17 January 2013 10:26 AM

Dos and Don'ts for getting on with your parents during uni holidays...

So, the Christmas holidays are over, and If you're anything like most graduates these days, you'll have spent them at the Hotel of Mum and Dad. For many this will have been your first trip back home since they dropped you off at the beginning of freshers' week.

The first visit home can be a bit of a shock to the system for both parents and students - suddenly you're swept from your newfound independence back into a world of folded towels and having to phone home if you're out past 10pm, while your parents are confronted with an adult version of their darling child, who's no longer willing to account for their every move and may have picked up new and different views on life. Cue a few fraught weeks of arguing over milk, cleaning rotas and whose turn it is in the shower - think life in halls but with added parent-child angst. So, if you've had a few clashes with the family, here's a few things to bear in mind for future trips back home - or for when you have to move back in after graduating!

Do:
> Be gracious - remember that it's your parents' house, after all! Offer to cook a meal, wash up, entertain Grandma or walk the dog.

> Prepare yourself for a different atmosphere from the one you remember - you may feel very different since moving away, but chances are your parents won't have caught up with this yet. Patience will go a long way!

> Spend time catching up with friends from your hometown - share tips on how to survive! Plus, some time away from your family will make the holidays more enjoyable for everyone.

> Acknowledge how your parents and younger siblings are feeling, and be prepared to compromise on the small stuff. If your dad gets annoyed about people leaving dirty dishes unwashed overnight, is it really going to kill you to do it his way for a few weeks?

> Use the holidays to do a bit of graduate career research

Don't:
> Allow yourself to be pushed into a 'child' role again - although this might make your parents feel more comfortable in the short term, it's not conducive to a positive long term adult relationship with them.

> Revert to teenage sulking if conflict arises - you'll just sabotage your chance to show your parents that you're a mature, reasonable adult.

> Assume that because you've been to university for a few months and have taken a couple of debating classes, you are now in a position to be dismissive of your parents' religion, life choices, political affiliations or stance on the EU. Constructive discussion, yes. Hectoring, no!

> Get stroppy with them when they offer unsolicited advice. Of course, this is easier said than done - you may have the type of parent who wants to help you find your feet by asking 'helpful' questions like "Have you tried searching for a graduate job on the internet yet?" Grin, bear it and remember that in a matter of weeks you'll be back to the wonderful world of parties, cheap vodka and a diet of super noodles - so enjoy that home cooking while it lasts!

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06 September 2012 03:44 PM

The Survival Guide to Freshers Week: Practical and not-so-practical tips

Ah, Fresher's Week...if we could sum it up in two words they would be 'chatting' and 'queues'. You will spend the entire week non-stop gabbing away to all your new housemates, coursemates, randoms you pick up on nights out, and people waiting to register for their student cards. Which brings us neatly onto queues - you will queue for the aforementioned student card, NUS card, medical registration, library registration, etc. Not the most fun in the world when you've got a crashing hangover from one Sambuca too many the night before, but it's actually not a bad way to meet new people, which is the main point of Fresher's Week. After all, you'll be doing too much of this in subsequent uni years, so have fun and socialise while you can!

Practical stuff:

- Before you even think about cracking open that bottle of Malibu, make sure you register for the essential things that will keep you alive - doctor, dentist, student discount card, passport photos, library card, internet passwords, TV license, council tax exemption certificate.

- Store some local taxi numbers and the postcode of your halls of residence in your phone to avoid getting lost - nothing worse than realising you're stuck in a strange town at 3am!

- It goes without saying, really, but don't do anything stupid. 'Stupid' covers walking home alone at night, unprotected fumblings, accepting drinks from strangers, and anything else that would reasonably warrant a slap round the head from your mum.

Now, down to business:


- DON'T sit in your room and feel homesick. Contrary to popular belief, Freshers' Week isn't all about drinking - it's also about meeting people. Even if you're not the loud partying type, make sure you get out there and at least chat to your fellow quiet types - it's likely they'll be thrilled that someone has broken the ice, so don't be scared to strike up conversations. Feeling too shy to know where to begin? This video has some great tips for the nervous...

- Make sure you join at least one society. Societies can be a great way to meet like-minded nerds people with similar interests, so dive in. But don't spend crazy amounts of cash on signing up in your first week - many societies will let you come along to a few meetings first to get a taste for the action.

- Be open minded. One of the best things about university is the chance to make friends with people who are absolutely nothing like you in tastes, background, education or nationality. Don't automatically assume that you won't get on with the loud blonde girl with the double-barrelled name, the Morrissey lookalike with the hipster specs or the shy Japanese engineering student. Some of the greatest university friendships come from the most unlikely places, so expand your mind and give everyone a chance!

- Bring something to share with your new housemates on the first day. Everyone brings cakes or biscuits, so try something a bit off the wall - how about a football, party poppers, bubbles or a frisbee? It doesn't really matter what you go for - the point is to break the ice.

- Make sure you eat something involving fruit or vegetables to stave off the dreaded Fresher's Flu. At least once during the week.

- Make sure you register for all your classes on time - you don't want to start week two and be met with blank looks from your lecturers! 

- Most importantly, have fun!

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22 August 2012 10:58 AM

Postgraduate Study: The No-Nonsense Facts

Thinking about postgraduate study? Read this first! There are pros and cons to the postgrad route, and lots of potential traps for the unwary, so make sure you're informed.

The good...

  1. A postgraduate qualification can help you get into your chosen profession - for example, if you want to be a lawyer or accountant, you'll have to suck it up and do the necessary exams. Fortunately, you'll often be funded through these by your employer if you can secure a job with them first, so make sure you explore this option.

  2. If you get to the end of your course and decide you actually want to do something else, a postgraduate degree or conversion course can give you the qualifications needed to make the switch - think law, teaching, psychology or medicine.

  3. If you've got 1st class grades across the board and your whole world revolves around 14th century stained glass, cellular biology or solar physics, you might be one of those people who is cut out for a career in academic research. If you're one of those people for whom the world of academia fits like a glove and you can't imagine being happy working as anything other than a mildy eccentric professor, go for it! 

The bad...

  1. Not knowing what you want to do is NOT a good reason to do a postgraduate course. You'll end up in a pile of extra debt, and it'll be hard to explain to a potential employer why you chose to do the course if you didn't have a good rationale behind it at the time. You'd be much better off finding a job and saving up some money, or doing some voluntary work and building up skills and confidence.

  2. Postgraduate life is not like undergraduate life, so if you're thinking of doing another course just to prolong the student experience, think again. Being a postgraduate student is much more like having a job - more lone working and less socialising! It can be really rewarding, but it's definitely not the same experience.

  3. Postgraduate study costs a lot of money upfront as there are no undergraduate-style student loans available. In fact, there is very little funding to go around. To be in with a chance of getting funded, you'll need to be an exceptional student. It often makes better sense to either try and get a job in the field that will fund your studies, or save up some money and study for a postgraduate qualification part-time while you work.

  4. Sadly, many universities and education providers will try to convince you that their postgraduate courses are the best thing since sliced bread without giving you realistic facts about the tangible benefits of the course or the effect on your employment chances. Remember that they are primarily after your money! There are often far more postgraduate students taking a course at any one time than there are jobs available, but it's not in the course provider's interests to tell you that so they are likely to minimise it. If a postgraduate course promises the earth yet demands suspiciously low entry grades, it pays to do your research and go in with your eyes open.


In summary, there are three good reasons to do a postgrad course:

  1. If you absolutely adore your subject AND you have loads of research ideas, fantastic grades, glowing references from lecturers and the patience to write endless funding applications, by all means don't be put off. If you want to be a university lecturer, this is the necessary route, so go for it!

  2. You've known for ages that you want to be a clinical psychologist/solicitor/maths teacher and while you have good work experience and knowledge of the field, you have to do the course to get into the job you want to do. Generally speaking, if you are this organised at 21, you're unlikely to rush into anything blindly anyway. We trust you :)

  3. You have secured a job in a field you want to work in, and the employer is prepared to fund your course OR you have secured a job that means you can afford to fund a part-time postgraduate course alongside it.

No ifs, no buts. There are really no other good reasons to do a postgraduate course, let alone put yourself in debt in order to do so. We know it sounds harsh, but it's for your own good...

If you can't decide, why not take some time out? Remember that you can always go back to a postgraduate course in a few years' time, with more money saved up, some work experience and a better idea of what you REALLY want to get out of the experience.

To find out more about careers in academia, click here. To find out about choosing a career and assessing your options, click here.
 


13 August 2012 12:09 PM

How to write a 3,000 word college essay in 24 hours

Right. First things first, we do not recommend this as a regular strategy. Don't sue us.

We've all been there, usually for one of the following two reasons:

Scenario A - Your essay has been eaten by your USB stick/laptop/dog/flatmate
Scenario B - It's the night before hand-in and so far your essay exists only as a scribbled reminder on a post-it note

Yeah, we know - it's scenario B, isn't it? You're not fooling anyone. It's OK, we're all friends here.

First it's time for some positive thinking. Take a deep breath. Believe that it can be done. Take another deep breath. Imagine you're in The West Wing or, more aptly, 24. If Jack Bauer can save democracy in 24 hours, you can write an essay in that time, so stop whining!

Step one:
First things first, you're going to need enough caffeine to keep a small herd of elephants awake. Now is the time to stock up on your caffeinated beverage of preference. We recommend the diet versions, unless you want to emerge with an essay and a half-stone weight gain. Some other things you might need include: easy-to-eat, reasonably nutritious snack foods (bananas and cereal bars = good; family-size bars of Galaxy = not so good); lots of water; all your notes on the topic (you do not want to be hunting for that elusive-but-vital-to-your-entire-argument quote at 3am).

Step two:
Open your laptop and write down everything that springs to mind when you look at the essay title - it doesn't matter how inane your ramblings are at this stage, it's just a way of breaking through the panic. Rejoice in the fact that you now have 600 words or so of what journalists would call 'content'. Have some more caffeine.

Step three:
Utilise the power of the JStor abstract. Countless degrees have been built on this wonderful, wonderful gift to humanity from the benevolent online journal powers-that-be. Type obscure things like '15th-century gender studies' or 'history of macroeconomics' into this goldmine of abbreviated quotability and hey presto, you have the makings of a proper academic essay. Do your references and bibliography as you go along, unless you have a particularly masochistic streak. Under no circumstances should you attempt actual research - as in, visiting the library, making notes, actually taking things in. That has its place - this is not it. Desperate times and all that...

Step four:
Smoosh the results of steps two and three together until they resemble something approaching a logical argument. By this time it's probably around 4am, you are likely to be quite hyper from all the caffeine and your judgment may become impaired. Resist the temptation to add jokes, personal anecdotes and acrostic poems into your essay. Try also not to insert smiley faces, doodles, or impassioned pleas to the lecturer at this stage in the process.

Step five:
Go to bed and take a nap. Or at least do something else for an hour or so. Yes, really.

Step six:
As dawn approaches, re-read your essay with fresh eyes now that the caffeine buzz has begun to wear off. Greet your flatmates as they return from a night out. Bribe them into proofreading your essay.

Step seven:
Spellcheck, sense check, etc. You know the drill. Now get printing!

Step eight:
Hand in essay.

Step nine:
Feel elated. Then feel sleepy. Resolve to never, ever do this to yourself ever again.

Step ten:
Collapse into bed. You did it!

 

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