How to survive first year – Ellie McFarlane

So, you’ve got your place on a Bioscience degree at Lancaster university – congratulations! A science degree is pretty demanding so here are some survival tips from current Biomedical and Life science Department undergraduates.

  1. Keep on top of it!

In your first year, you will be set lots of assignments that are all worth a small amount of your overall grade. You have many modules all worth around 8 credits (out of 120 for the whole year). Within each module there are end of module tests, coursework assignments, lab reports, weekly online tests and the end of year summer exam.  This is very different to A-Level where your grade is pretty much determined by the exam at the end of the year. This means that you are constantly being assessed and so it is so important to stay on top of everything. Try not to miss any lectures and make sure that if you do miss a lecture, you watch the recording as soon as possible.

“My top tip is to not forget about the weekly online quizzes as they’re usually the easiest 10% of your degree!” – Abbey

“Review and revise lectures as you go along and do not leave it last minute to cram! This will allow you to balance your work life and social life well.” – Katherine

  1. Note-taking

University lectures are quite different to the type of lessons you are used to in college and school. This may mean that you need to change the way you take notes in order to get the most out of them.

Some students like to take full notes like in a college classroom which means that you get all the content written down and then can spend time outside of lectures quickly reviewing this. Whilst this is probably the quickest way to do things, it can be stressful to try to balance listening and taking in what the lecturer is saying and taking complete notes at the same time. Although some students do this by hand, many use their laptops or tablets. Typing can be a quicker alternative to writing, but many find that they don’t retain the information as well if typed.

Others prefer to annotate the lecture slides with key information that may not be written on the slides. Some students do this on tablets with styluses whilst others prefer a more traditional approach, although printing so much paper can be expensive.

Finally, some students take brief notes in the lectures of key ideas and then re-watch the lecture recordings in their own time and add to them. This is time-consuming but actively engaging with the content for a second time can be really beneficial to helping you understand and retain the information. Nobody said this would be easy! 

 “Try out multiple methods of taking notes both in and out of the lectures in the first few months to find what works for you, rather than sticking to what you are used to, as uni lectures are very different to college lessons.” – Ellie

  1. You get out what you put in!

University is a world of opportunities! Your lecturers are experts in their field, carrying out world-leading and internationally excellent research when they are not teaching. Make the most of this! If you are struggling with a particular topic, email your lecturer and they will be happy to help. Don’t be afraid to ask as this is what they are there for.

As well as lecturers and resources, make use of the spaces around campus such as the library and study zone. Being around other students who are being productive can really help you to focus instead of being sat in your room where there is a bed calling for you to get in and watch Netflix. Try out the many different study areas campus has to offer to see which one you like best. The LEC building even has it its own space full of greenery and plants.

“Make the most of your lecturers – complete practise questions and ask them to mark it and make sure you understand what is actually being talked about.” – Katherine

“Utilise the library as a place to really concentrate and get things done and find a revision style that works for you.” – Francis

  1. Friends

As well as a degree, there is a wealth of experiences and opportunities that come alongside it. It’s almost guaranteed that the friends you make at uni will be your friends for life. Managing your time effectively to be able to spend time with friends and flatmates is so important. These friends will help you to get through those inevitable tough times as well as be with you whilst you create amazing memories.

“Find a group of people you’re comfortable with on your course to help you study, understand things if you’re stuck and get you through the 6-7pm lectures!” – Amelia


Written by: Ellie McFarlane