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Go Higher: How to stride through your studies

Time management is essential when coping with deadlines, writes Jacqui Bealing
After the hard work it took to get your A- level grades, the slower pace of higher education can be quite different.

Indeed, those taking arts courses may be surprised to find that no more than 10 hours of their week is time-tabled with tutorials and lectures. You may ask yourself what you're supposed to do with the rest of your waking hours.

Of course, getting to know your fellow students and acclimatising to your new environment is important. But you'll soon need to find a balance between socialising and studying.

If you can, try to set your own timetable. You will be expected to do a fair amount of studying and research on your own. And while two weeks may sound like a long time in which to produce a 2,000 word essay, don't be fooled into believing it can all be done the day before deadline. You may not be able to get hold of the books you need from the library. You may suddenly realise you don't understand the assignment, but be unable to talk to your tutor about it. If you start off with a realistic personal timetable you won't need to correct bad habits during the important final stages of your course.

It's also worth learning to type and having access to a word processor. It won't guarantee you higher grades, but anything that makes life easier for your tutors - and for yourself - is worth considering.

You will be expected to attend all tutorials, but lectures can be seen as optional. This doesn't mean they are not worth attending. Some lecturers can be highly entertaining, even though their subject sounds dry. Don't expect lectures to cover all aspects of the topic you are expected to write about, however. The secret is to use them as a springboard for your own research.

Everyone worries about whether they'll be clever enough to cope with the workload. A "degree course" may sound more high-flying than A-levels, but in reality, most students find the work no more difficult. You've already proved you are intelligent enough to "compare and contrast" information, or "discuss" complex issues. That's how you ended up where you are now.

Of course, there will be students who appear more knowledgeable or likely to get higher grades than you. But there's no need to feel you are competing against each other. You are there to get qualifications for yourself.

Sometimes, within just a few weeks of starting college, you start to have doubts about the course you've chosen. If this happens, don't fall into despair, or think about chucking everything in. The first thing you should do is discuss the problem with your personal tutor. Maybe you've opted for the course because you wanted to please your family. Or perhaps you've changed your long term goals. It may be possible to change your course at your college, or even transfer to another college. There will be a lot more options open to you than you think.