What I wish I knew this when I was a fresher
You often hear from older peers or professional guidance about how different university is from school but it’s never really addressed or emphasised strongly enough what exactly is different. Learning the difference early on can make a big positive impact on your overall university experience. University life, in general, takes time to get used to even when it is positive so preparing more beforehand will make the transition from school to university much smoother.
Find a new study method
The way you study at school will not work at uni. I used a lot of flashcards or due to lack of time, memorised entire textbooks because A-level examiners liked details. Boy was I so wrong to try to do that at uni. There’s no time or even inefficient to just regurgitate the material without truly understanding it.
I don’t mean to flaunt but I’d like to use my personal experience as an example so bear with me. I once got a 2:1 for a question I didn’t revise for because I got the core concepts down in a concise way. Since then I’ve looked at review papers to get a general grasp, used image captions from papers lecturers referenced and typed all my notes on Google Docs. This may not work for everyone, so the first two weeks of starting university experiment a bit e.g. maybe try out concept mapping. More strategies for effective studying.
Abandon the idea of being perfect
Being a perfectionist is not a good thing. You become less willing to take risks that you might’ve been willing to take when you were a child. Take stepping on a lego for instance. A child would go ahead and step on it whereas you know stepping on lego hurts, you would hesitate. When you take risks at university you may find you perform better because innovation is rewarded at university and beyond. We need eccentric innovative ideas to solve ongoing global issues like climate change. Tell your lecturer what skills you have that would help them on their research, form a startup or attend iGEM or Imperial Enterprise Lab.
If you are accepted into Imperial, you are enough. You deserve to be here. Don’t put yourself down because of a couple of bad grades. 60% is good enough. If you do who cares, it’s better to have tried than not tried at all.
Your friendships are different
People are busy and come and go. You might have many friends but do not form close relationships with them, so take advantage of getting to meet lots of different people at Imperial, in societies for example. Appreciate those friends that take time out for you.
Academically you are encouraged to ‘think outside the box’. Teachers and university interviews appreciate smart students but critical thinking is often if not at all rewarded in secondary school exams whereas this is a criterion for First Class Honours and sometimes even at the 2:1 level. This is why we have to let go of this presumption that our ideas are stupid so ask questions. It is for your benefit for lecturers to point out what they are looking for in exams.
Many lecturers would tell you that no question is stupid but it is even better if you thought through your question beforehand. Your lecturer will appreciate that you put thought into it which helps with references and future research opportunities. Every person you meet at Imperial are high achievers so take advantage of the numerous networking opportunities you get.
Hopefully, these tips help you spend time on priorities that are more important as exam season looms upon us. Best of luck to all secondary school candidates considering Imperial as your first choice and current Imperial students for summer exams!