It’s a big step to make the decision to get back into study when you haven’t studied in a while… it can be overwhelming in fact. If you’re not careful, you can fall victim to the fears, trepidations and reservations that are in the back of your mind and this can cause you to panic. It can make you start to doubt yourself and question whether it’s all worthwhile, but I can assure you that it is. You may experience challenges and have some fears about studying again, but there are many ways to overcome them and yes, even beat them back into submission.
1. Time management
The first challenge that you may encounter will be the managing your time. Trying to sort out the ‘how am I going to fit everything in’, ‘when is everything due’, ‘where do I have to be and what is it that I have to do’? This can be a tough one to figure out when you haven’t studied for a while, but it is quite simple really.
Solution: have a diary, write everything in it and carry it with you everywhere or, when at home, draw up a study management timetable with all the important how, when, where and what info on it. I will be the first to admit that I can’t live without my study plan, because sometimes there is just not enough room in my head to remember everything. My study timetable is my best friend. It tells the how, where, when and what, a bit like having a good friend to guide you all day long and take the weight off your shoulders.
2. Not having any friends
Challenge number two is the ‘No friends’ challenge. This is the one where you think that nobody will talk to you and you will feel all alone in a large room full of people. I know that I could tell you that it’s all in your head, but you won’t believe me, so I won’t say it.
Solution: Develop a network, which is a small group of people you can talk to about your assignments and lectures and who you can swap notes with. If you take the time to look around a lecture theatre, you’ll notice that there are plenty of people in the room all probably thinking the same thing as you. Just talk to them casually and when you see them next time strike up a conversation about anything that you may have in common i.e.: classes. Before you know it, you will have a network. I have always been the oldest person in every class at uni, so naturally this challenge was a big concern for me when I first started. But when waiting outside for lectures to start, I just chatted to the other much younger students about the course or assignments (this is an easy one to get another student talking) and bingo! Now in the second year, I always have someone to talk to and have coffee with… I have a network!
Challenge number three is the ‘Technology’ challenge. If you haven’t studied in a while, you are more than likely scared out of your wits about this one. But fear not: it looks hard to understand but it is really very simple and you will need to be able to use it, because universities use computer technology extensively. I speak from experience when I say that it’s easier than it looks.
Solution: The USQ library has sessions at the beginning of each semester on how to use the library resources, including technology. This is an excellent place to start. But if you have some basic knowledge, don’t forget that trusty information source: Goggle. Type in what you want to know into the search bar, for example how to use features in Word, Excel or Powerpoint, and up it pops. I knew very little about computers when I first started at uni, so I decided to sit myself down one day before I started and I fiddled, fidgeted and clicked on every tab in these programs just to see what they did. Before I knew it, I had a fairly good grasp of how things worked and as for the rest, I just used a Google search or if I’m totally frustrated, I ask another student for help.
4. Getting help
Challenge number four is the ‘Help’ challenge. This is the one where you have hit a snag in you studies or you have a few problems or difficulties handling things and aren’t sure where to turn for help or support.
Solution: If you’re hitting that brick wall, turn to USQ’s Learning Centre for course work-related questions, your lecturers for questions specific to your course, Student Services for those more personal problems and your Student Relationship Officer. Put plain and simple, there is always someone out there who can help… they may even be sitting next to you in a lecture. Just ask! You won’t be the first or last to need support. I have proudly used the Learning Centre for course difficulties, in particular… the dreaded statistics. They have sat with me many times and explained things in a way that I could understand. I don’t think I would have passed some of my courses if not for the assistance my lecturers have given me by setting up consultation meetings with them.
Challenge number five is the ‘Expectations’ challenge. This is the challenge where you have very high expectations of yourself. You know the one, where you try to do a thousand things at once, expect perfect marks and never say ‘no’ to people and, when it doesn’t work out, you crash and burn.
Solution: Value your achievements! Don’t judge your progress solely on the marks you are given for assignments. Instead, value what you have learned during the process of your degree and certainly, under no circumstances, judge yourself on the results of other students. I personally am very guilty of this one when I spend every waking moment on course and assignments, all the while trying desperately to participate in everything that family and friends ask of me (it’s really hard to say no) and I have found that you have to find that special balance between the two.
The main goal of getting back into study after a long period of time is to learn and to add to your life experiences. So relish every moment, don’t panic and stay calm.