From Third-Year University Student to First-Year University Students

Picture of By Margarete Schweinitz

By Margarete Schweinitz

The academic year has already started and I can truly imagine how you first-year students must be feeling. It still feels like I started studying Communication Science at the University of Amsterdam yesterday. Everything was new and overwhelming. The first couple of weeks of attending university were filled with so many new tasks, from attending lectures, finding new rooms, meeting new people, to keeping up with the incoming demand of assignments and readings, which soon became my life. The first year is definitely not easy, so I want to share a few tips to help you get the most out of it.

Don’t Panic

If you have the feeling that this study program is not the right fit, give it time. Wait a little while longer and give it a shot because jumping to conclusions based on one class or lecture does not serve anyone. You need to get an idea of what Communication Science is about, which you will only get when you give it some time. Imagine you would meet a person and instantly fall for them. That is most probably an illusion and it takes time to fall in love. It’s the same with Communication Science; if you do not love it from the beginning, just stick to it for a little while longer. But if you still do not like it even after some time, then it might really not be the right fit for you.

The Routine to Success

Are you still struggling in finding the right rhythm to study for MCRS and ICS? Look no further and pay attention. It wasn’t easy for me, either. There are so many things to do and it took me the first couple of weeks to get used to the fast pace of university. I will provide you with a system that worked for me, but you need to see for yourself what works best for you. There is no system fitting everyone. So here are my tips for an effective study routine:

  • Readings – read the articles and book chapters BEFORE the tutorial, or at least skim through them to get further knowledge. It worked for me to do the readings after the lecture, but you NEED them for the tutorial to interact with your fellow students.
  • Notes – take notes during the lecture and the tutorial. If you have questions, it is the safest place to get answers from.
  • Summaries – Summarize lectures after the actual lecture. This will save you time to study before the exam and provide you with the most important topics.
  • Ask Questions – there is no such thing as a stupid question, so ask if you do not understand something. A clarification can save you from making a mistake!
  • Assignments – Make a plan for each assignment and start long before the deadline. Looking back, it was not the best idea to start writing an assignment at 8 am when the deadline was noon. Save yourself some stress and start early!

I will provide you with a system that worked for me, but you need to see for yourself what works best for you. There is no system fitting everyone.

Exam Tips

Although I am not sure whether you will have an online exam or a written assignment as your final examination, I will still provide some tips for both occasions. First, make sure you have a quiet spot to write the exam. Additionally, have earplugs to focus on your test. Second, make sure to remove everything from your desk except your laptop. You will not get as easily distracted. Third, wear actual pants and a T-Shirt to simulate this exam feeling. Fourth, have a glass of water or a water bottle next to you. And last but not least, go to the bathroom before the exam. I almost forgot, but you need to know your student-ID and password, so make sure you have them ready before the exam. Log into the UvA Test Vision and begin your exam at the designated time. Time is often running too fast when we write an exam, so ask your lecturer how many questions there will be in the exam (MCQ and open-ended). Then divide the minutes by the number of questions, and you will get an approximate value for how much time you can spend on each question. 

I remember my first exam very well as I had no idea what was expected from me. Should I write everything I knew to the question or a concise answer? Please remember that you need to answer the questions accurately, so come straight to the point and do not talk around the subject. Sometimes 100 concise words are better than 300 confused words. And then there are the multiple-choice questions with answer options that sound similar. This one is really important: whenever you are in doubt, go with your first intuition. Most of the time it’s the right answer. So trust your gut and good luck with your first exams!

This time is about you and not anyone else, so by no means compare yourself to anyone.

Enjoy this Time

Going to university is not all about studying. It is also about meeting new people, leaving your comfort zone, and experimenting with who you are. This time is about you and not anyone else, so by no means compare yourself to anyone. Have fun, relax, and make the best out of it. I sincerely hope that Communication Science will bring you joy and that you can attend more on-campus classes next semester!


Cover: Margarete Schweinitz


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