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Freshers’ week

How to conquer your first year essays

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I was so worried about assignments when I started my degree, would I find them harder than my A-Levels?

I couldn’t help but wonder what my lecturers were going to expect from me. But I was eager to get started and conscious of not leaving it all to the last minute.

I was set two written assignments in my first year, the first being a 3000 word essay, including a reflection on communication in practice.

I started out with the best of intentions, but struggled to write my introduction - writing and rewriting it several times (being the perfectionist I am). Then I hit a productive streak and wrote the first 1000 words in a matter of hours one afternoon, which, in hindsight, was probably not the best idea. The reflection part was more difficult as it took me a long time to research information relevant to my scenario.

At that point, I was still writing my work up by hand, before typing it and submitting it electronically. Looking back I wish I’d saved myself some time and typed it up from the beginning. I also wish I hadn’t written some of it in lectures when I should’ve been listening. But one thing I did get right from the beginnning was submitting the assignment the day before it was due to save on stress and I’ve continued to do this throughout the course - it puts less pressure on you if you’re not writing down to the wire.

When it came to writing my second assignment on inequalities in health, another 3000 words, I was lulled into a false sense of security. I had the summer to write it as well as another month or so afterwards. I left it as late as possible to make a start, which didn’t leave me time to send any of it to my academic supervisor for feedback. In the end I had a mad dash to write the final 1700 words in approximately five days inbetween placement shifts and very minimal sleep. I don’t know how I managed it, but I did. I wish I hadn’t done it to myself though and unfortunately it was reflected in my mark.

First year marks won’t generally count towards your final degree classification, but I still wasn’t happy with the outcome. I’d struggled with the distractions of being in halls of residence and the temptation to avoid work and go out with friends or just sit in someone else’s room instead of doing more early on.

Now, I know that I work best in the library. I’m aware this isn’t for everyone but for me it removes the distractions of being at home and it’s a calm environment with all the books I need. I still take chocolate and tea with me though to make it a little more bearable.

Another thing I learnt was to ask questions when I don’t understand the work. Lecturers are there to help us but we need to ask questions so they know what we need help with. It is also good to go back to the marker for feedback after receiving the results, as there’s always room for improvement even if you got a high grade.

Last, but definitely not least, learning from my lesson - pace yourself and give yourself plenty of time to work through it!


Emma Taylor is in her third year studying Children’s nursing at Cardiff university


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Readers' comments (1)

  • Thanks for the tips Emma, I am a first year student only in week 4 of the course and I still feel quite uneasy about the rest of the year and what to expect. I will take your advice and look more into my assignements nand get them started soon :)

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