Term-time at Cambridge can be a very rich and full experience, with the fast pace of study and the huge range of other opportunities to learn new skills and meet new people, such as the student societies. University is about making the most of a full range of experiences available to you as a student, not just academic work. The Careers Service can advise you on how to use your time here to develop your transferable skills alongside learning and having fun. However, the study workload is high and you will need to develop good time management skills to get your academic work done to the best of your ability and fit in the breaks, social events, sports activities and leisure interests that you will need to ensure a good work/life balance and relaxation time.
Think strategically about your time at Cambridge. It is easy to become caught up in the short-term weekly round of supervision essays and teaching, but you will need to plan ahead on three levels:
- Short-term: Develop a routine for your weekly activities including regular activities (teaching or leisure) and short-term goals such as the weekly supervision essay. You will also need to do the same for vacation time, which may be harder outside the timetabled context of Cambridge.
- Medium-term: Set aside time to plan for and develop medium-term goals such as a dissertation, and to review how your weekly progress has developed and accumulated over the term. You might want to plan some time at the end of term (after a few days rest) to collate your work so that it is easy to find when you start to revise. You will also need to plan the vacation work, which is less geared towards a specific essay.
- Long-term: Your finals in Part I will be as much as two years away. It will be easier to review two years' worth of material if you plan your ultimate learning aims and organise your materials as you go along, perhaps using the vacations to supplement your termly work in a more strategic way. Revision will need to be started before teaching finishes, so you could start to incorporate a regular opportunity to review and consolidate material a long time before exams start.
Think also about your own preferences in managing your time, for example, whether you like to multi-task or focus on one topic, work in short bursts or longer stretches of time, and develop a strategy that suits you. Also plan some flexible time to accommodate the unexpected.
It may be worth experimenting a little to see what works best for you; you may be stuck in a rut with your study habits and may benefit from a change and fresh routines, or the new environment at University may mean that your previous study routines need to be adjusted. Your increased independence as a learner means that there may now be many more opportunities to suit your routine to your own optimum study needs and preferences.