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10 online resources for new university students

The student perspective series

The start of the academic year can be overwhelming, especially for first year students, and the resources available online are infinite making it a challenge to find useful and reliable information.

Amelie Streller
Amelie Streller
Marketing Intern at Turnitin and Student at Durham University
1. Making a timetable

At university, figuring out your own schedule is important. Set aside one hour to review your lecture and seminar timings, as well as any other commitments. Your university will likely provide a timetable scheduler. After finding your modules, you can easily keep track of them in your phone’s calendar. However, if you want something more creative, try using excel with different fonts, colours and highlights. Take a screenshot and add it to your favourites or phone home screen. Alternatively, this timetable maker is also a great option.

2. Planning your time effectively

Keeping track of assignments, seminars and any other work is crucial at university. If not done effectively, this can lead to last minute work which is often stressful. Tools that I have found to be helpful include Microsoft Excel, Coogle (a mind mapping tool) or Remember the milk (a to-do-list tool). These allow me to be more productive by mapping my progress, tasks and timings.

3. Skim reading

Reading lists may seem overwhelming at first but are easy to manage when you know how. If you’re required to do lots of reading, then it may be worth exploring reading techniques. A technique that I found useful is skim reading. This is an important skill to learn at university to become more efficient and faster at reading. Watch this video to learn how to skim read effectively.

4. Note taking

While at university you will realise that note taking is essential for your learning. A tool that makes this much easier is Evernote; a free platform where you can easily take lecture notes, make lists and track deadlines. It has helped me stay organised as key notes from lecturers and my independent work is recorded in a safe place.

5. Referencing

Your university will offer guidance on proper citation and referencing. The Internet is also a powerful tool for seeking out support. If you are referencing a journal, book, or website, there are online generators available to help, including EasyBib, Cite This For Me and Cite Them Right.

6. Conducting research

In most university courses, you will complete assignments that form a part of your grade. From personal experience, research must be conducted to gain a full understanding of the topic. A tool that makes research infinitely easier is Google Scholar where you can discover papers written about your topic. Using Google Scholar enables me to find information quicker and be more organised. I've found it to be a powerful tool that can be used alongside borrowing books and papers from my university's library.

7. Staying focused

Remaining productive at university can be difficult with so many social gatherings, society meetings and lectures happening daily. The Forest app is a game designed to help you focus and increase productivity. The longer you stay away from your phone, the more virtual trees grow in the app. The best part is that you can use the coins you’ve earned to fund the planting of actual trees. If you’re feeling competitive, consider playing this game with your friends to see who can stay away from their phone the longest.

8. Finding textbooks

Books can be expensive, especially on a student budget, so I recommend buying or borrowing second hand books. Although your university library will have copies, these can be hard to come by in exam season. Other options include checking in charity shops or purchasing an older version of the same textbook, since this will still contain relevant content while being a lot cheaper. Another option is Amazon Marketplace or eBay, where textbook options range from new to used. The more used the book, the cheaper they are.

9. Accessing careers services

Three or four years at university seems like a long time but the fun-packed semester goes incredibly fast. Make sure to use the resources that your university provides you, such as the careers service to find internships, graduate roles and temporary student jobs. Outside of university, have a look through LinkedIn which has many useful resources around these topics as well.

10. Meeting new people

Social media is a great place to interact with new students even before the semester begins. Check out your university’s Facebook pages to find fellow first year groups. If you see someone enrolled on the same course, why not send them a quick message? This will make your first few weeks at university less daunting. Trust me, everyone feels the same as you and is looking to make friends.

I hope these resources are helpful and make the start of university that little bit easier. With practice, everything gets easier, so push through those first few weeks and you will soon have mastered university!