When I withdrew from university, I was in the first term of my second attempt at first year. In light of the fact that the new academic year begins soon, I thought I’d upload something I wrote a while ago. I figured it might help some of you who may be going through this…
If someone told me last year, two years ago or even five years ago, that I would be retaking my first year of uni, I guarantee I would not have believed them.
Truthfully, my first year was a shipwreck but looking back I wouldn’t change it. I won’t lie, there are definite downfalls to retaking, (very irritating downfalls like marks being capped at 40!!!!!), but I’m coming to terms with that. It took some time but soon I realised that in order to take the fist step, I had to humble myself and accept that I was not the first person to be in this situation and I certainly would not be the last. Yes, there is a possibility I could be the only person on my course retaking, but lets be real: I am one person, this is one course and this is one university.
Seeing third years- the way they work and their standard of work inspired me. More so when I found out that some of these third years retook their first year. Oooh those graduate portfolios!! No word of a lie, they were absolutely phenomenal and to know that I could be that if I put my heart and soul into it is stomach churning. Yes it’ll be hard, very hard, but all degrees are. Honestly, it may not have been as easy to reach if I went into year two at the correct time. As I say, and I’ll probably say again, we are all on different journeys. It might not work for you but I’m hoping that repeating year one will work for me.
Before I go on, let me clarify: I’m not retaking because I was a careless student. Let me put it out there that I was always on time, I met all deadlines and I worked hard (although procrastination did get the better of me at times), things just didn’t run as smoothly as I thought they would. To be honest, I expected one thing and I got the complete opposite, which knocked me a little bit. Okay a lot (lol), but I sucked it up and did what I needed to do. My time management wasn’t always the best, but I can put my hand on my heart and say I tried. In the words of Sarah F ‘Not everyone gets things right the first time round’.
If you’re going into first year, I advise that you work hard to avoid retaking. Of course no one goes into uni thinking that they’ll retake, however remember that anything can happen and things don’t always go according to plan- stay humble. Having stumbled myself, my biggest piece of advice is this: Learn your work style. At some point in education you would have learnt that different strategies work for different people. Some people can start a whole project the night before and get an A and some will start 4 weeks before and get a C. Know how you work. University isn’t the time to test the waters. Have fun but know that you’re there for a very expensive degree. Uni is a choice at the end of the day, so make the most of your choice. Oh and try not to leave things to the last minute!!! It is possible to do a project the night before and get a decent grade, but that isn’t always the case.
It was pretty late in the academic year when I realised it was over. I had so much hope that the situation would turn around, but I knew- at the back of my mind I knew. I sat down with my dad and my older sister and explained that it was very likely I’d have to retake. Of course, we explored my options and that night I came to the conclusion that I would give it another shot. I remember talking to my support tutor and three close friends of mine. All of them admired my courage and determination whilst it sank in that I’d be doing year one again. Something I never saw myself having to do.
My journey is far from complete. One thing I do know is that I couldn’t do it without my Saviour, Jesus Christ. Oh how I cried out to Him. If you’re a student and you find yourself in this situation, know that it is not the end of the world. Of course you will probably go through ALL the emotions known to man- I know I did- but don’t worry they’ll settle in time.
Firstly I’ll say that if you find yourself in this situation, think about what is best for you. It can be so easy to get caught up in ‘’ooh what are people going to think?’’ or ‘’that tutor of mine will rub it in my face with his ‘I told you so’ ’’. Forget them. Life is not about pleasing people all the time. You’ve got to stand up and do what’s best for you. If that means retaking the year, so be it! If you want to do something, go out and do it. Be inspired- make the most of every situation. Personally, I’m using this as an opportunity to master my craft. Yes I’ve done it before, but I’m gonna do it better. You should too.
Secondly, use the summer to prepare, regroup and refocus. Read up on course material, there is always something to learn and/ or get a better understanding of.
Thirdly, think about where you went wrong. What did you learn? What would you do differently? For me, I learnt a lot. Course material and craft aside, I learnt about myself. I learnt to be confident, that things don’t always go according to my plan and there is hope and greatness even when you’re in the midst of a nightmare.
God always, always has a plan-even when it feels like you’re alone and everything is crashing down on you. He showed me that I truly do have to walk by faith and not by sight.
Next, be practical and do what you need to do to make sure you succeed. The good thing is you’ll have the advantage having done it all before. Share what you know and never be afraid to ask for help. If you struggle with organisation, make timetables and schedule time for work ensuring to highlight important dates like deadlines. If you find that you need a bit more help and support, speak to a tutor you trust/ get along with or find out about and book an appointment with a member of the student support team. You should be told about the members of staff that can help you further at some point during induction. You may even find that a tutor recommends someone who can help.
Fifthly play on your strengths! There’s no harm in doing something again if you did it well. Excellent at essay writing? Don’t change the way you plan your essays. Failed unit 4? Take the time to study and understand where you went wrong. I can’t express the importance of understanding briefs and the unit requirements- assessment components, methods, outcomes, criteria. Know them like the back of your hand, it is the key to help you figure out where your marks will come from and whether your work relates to what they are asking for.
Finally, my course was a fashion related course so I was producing a lot of research and sketchbooks. My last piece of advice from my former tutor may not apply to all but what he said really helped me: Lay out your work as if the person marking it is stupid and they have never seen the brief before. Let them understand why you did what you did, how you got to the conclusion, your thought process, EXPLAIN what you’re doing and why.
There is so much more to look forward to. I am so ready for the new year. This summer has been an amazing time for me to regroup and prepare to cross this bridge.
Let me end on this. Everything happens for a reason, you’re in this situation so make the most of it. Make the most of the time you have before you resume your studies, work hard, plan your time, make the most of the resources around you, ASK if you don’t understand, learn, learn from your mistakes- try not to make history repeat itself. Don’t forget to look to the future and enjoy YOUR journey, bask in THESE moments because life is what you make it.
Take care, God bless and much love always
Until next time