Make the most of student life

Three views: from a tutor, student and Which Way
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The Independent Online

Tutor: Jason de Mink (JM)

Jason,35, has a BA in languages with law and a Masters in tax law. He works as a lecturer in law at Buckingham University

Student: Asikiye Roberts (AR)

Asikiye, 20, has A-levels in English language, English literature, and government and politics. She is now studying Law and Economics

1) How much time should you spend doing background reading for your course?

JM: Apart from doing the work we set as class preparation, I wouldn't expect anyone to do any background reading, unless they were particularly passionate or interested. An hour a day would be great.

AR: I do two hours extra reading a day and don't think that's unusual. I don't like stress, so background reading is important for me. I can't just cram before exams. Other people are different though.

WW: As long as you've done the set work, it's up to you how much background reading you do. Some extra work will help your studies, but make sure you leave plenty of time for having fun too.

2) Do you have to attend all your tutorials and lectures?

JM: A catagorical yes! If you miss tutorials, you will not do as well on your course - end of story. Lectures are perhaps less important but they will help you to communicate the ideas you're learning.

AR: Tutorials are important. They get you through the exams. You can challenge ideas and the tutor will break down exam questions. For lectures it's up to the student - doing your own work may be enough.

WW: A definite yes for tutorials then. Lectures will help you understand the topic better than a textbook. If you don't find them useful, make sure you've read the material so you don't fall behind.

3) Does it matter if you hand things in late?

JM: Keeping to deadlines is essential in preparing you for future life. However completing the work is probably more important. I'm happy to mark things late.

AR: Yes! Tutors say that unless it's the end of the world, there's no excuse for not handing work in. Deadlines can sometimes be disproportionate to the amount of work you're given though.

WW: Do your best to keep to deadlines, and if you think you're going to miss one, let the tutor know beforehand so you can get an extension. Most tutors are sympathetic.

4) Is it a good idea to pull an all-nighter?

JM: To prepare for an exam, it's not particularly wise. If it's for an essay, it's not always good to compromise the next day. Sometimes an all-nighter out having fun is just as valuable as an all-nighter on the books.

AR: Yes! I'm a night person. And for some people the last minute pressure makes them work harder. On a long-term basis it's not good for your health, but every once in a while, I think it's fine to work on through.

WW: Only you can know the way you work best, but leaving all your work to the last minute and working through the night isn't usually good for the nerves or your general well-being. How well do you know yourself?

5) What's the best way to decide which course to study at university or college?

JM: You have to find something that interests you, not something relevant to what your mother wants you to become. Otherwise you're wasting your time and you won't enjoy yourself.

AR: Think about the type of person you are and what the course is. I don't like exams and lots of my course is based on assignments. Also think about what you want to become after you finish your course.

WW: Lots of people won't know what they want to do as a career, so study something you find interesting. If you're passionate about your course and subject, you'll stay motivated throughout.

6) What's a realistic budget for a student?

JM: I'd think £100 a week is more than sufficient to cover a daily sandwich, a few drinks and a new pen every now and again. Things are much cheaper on campus and as a student!

AR: I'd say £200 to cover transport, food, miscellaneous bits like laundry and taxis. Most of my money goes on my phone. I'm lucky though; money isn't really an issue for me.

WW: Not including fees or rent, £150 should keep you going, although it depends on your saving willpower. Keeping a note of what you spend can help if you need to budget.

7) Does working part-time to earn money affect your studies?

JM: Definitely. If you have to supplement your income, try to find a job that doesn't interfere with your timetable. You can't take a nine to five job; the job has to fit around your course, not the other way round. It's tough, but you're there to learn.

AR: My dad doesn't let me study outside my course. He thinks I should focus on my studies. I have friends who did retail and admin jobs, but they got exhausted and had to stop before exams because they had no time to revise.

WW: If you have to work, make sure it fits around your university or college timetable. If things get too stressful, give up the job. If you're in financial difficulties, tell your university or college. They may be able to help you.

8) How important is socialising to the student experience?

JM: Very. Organised socialising, like playing sport, is brilliant. Going out with your mates every night will not necessarily help. Get involved with group activities though - don't stay home and study every night.

AR: Socialising can affect how happy you are. I'd be miserable without my friends! We have a lot of parties, and I've signed up for law society, badminton and ballet. Activities are all part of the student lifestyle.

WW: A unanimous vote! Enjoying yourself socially is a big part of the student experience and it's important to enjoy yourself. Just don't go so crazy that your studies - and your finances! - suffer.

9) What's the best way to avoid stress?

JM: I'm a firm believer in physical exercise: healthy mind, healthy body. Saying no can save you a lot of stress too. If your mates are down the pub, you don't have to go. And if you have problems, ask your university or college for help.

AR: Keep a balance between studying and chilling out. Maintaining a good spiritual life has helped me too. And, if you've got problems, make sure you tell your lecturer or a student councellor - how else will they know you need help?

WW: Make sure you have an outlet from work. That may be spending time with friends or playing sport or music. Eat healthily and, if you're stressed, go easy on alcohol and caffeine. It's crucial to talk to people if you're having problems.

10) Is being an HE student the best time of your life?

JM: It's probably the one time when your time is your own. Most students only have two or three hours commitment every day. The friends you make are really good too. Make sure you open yourself up to what's being offered.

AR: I don't think that it's necessarily the best time, but it's definitely a very enjoyable experience. I think everyone should go to university or college and, if they can, move away from home. You grow so much as a person.

WW: Being an HE student is a time for trying new things, meeting new people and expanding your mind and horizons. Throw yourself into the experience (sensibly!) and, fingers crossed, it'll be brilliant from start to finish!