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So your first year at university is over and the long summer break is well under way. The marks you achieve for exams and coursework in your first year don't typically count towards your final degree grade, so in some ways your first year was like a practice run for the real thing. You've explored the city and the campus, made a solid group of friends, joined some societies, socialised a bit too much, and sort of got your head around how to budget with your student loan, but second year is when the hard work really begins.
Your second year of university contributes towards 40% of your final grade, with your third year making up the remaining 60%. If you're heading into your second year of university in September you may be starting to worry about the pressures and stresses that the next academic year will bring with it. There are several things that you can do during the summer to make your second year a little bit easier...
Having almost three months off over the summer is quite a lot of time to fill, and there's only so much daytime TV a student can watch. One of the most productive ways to spend some of your summertime is to get hold of the reading list for next year and make a head start on reading the course material. Even just a couple of books or the key chapters from some of the textbooks can prepare you for what the next academic year holds.
We're not saying that you have to read the entire list and make detailed notes on anything, but skimming over some of the material means that you'll know what to expect from your lectures, and the information will sink in better the next time you come to read it. You could also make a note of any questions that occur whilst you're reading and ask your tutors when the semester begins.
In the second semester of your second year you'll more than likely be required to start thinking about your dissertation topic for your final year. By setting aside some time over the summer before you go back to uni for second year you can come up with a list of potential dissertation topics that you can research further.
As your second year progresses you can begin to explore existing research and speak to your course tutors to find out whether any of your ideas are viable enough for a full-length dissertation. By the second semester you will hopefully have a clear idea of your dissertation topic and can start to put a plan together, which will give you a head start on gathering research and drafting things up, thus giving you a longer period in which to carry out edits and proofreading in your third year.
If you're reading this now and you're going into your second year this September, you've got around 5 or 6 weeks left of the summer so that's not a lot of time for full-on gap year-style travelling, but it's not too late to have a change of scenery. One of the cheapest options is to go and stay with a friend elsewhere in the UK. Perhaps you made friends during your first year and they live in far-flung corners of the UK that you haven't visited before; staying with them is a cheap way to have a mini break and spend some time together before the madness of second year begins.
Another option is to take a mini break to a European city. The beauty of being a student is you are not tied to a 9-5 job that only gives you weekends off, so you can go on a mini break any day of the week and get a cheaper deal. Indulge in some culture, soak up some sun, and make some great memories. Blow away the cobwebs and relax a little before it's time to knuckle down and crack on with your studies.
Many students choose to secure their second year accommodation before breaking up for the summer as it takes the worry away and allows them to relax for a few months. If you've put a deposit down on your shared house, find out how early you can get the keys from your landlord and move in. Moving in a couple of days before the start of the semester can be a bit rushed and stressful.
Instead, aim to give yourself a couple of weeks or more to get yourself moved in and unpacked. If your housemates also move in early, you can catch up, get reacquainted, and spend time together before lectures begin again, rather than you all hitting the ground running at the end of September.