• How to be a Student, by 2014 alumnus George Robson

    We promise no money changed hands, but George, a recent graduate in International Relations offers some honest advice on how students can get the best out of themselves at university. We couldn’t have put it better ourselves…

    “If you are looking for that ‘pass your degree after reading this article’ miracle, you should probably ignore this. Unfortunately after years of patronage to the temple of education (Google…) I can tell you without doubt that such an academic El Dorado does not exist much to the annoyance of the faculty. What you are going to find here is a brief overview of the avenues I traversed to take my grades from the lower 2:2s to my target of a mid-level 2:1. Passing my degree with a 2:1 is without a doubt the proudest achievement of my life to date (other than squeezing Michael Palin into my dissertation) so I thought I would pass on my advice. It may help or you may leave thinking, ‘what a fool’ but it worked for me!

    Stop kidding yourself

    Without this first step, the rest is just not possible and it perhaps requires the most honesty. Before I could move on with improving my grades, I had to accept that I was struggling and that this was my fault. The problem with this is that the phrase ‘hard headed’ suits quite a lot of students well, including me at one point. I have heard so many excuses for what is essentially a personal issue, ‘the lecturer does not like me, ‘I do not agree with the notion of identity and citizenship, ‘there is no positive energy in this room’, you name it I have probably heard it.

    For me, it was my academic writing style, it simply was not delivering. I was too colloquial, too simplistic, lacking in analysis and so on. My improvement began when I accepted that I was struggling and that I needed help.

    Just ask for help

    Quick and to the point, just ask for help. The faculty at Lincoln are second to none but they are not mind readers. This was without a doubt the best move for me, I reached out to several lecturers who knew me well and in partnership we began to ask the necessary questions about my writing style. In the end I garnered a much stronger idea of what they really wanted from assessed work, when I broke my issues down, I was generally trying to reinvent the wheel at every point.

    Find that inspiration

    The single biggest source of inspiration for me was the desire to achieve what I knew I was capable of. I did not want to look back on my degree in a few years and think, ‘I could have done better’, instead I wanted to look back and think, ‘yes, I did myself proud’. It may well be different for you, you may want that special job, or to make your parents proud, whatever it may be, cling onto it and use it as your fuel.

    Do the work

    Unfortunately, and I can sense your impending tears, there is no way to sugar coat this particular part. When all was said and done, I had to match my desire to succeed with straight forward hard work. That meant study schedules, time in the library, widespread reading and so on. It is a cliché, but it really is true, you only get out what you put in.

    Finishing up, ultimately only you can decide what is best, but you have got to be open to the notion that you need help to succeed. University work can feel lonely at times, so make use of your friends and faculty in those times of uncertainty and always be open to suggestions. Now, go to the library instead of sitting with Google!”

    We are always delighted to have students or alumni contribute to the blog, so if you feel like you have something to get off your chest about student or alumni life, have an idea for a post, or simply want blogging experience, do get in touch with us at awallace@lincoln.ac.uk

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