How to Prepare for the Next Academic Year

We’re approaching September at such an alarming rate, which can only mean one thing: it’s back to school here in the UK.

I’m feeling a lot of ways about going back to university to start my third year. On one hand, I’m dreading the thought of going back into the stress of balancing education, sleep, a social life and a healthy lifestyle, but on the other hand I’m really excited. The lack of routine in my life these past six months has made me deteriorate in certain ways and I know the only way to get back to a semblance of what life was like before is by force, when I have no choice but to go back to it.

I’m trying to stay optimistic about it. I’ve been told third year is not particularly difficult in terms of content covered, but we’ll be in a totally new environment that’s clinical, which will definitely take some getting used to.

Anyways, I’ve been making the move to start preparing for the upcoming year, so I thought I’d share some of the stuff I’ve been doing.

Educational Prep

Recap things from last year

This depends on what subjects you do and what kind of institution you’re going back to. I’ve half-heartedly been going over some of the PBL cases we covered during the first two years of my medical degree but focusing on the clinical aspects of them. Although it’s nice to recap the content, I’m mainly doing this so I can get used to learning and understanding things again. Just sitting down at my desk to ‘study’ is a novel feeling since I changed my desk around, seeing as I’ve been spending most of my time here with Netflix playing constantly on my external monitor while I have online shopping websites open on my laptop.

Get a head start on next year’s content

It definitely makes me feel more prepared if I have a rough outline of what I’ll be learning during the next semester, especially since I can make sure I have the fundamental knowledge needed. Since we’ll be in the hospital from September, I’d rather make sure I’ve consolidated the theoretical, scientific knowledge behind most of the stuff we’ll be covering so I can focus on learning more about clinical practice.

Uni-related admin

There are always so many admin-type things to do before uni starts, whether that be registering for the upcoming year, or filling in any forms, or even just going through your timetable to see what your schedule will be like. Then there’s things like setting up or renewing student finance, as well as moving preparation if you’re living out.

Physical Prep

Assemble your supplies

This is one of the most exciting parts for me: buying stationery and notebooks and textbooks if you need them.

Given the precarious position that a huge number of countries are in currently, this year will no doubt have a lot more online learning incorporated with possible face-to-face teaching. As a result, I think technology plays a big part in the preparation for this year: laptops and iPads will no doubt be priorities. I feel like these things were already quite important for university, but the requirement of a solid device and stable internet connection is really looming over my head this time round.

Work on your physical appearance

This always makes me feel better and more confident, which is just the kind of self-esteem boost you need before you go back to university. This looks like a lot of different things to a lot of different people, like getting a haircut or investing in some new clothes or makeup that you really like.

I think this sort of ‘glow up’ can be really sensationalised, especially across social media, and I feel like it leads people into believing that there’s a set checklist to making yourself look better, and ultimately feel better, but this is an unhealthy concept to perpetuate. Do what you enjoy and what makes you feel good, but at the same time, don’t feel obliged to do anything that doesn’t speak to you.

Make plans with university friends you haven’t seen in a while

It’s been a good six months since the abrupt end of uni, and one of the things I’ve missed most is being surrounded by likeminded, fun people. A lot of my friends live far from me, but I’ll be able to see them again once we start university, which I’m excited for.

Having plans already set up for when you get together with your friends gives you something to look forward to, and I feel like the excitement and dread of starting a new year just makes for hours of conversation.

Fix that sleeping schedule

This one is a big one for me, admittedly, because sleep and I have a very complicated relationship. The one thing I’ve noticed is that the quality of my sleep is directly proportional to how good I feel day-to-day. The quality of my sleep is affected by factors like duration of sleep, the time I go to sleep and wake up, the amount of times I wake up in the middle of the night, etc.

My main recommendation on this front would be consistency. When I keep a set time to go to bed and wake up, I have a healthy routine to stick to and even if it’s only six hours, for example, I feel better than I would if I was sleeping four hours during weekdays and 12 hours during the weekend. Consistency in this area of my life is something I’m always working towards, but I don’t think I’ve ever really achieved it. Let’s hope this time round is the one!

Mental Prep

Reflect on the past year

Academic reflection is something I’ve been doing for many years now. Some questions I like to consider when I do this are:

  • What went well?
  • What could have been improved?
  • What do you wish you spent less time on?
  • What do you wish you spent more time on?
  • What items in your life served you well?
  • Which people in your life added value during the last academic year?

Having broad questions lets you really examine a lot of different aspects of the university experience so you can hone in on the parts that went well and those that could have gone better.

Set goals for the new year

Based on your reflections on the previous year, you can set new goals for the upcoming year. These can be as many or as few as you want to have. Normally, I like to have four or five, but I always highlight one goal as a priority goal which is the most important thing for me to work on.

It’s nice to do this well in advance so you can make some real actions plans (I know this is starting to sound like a portfolio entry, but there’s so much value that these things add) to achieve them.

Hopefully, that helps with some of your preparation for the new year. I know this is going to be a different kind of academic year and putting in the time beforehand to sort things out will be super helpful to get into it.

I hope you’re all doing well, enjoying the last few weeks of summer and living your best lives!

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