, and clubs closed down. Students had to socialise almost exclusively with the people in their household, sometimes in a foreign city, no matter how strange they were. The future looked uncertain.
But now, as we enter a period of more stability (fingers crossed), there is room for optimism. Over 40 million people in the UK have had their second vaccination. Social gatherings have returned, and the hangovers are back. BUT – university students might be finding it tricky to refocus themselves after the period of disruption.
Here are some top tips to become refocused again, from a former student who has gone through the process.
1. Don’t expect too much from yourself initially
Studying at university level isn’t easy! It’s likely that you’ll have forgotten how to do some of the study skills and routines which came naturally before Covid-19. It might take digging out and reading your old essays, assignements and notes, making the extra effort to return to and surpass your previous standards. Your tutors and lecturers have likely been lenient with grace periods and safety nets in the 20/21 academic year. This academic year, with these gone, initial results might come as a disappointment – don’t expect too much and be kind to yourself as you step back into hard work.
2. Set (realistic) goals to achieve
Whilst it’s important to manage expectations, it is also healthy to create a list of targets in each module which are doable. Set yourself small objectives daily and weekly, and reward yourself when you complete them routinely too. This is a good way of reintegrating back into the cycle of academic study – work, reward, work, reward…. Keep in mind that the most critical skills to thriving in university is routine-based organisation and early revision from the start of the academic year. So, setting realistic goals around these two will get you on top very quickly.
3. Go out and enjoy things
Do the things which make you happy. Go clubbing if you have been desperate to go, while staying as safe as you can as the pandemic continues. If you hate clubbing, don’t force yourself to go because others are! Enjoy everything you had been missing out on in the last two academic years (whilst still following the latest bungled government guidelines). Or maybe you’ve been wanting to read those colourful books in the Oriental and African art section of your university’s library – take a weekend and lovingly browse through each book. Enjoy! Students have been robbed of a lot of the things which they pay almost £10,000 a year for. With little sympathy sometimes from the universities’ administrations, students must try and get everything they can from their remaining university experience.
4. Leave your comfort zone
You should try to be open to taking risks, however big or small those risks are. Lockdown has made many of us attached to our home comforts. Attending university online has meant for some that leaving the house became a bit of a rarity. It is sometimes beneficial to put yourself in an environment which you don’t feel entirely comfortable in. Challenge yourself, either on a small or large scale, and your transition back into university life will be simpler. Maybe join that debating society you’ve found interesting or join the badminton tournament group?
5. Talk to people about your anxieties – with empathy
Leaving your comfort zone is important for confidence, but be aware that students around you may not be feeling completely fearless about socialising. The pandemic has negatively impacted the mental health of many students across the country, and there may be anxiety for re-integration back into public spaces. Some students have also had some incredible hardships and carry that stress on their shoulders quietly. It’s so important that we step into our most empathetic and compassionate selves and take care to listen and talk to others. If you’re having some fears and anxiety, talk to those who you can trust to also be compassionate and reliable.
6. Use the university facilities available
Make use of the facilities provided by the universities. One of the main things students regret after graduating is not using absolutely every resource and network available to them at university. Art and science students for example should use the impressive equipment offered by their departments, whilst all students should make use of the wealth of resources in the university libraries. Contact every subject expert and professor who has seemed interesting to you – he/she works just down the hall from you and is available to answer your questions or maybe even offer you an interesting work assignment. You need to ask and show keen interest! Also, look into using the sport, music, and drama facilities at your university or its affiliations. Make sure you don’t regret missing out on anything when you eventually leave university.
7. Attend lectures as much as possible
It might seem obvious but physically attending as much university as possible is a really good idea. I regretted every lecture I ever missed, because you end up having to catch up anyway and building fewer memories. Leaving the house is also beneficial for your mental well-being, more than we think. Some people even meet their lifetime friends through their university. So, push yourself a little to keep an open mind.
8. Think seriously about getting a private tutor and mentor
Many students in tough courses have reached university through their hard work at GCSE/Alevels but also with the support of a brilliant private tutor and mentor. Or maybe two or three tutors. No surprise, catch-up tutoring is really in demand at the moment for university students. Private tutors have always been a God-send and organised by parents when we were younger. Now that you’re in charge of your studies and courses, don’t forget to invest in an excellent private tutor for your university level courses – consider private tutoring for example for modules in economics, law LLB, statistics and finance, maths, and all social science essays and dissertations. Uber Tutors was the first private tutoring company in 2013 to set up university level tutoring for all subjects and modules – a team of tutors and academics who are friendly experts in their subjects and really wanting to help you thrive by helping you understand your course content, assignments, essays and exams! Check out what other university students have to say about university level private tutoring. You deserve that 1:1 that will open all sorts of doors for you!
For anyone going to university in September, remain positive and empathetic. The last couple of years have been extremely difficult for everyone, but the future is starting to look bright, if we all keep a balance of being safe and courageous. Don’t put yourself under too much pressure, but take some risks and try and re-motivate yourself through personal targets. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, there are still incredible opportunities at university, and it is your responsibility to make the most of them!
Written by Dan Greene, Uber Tutors (Private Tutor/Mentor)
For more important top tips and articles like this , read our latest articles for university students in the UK.