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Student editor fresher advice: Mental health branch

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Mental health branch editor, Katie, gives you the run down on how to make the most of first year.

  • Get involved!

Sit at the front of lectures and seminars. Pay attention. Ask questions. It might feel awkward at first, especially if less conscientious students are grumbling and sighing behind you, but persevere - it’ll be worth it when your degree classification is announced in three years time. And you can guarantee that in a lecture hall of 300, you won’t be the only one wanting to ask that question, but you might be the only one with the nerve to ask.

  • Be sociable

Meet your colleagues for coffee outside lectures. Say “yes” when you’re invited out for a drink now and again. Don’t bury yourself in your books, especially at the beginning, and make sure that when you’re planning your study time you schedule in time to watch a DVD with your family or partner, or do some exercise. Your peers will be the one constant throughout your course – don’t get on the wrong side of them, and don’t assume that the people you’re friendly with in week one will be the ones in the photos at graduation.

  • Don’t assume first year doesn’t count

The marks might not count towards your final grade but if you don’t make an effort now, second year will come as a shock. Even the second module might! Use your first year to work out the methods of studying that work for you and which don’t quite cut it. Test out different study schedules – work out if you’re a morning, afternoon or middle-of-the-night person. First year is there to prepare you for what’s to come – take advantage of it!

  • Use your tutors

They can do a lot more than you’d expect, from running over lecture content that you didn’t quite understand to proof-reading the bits of your essays that you’re not so sure about. They can help you get the best marks by pointing out the bits you’ve missed or not quite explained well enough.

  • Get online!

From regular twitchats put on from all kinds of organisations, such as WeNurses or #SNTtwitchat run by this very publication Student Nursing Times (Fridays at 1pm!) to MHNursingChats, there’s plenty of people to get to know. Blogging helps you formulate your ideas and beliefs and get feedback from other nurses who’ve been through the mill already. Forums are full of other students with piles of advice for writing assignments and doing presentations, coping with placement and selling their old textbooks cheaply.

  • Don’t buy all those books!

Speaking of textbooks: don’t buy everything on your reading list! Your first stop should be the university library: it’ll have the core texts in stock, so that you can flick through them and see which ones are useful first. You will need an anatomy and physiology book, but remember that all A&P books contain the same general content laid out differently – use the library to work out which one fits your learning style best, and buy that.


Katie Sutton is the Student Nursing Times editor for Mental Health branch

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