How To Write a University Essay

How To Write a University Essay

After spending three years at university, essays are nothing new to me. I used to struggle with finding a routine that worked for me, and my essay writing process was, quite frankly, a shambles. Now I’m an essay veteran, and I’ve found a system that makes essay writing (almost) painless and a lot less stressful for my poor delicate head. So here’s my advice for getting in the essay groove!

Do your reading, and do it properly. If your course has compulsory reading, do it. Make notes and flag up the pages or quotes that will come in handy for your essay. This makes quote-hunting a lot easier and helps you to form a proper argument in your work. All of my books are coated in little sticky notes with annotations purely to make my life easier in future, and it really works for me.

Find where you work best. A lot of people will tell you not to do work in bed. To those people I say this: you are wrong. For me, bed is the place. It’s quiet, comfy, and I don’t have to wear a bra. However, for many others, their bed is an evil temptress that seduces them into a nap. Figure out where your ideal work space is, whether it’s the library, your favourite cafe, an empty classroom, or just at the desk in your room. You might find that you work better with a buzz around you, or you might find it distracting. Do you work better with music, or without? Maybe a study group is helpful for keeping you motivated, or maybe it’s just an excuse to gossip and take more trips to the vending machine without feeling ashamed. Figure it out for yourself.

Find your sources first. Once you know what angle you’re going to take for your writing, go and find sources to support your argument, and make sure you keep a note of them for referencing later on. It’ll make your life easier if you can pull up a few quotes that will help to mold and support what you’re writing about. I like to put them all into my document first so that I don’t forget anything important, and it helps me to plan out where I’m going to take my essay. You can always find more sources later, but this is a good place to start.

Split your topics into segments, and find an order that flows. Your essay should make a logical progression, rather than jumping from one place to the other. Think about the best way to manoeuvre from start to finish, including an introduction and conclusion that matches up with what you’re actually saying. There’s no point in talking about one topic in the intro if it’s never going to see the light of day again. Keep it clean, concise, and focused.

Separate the workload over a few days. Teachers are wrong: you can write an essay the day before it’s due in – but that doesn’t mean you can write a good one: if you try to crack out an essay the day before (or even the day of) the deadline, you’re missing out on marks and setting yourself back. I set myself a goal of 500 words per day. It doesn’t actually take that long, and it makes everything a little more manageable. So if I have a 2000 word essay, I tend to split it over 5 or 6 days (not including any prior reading/research).

  • Day 1: Find your sources and make a plan for the direction that your essay is going in. Once you’ve got that nailed, the rest of the essay can be molded around that skeleton.
  • Day 2-5: Write 500 words each day. Easy!
  • Day 6: Add your bibliography, edit, and proofread.

And just like that, you have a completed essay with minimal tears and (hopefully) less stress eating.

Reference as you go. You might think it’s quicker to just hammer out all your content first, and then go back and reference afterwards. You would be mistaken. Although referencing can be a pain and put a hold on that roll you’re on, it’s better to do it as it comes rather than go back afterwards and try to hunt down all your quotes, find out which source each one is from, and fiddle around looking for page numbers. You might end up forgetting something, or losing your place in a source so you can never find the quote again. And if you can’t reference it, you can’t use it.

Use referencing websites. If you struggle with referencing and bibliographies, try using websites like Cite This For Me. I used to do all of my bibliographies manually, but websites like this take out the fear of making an error, and order your bibliography in just the right way. They reduce the stress out of those little finishing touches, so then you can submit with confidence. Just make sure you have it set to the right citation style for your university!

PROOFREAD. As much as you might hate your essay and just want to get it out of your sight as quickly as possible, I cannot stress enough how important it is to proofread. Check your spelling and grammar, and just make sure that what you’ve written actually makes sense. Sometimes reading it out loud can help you to identify areas that jar or don’t sound quite right, or ask somebody else to read it and see if they can follow what’s going on.

This is the writing process that works for me. Give it a go, change it, tailor it to how you work, and see if it helps – if you decide to try it out, let me know how it goes!

 

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How To Balance Mental Health and University

How To Balance Mental Health and University

For part three of my mini-series on moving to university, we’re going to tackle the big issue – keeping a firm grasp on your mental heath and your studies at the same time. Now, if you look at my history of handling my mental health at university, I don’t seem like the best person to come to when you’re on the hunt for tips. But let me tell you, I’ve been through it all, and now I know better. These are my tips for keeping yourself above water and avoiding feeling overwhelmed, so you can sidestep the mistakes that I made and have systems in place as soon as you make the big move to somewhere new.

Register with a doctor, and go. Even if you don’t feel like you need help right this second, make sure you have a doctor for when you do hit a bump. It might help to have a little appointment to just lay the groundwork and ask about what extra help you can get when times get hard – they might be able to refer you to some local services that you can sign up to for free, whether it’s a kind of therapy or group workshops. Bear in mind that these things often have long waiting lists, so it’s best to get in there early and have these options lying as a safety blanket, rather than going when you’re desperate and can’t get the help you need.

Talk to your lecturers. I say this a lot, but it’s important. It can be too easy to skip classes without talking to members of staff about why you haven’t been turning up, and this can really have an impact on your studies. Although it seems pretty daunting pouring your heart (or your head) out to your course’s team, they’re there to help you, and they’ve seen it all before. It’s up to you how you want to do it, because you don’t necessarily have to tackle the problem in person – emails get the ball rolling too, and let your tutors know what’s going on with you. Lecturers can help you if you’re struggling with the workload, encourage you to get through an assessment you never thought you’d manage, and guide you towards other services (both on and off the university campus) that might help you. I owe Eden Sharp and Devon Campbell-Hall everything I achieved over this past year, so don’t underestimate the power of the people in the classroom!

Make use of the university’s services. You can guarantee that I’ll be making the most of that extra help as I go into my final year. Find out more about what your uni has to offer – most have free counselling services, so check out your uni’s website to get a grasp on how they can help you.

Take mini breaks at home when you need to. If you can grab a weekend at home here and there to recuperate, hang out with your pet, and get a bit of peace and quiet, then it could be pretty helpful. I find that when things are getting tough for me at uni, it’s nice to spend a few days at home to gather myself up into one piece again. If this isn’t possible for you, then keep close contact with friends and family at home if you find that this helps. They’re only ever a phone call away.

Find a happy place in your new city. For me, it’s the marina. Sitting by the sea and (if it’s a clear night) seeing some stars gives me the chance to be alone and think things through until I feel calmer and like my head makes more sense. Finding somewhere you can go to catch a breather, whether it’s a park, coffee shop, or just a particular bench, can make you feel less alone and less homesick if you’re struggling.

Keep organised with your uni work. Sometimes there can be a lot going on at once, and the more you let things pile up, the more overwhelmed you’re going to get. You might have no deadlines for weeks, and then three on the same day, so you have to organise your time properly. It might help to buy a cute planner, or download a good to-do list app so that you always know what’s going on in your life. I’ve used Wunderlist in the past and really liked it, but I’ve found that the Reminders app on iPhone is really handy too, and it’s already at your fingertips.

Take advantage of your support network. Your friends and family are there to help you, so don’t suffer in silence. A problem shared is a problem halved, and though they might not be able to wave a magic wand and make everything disappear, they can advise you on what steps to take next or simply be a shoulder to cry on. It doesn’t matter whether they’re people from home or new friends at university, as long as you know that you don’t have to go through hard times by yourself.

Got any more tips for people making the leap to university? Let me know!

8 Things to Decorate Your Uni Room With

8 Things to Decorate Your Uni Room With

Ah, student accommodation. Always cramped, usually damp, and the place where we spend some of the best days of our lives. Although these digs are temporary, it’s nice to make them feel like home. I’ve picked out a few of my favourite things to get your inner interior designer on and help you to settle in.

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Good bedding is worth investing in. Avoid scratchy fabrics that are uncomfortable to sleep in, and go for something soft that will last the weekly wash. When you’re living in a small, dreary student room, it’s a good idea to go for colours to really liven things up. The set I’ve picked out is from Debenhams, but Primark actually do some really great sets that won’t be such a sharp stab at your purse.

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Get a plant. They really help to brighten up a small space. If you can’t be trusted with regular watering, opt for a cactus (or three) like this little set from IKEA. Super cute, affordable, and the pots come in loads of colours so you can match them to your room!

 

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Bunting is a great way to liven up any room, and looks super cute draped over a bed (especially paired with some fairy lights!). These pom pom ones are lovely and colourful, and I’d definitely pair them with that Debenhams bedding. Depop is a great place to look for a few homely bits, so don’t miss out on catching a great deal on art prints and decor while you’re browsing for clothes.

 

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Posters are a classic. You don’t have to revisit your days of cutting posters of Paramore or One Direction out of magazines and plastering them over every free space on your wall, but you can find some pretty cool ones to whack on your pin board. I try to make myself a little corner of things I love to make my room feel like home, and I tend to gravitate towards vivid colours to really brighten up a bare room, so this Grand Budapest Hotel poster is a winner for me.

 

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A lamp might not be your first port of call when you’re scanning the home section for decorations, but sometimes you don’t actually get one in the room, and it’s nice to have a little bedside lamp or something on your desk so that you don’t have to have the mains lights on all the time. This one from Dunelm is a complete steal, and I’m in love with the colour.

 

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Sometimes in a small room, you can be short on space and storage. Getting together a couple of storage boxes to keep in the bottom of your wardrobe or under your bed or desk can be really handy. Chuck in your toiletries or even your socks to free up drawer space. This understated box from IKEA is the perfect size for tucking into inconspicuous places.

 

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We can’t forget a laundry hamper! Sometimes these things can be difficult to hide in such small spaces, so it’s nice to pick one with a cool pattern or with a bit of colour. Pop-up ones are the best for transporting rather than hauling a big basket in the car, so I’m really feeling the Plumsa laundry bag (from IKEA once again – they really do have everything).

 

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Pictures of your friends and family are the final touch to any home setting. Finding cute frames is pretty easy, or go ahead and stick them straight onto your walls (landlord permitting). I really like these kinds of frames where you can just peg the pictures straight on and make your own collage of pictures. This one is a gorgeous copper colour, so I was desperate to snatch it up as soon as I saw it.

Have I missed something off? Let me know what you’ll be taking to uni with you, and how you like to decorate!

 

 

5 Tips For Moving to a Uni Far From Home

5 Tips For Moving to a Uni Far From Home

And we’re back! After three months of working full time, I am making my return. So happy September everybody! Did you have a nice summer?

We all know that September means the dreaded back to school period. But it also means a fresh start, particularly if you’re going off to uni for the first time. So this week, we’re going to have a little series of posts all about moving to uni.

As somebody who picked up and moved five hours away from home, I know how scary it can be to fly the nest and go so far away, particularly when all your friends seem to be sticking within a one hour radius of your home town. So I thought I’d compile a list of tips that might help you deal with the inevitable pangs of homesickness that will strike during your first few months.

  1. Throw yourself into the social life. It’s hard when your friends have dispersed all over the country and you’re living somewhere completely alien to you. You know nobody, and you miss everybody. The best way to tackle this is to make new friends, and join in with everything that you can. Whether it’s a trip to the pub, a game of table tennis in the common room, or a movie night, get involved. There are hundreds of new people to meet in your flat, on your course, and just about everywhere else, so take full advantage of all the new faces and make plans everywhere you can.
  2. Plan your trips home in advance. Being so far away can mean hefty ticket prices. Find out which way home is cheapest (train, coach, or even flight) and book in advance to save your precious pennies. Trust me, booking last minute might be convenient, but it isn’t cheap.
  3. Master basic life skills before you move. At the risk of sounding patronising, you’re going to have to learn how to do things for yourself. Unlike people who stay close to home, it’s not so easy to just pop home at the weekend to get fed some vegetables or ask your mum to do your laundry. It’s the little things you don’t think of that catch you off guard, like how long you need to boil potatoes for to get the best mash, or what to do when your shower won’t drain. Although your parents may only be a phone call away (and Google is always at hand) it’s best to be prepared so you know what to do if you accidentally mix bleach and ammonia.
  4. Connect with your lecturers. Although they might not be able to give you a mumsy cuddle when you’re feeling homesick, they might just make you a cup of tea and talk through what’s bothering you. Lecturers are amazing both inside and outside the classroom, so make use of their support and don’t be afraid to talk to them if you’re struggling. They’ve heard it all before, so they know how to help.
  5. Make your room homely. Coming back from a long day at uni and shuffling into your tiny, bare student room is very disheartening when you’re feeling homesick. Make your little shoebox feel like yours, rather than a temporary student residence. Decorate with pictures, bunting, posters – whatever you feel like! You can turn even the dingiest of rooms into a cosy home if you try hard enough.

Got any more tips, or want any more advice? Don’t be afraid to comment, or drop me a tweet if you’d like to chat.