6 things about studying English at uni

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Published by Beth
on 20/05/2020

If you’re planning to study English at university, you may be wondering how best to prepare for your course and how it will differ from college or sixth form. Here are a few things I wish I’d known or been told while preparing for my time at university. I hope they help!

Find your advanced reading list(s)

If you want to feel like you’re on the ball, then getting ahead on the core course reading will really help. You should have an advanced reading list, which usually lists the books you’ll start with, as well as any longer reads you may study throughout the year. This is quite nice summer work to do, as all being well, it should be enjoyable to read the fiction elements of the course. It will also mean that you’ll considerably lessen the amount of reading you’ll have to do each week when term starts. Each week you’ll be set some critical reading for each module to read alongside the core text. These can vary in their difficulty and density, so it’s good to be able to take your time with these, rather than cramming it in alongside making time to read a novel!

You don’t have to understand everything

If you’re doing your reading prep, and if you don’t understand everything, then that is completely fine and normal. In fact, there have been times when I’ve read and re-read something and barely understood a word. The best thing you can do is write down the questions you have, and bring them up when it comes to the seminar. I’ve generally found other students, and even the seminar leaders, are grateful when someone admits they found something confusing, rather than staying quiet.

Low contact hours means you need good time management and self-motivation

Studying English means you’ll probably have around 10 contact hours a week. Outside of this is your time to do the reading, seminar prep and assignments. It can feel like you have plenty of time, and that is because you do, if you use your time effectively! Whether you want to timetable in your own hours to get stuff done, or play it by ear (as I did!) having a list of what you need to do for each week really helps you keep on top of the essentials.

Being organised WILL make life easier

Doing / finishing an assignment the day it is due does not mean you’ll get a bad grade, but it will make the process a lot more stressful than it needs to be! If you can, the ‘little and often’ approach to assignments is the best way to manage your time and stress levels throughout your time at university.

You don’t have to be stressed to be working hard

There can be a bit of a contagious element to stress. Burn out is only doing yourself harm, and working effectively is much better all-round than working hard. If you don’t need to be up late working then you’re doing something right. It is something to be proud of, rather than an indication that you are not working hard enough!

You are meant to enjoy it!

I know, I know… it might not be a cool opinion, but you’ve chosen this degree for a reason and hopefully that reason is because you enjoy reading and writing! It’s highly unlikely that you’ll love every single book and poem you study in the three years, but sometimes you can have just as much to say about something you don’t like. When it comes to assignments, try and write about something you would want to read, something you’re interested in, or care about. This makes the research process MUCH more enjoyable, and also means you’re less likely to get bored half way through writing!

I hope at least some of this has been helpful! If you have any questions, drop me a message on instagram @bethoblogs.