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If I knew then what I know now
Starting off on the right foot: Some suggestions
Hi, my name is Conor, and I am a second year PhD student in UCC’s economics department. If I knew then, what I know now is a platform which allows us postgraduate students to pass down the knowledge we have acquired during our time in UCC, with hopes of making your transition into third level education as smooth as possible, and even teach existing students a thing or two.
The aim of this post is to signpost ways which will allow you to start your academic year on the right foot by introducing you to some pivotal services and facilities that UCC offer which will enhance your propensity to succeed in university, alongside addressing how reading recreationally could catalyse academic success.
From incoming first years, to incoming lecturers, the library website has a lot to offer. Aside from the total rundown it gives you on the rules and facilities available in the library itself, it also offers innumerable other services depending on your academic/professional needs. From assignments and exams to basic IT skills, the library website likely has an answer to whatever problem you may have.
Become familiar with this website, and what it can do to help you, because it could save you a lot of time later.
UCC’s website is another goldmine. The Student IT (SIT) webpage, as shown below, allows both students and staff to stay up to date on all the everyday software’s you will need, by offering training in the fundamental Microsoft office applications, the different cloud storages available to UCC students, and some of the specific software’s provided in the computer labs.
Similarly, UCC’s Skills Centre is a great, but underutilized resource. Should you have problems with any aspect of your studies, the Skills Centre offers one-to-one tutoring services alongside self-taught materials and academic workshops to help ease the transition to third level education, and above all, enhance your academic and professional skillsets, hence its name.
I didn’t know anything about the Skills Centre until I started working there. I know I would have benefitted from their services at all stages of my undergraduate, so I encourage you to familiarise yourself with their webpage and the services they offer.
Lecturers, Tutors, and their office hours
Lecturers and tutors offer a wealth of knowledge to students. They are likely to be experts in what they are teaching and are bound to be highly knowledgeable on other topics. They also tend to love what they do, and usually enjoy engaging with students and their queries. So, I would urge you to not be afraid of asking questions, no matter how silly they may sound. It may save you a lot of hassle in the long term.
If you don’t want to do it in front of the whole class, lecturers (and tutors, sometimes) have a dedicated office hour per module, designed to facilitate one-on-one interaction between students and lecturers. These hours are criminally underutilized, until the last 2 weeks of each semester, where they tend to be overly demanded. For you to make the most out of a module, and to give yourself the best chance of success in any given module, I urge you to utilize these dedicated office hours to ask questions about the content you are covering.
Read, Read, Read
Finally, third level education is substantially different to second level for many reasons, naturally. The most noticeable change for me, at least, was the greater emphasis being placed on my independent reading by lecturers. After slowly realising I was probably going to spend much of my next 3 years reading, I decided to start reading books (of all varieties) casually, something I had not done since, maybe, my Junior Certificate.
What a moment that was. Putting the newly found enjoyment aspect to one side, over time there were significant improvements in my reading speed, writing quality, and my ability to absorb information. These improvements weren’t instantly observable, but eventually I noticed a newfound rapidity in my ability to start the writing process, and a significant improvement in my ability to coherently link what I was reading about, to what I wanted to write about. Fortunately, this perceived improvement started to become reflected in my grades, giving me further inspiration to keep reading (not that I needed it). As a result, I would urge you to take up recreational reading throughout your university studies, as it could serve to help you.
To sum up, give yourself the best chance at hitting the university ground running by familiarising yourself with UCC’s student support services and how you can utilize them to serve your needs. On top of this, reading recreationally could become an asset in enabling academic success by improving your critical thinking, writing, and reading abilities, as I have discovered.