Seven mistakes you won't make in semester two

July 17, 2015
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Semester one is well and truly in the bag. Admit it: You're a little bit proud of yourself for having survived. There were times when – curled in a fetal position and laughing manically – you thought you might not make it. But you bashed out those assignments and crammed for those exams, and you’re finally on the other side.

Now it’s time to take stock – semester two is a blank slate. You’ve learned the hard way, now take control of the pointy end of the year by actively avoiding these classic cock-ups.

Being disorganised

A rookie mistake. Unburden your desk from that pile of unpaid bills/unread newspapers/unwashed clothes, and create a dedicated space in which to study. Make it a place you actually want to spend time in – decorate it, deodorise it, adorn it with framed inspirational quotes if that’s what it takes. Grab a stack of new stationery from your local office supplier and download a productivity app - because that’s the kind of sassy modern student you are.

Making the librarian hate you

Gather up all those uni library books that seem to have bred during semester. Check under the bed, under the couch, under the cat and in the fridge – after all, you’ve been under a lot of pressure. Now wipe off the energy drink stains and return the books promptly. Make sure you pay any outstanding fines – some unis won’t let you borrow again until you do.

Forgetting to enrol

Yep, this is a biggie. Most programs require you to enrol in tutorials online before the next semester starts. There will be an important date listed somewhere on your uni’s website informing you of the exact day and time the timetabling system opens for business. Find out what this date is. Write it down. Then, on the day, get up early and nab the tutes you want. Simple.

Being that girl or guy who never knows when stuff is due

The first day of most courses consists of housekeeping. The lecturer drones on about anticipated learning outcomes, boring admin stuff, and, ahem, due dates. They’ll probably even hand out a course guide which chronologically lists when your assignments are due and your exams will be held. Go home after week one and enter those pesky dates into your calendar/newfangled productivity app/whatever so they’ll never creep up on you again.

Being that girl or guy whose name the lecturers don’t know

Make it your mission next semester to not hide up the back of the lecture theatre. Make yourself known so you can stand out. Check in regularly with your lecturer or tutor; ask them for help if you need it, and show them you’re keen to go the extra mile. If nothing else, it’s good practice; it’s like the networking you’ll eventually have to do out in the real world. And if an internship opportunity or work placement arises, chances are you’ll be at the top of the list.

Being late

This one’s a no-brainer. Buy an alarm clock and learn how to set it. Get a morning routine going and stick to it. Reward yourself if you have to – get to uni half an hour early so you can sit and enjoy a coffee before class. It’s worth it to make sure you arrive on time and in a good frame of mind for learning.


The P-word - how it haunts us. Again, the best approach is a canny rewards system. Set study goals for yourself and designate a tempting treat for when you achieve them. But you need to be tough – you only get the reward when the hard work is done. Try the strawberry method. I have a kitchen timer in the shape of a hideous pink strawberry that works every time. Get something similar, set it for an intense study hour-of-power, and work like a demon until the strawberry says stop. Then, eat all of the chocolate and revel in your newfound smugness.

Make no mistake: the world looks different when you’re in control of your study life. Own it, and semester two will be a breeze.

Phoebe Hartley

Phoebe makes films, eats dumplings and studies journalism. She tweets sporadically at @phoebehartley.

Image: Tuomas Puikkonen, Flickr Creative Commons license