As the Christmas holiday approaches, most of us are gearing up for a spot of mince pie Olympics, boxset marathons and some well-earned chill time. It’s important for us all to recharge our batteries, so the notion of spending the Christmas break in full-on study mode may seem a little counterproductive.

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If this is your first time at uni’, chances are, your first few weeks were spent acclimatising to your new environment and new life. What no-one probably told you, is that, in those first few weeks, if you don’t pay as much attention to your academic life as you do to your personal, things can get quite difficult further down the line. “Such a lot of the learning is delivered in that first term” says Helen Duncan, Disability Adviser at University of Cambridge “

[If students] haven’t done an awful lot in the first three or four weeks it’s so difficult to catch up. When you start coming up to revision time, for some students it can be almost impossible to catch up again.”

Even if you have put in the hard graft, many students can become overwhelmed with the sheer amount of work that needs to be done in the allotted amount of time. “The Big Enemy is Time…because [some dyslexic students] tend to read more slowly and are having to re-read more regularly, they don’t really have enough time to go through the material. All students find not enough time is a problem, but if you actually process more slowly, time is a huge issue”


If you’re facing the Christmas holiday with the nagging feeling that your struggling more than you feel you should, now may be the time to take the bull by the horns and get yourself back on track. “Like all these things, don’t wait till everyone else notices there is a problem. Tell people quickly if there is, because if you put your head in the sand and hope that somehow you’ll get round it, by the time it gets to the stage where it’s not resolvable, it’s all too late.”

Tracking down your course leader to tell them you’re not quite keeping up with the work can be filled with all sorts of apprehension: Will they think I’m not trying hard enough? Will I not be allow to continue with the course? These worries are generally unfounded, “The thing is, everyone’s invested in the student being successful. People do want the student to come forward and say, ‘this is what’s going on for me’ and either hands up, ‘I didn’t work like I should have done and I’ve realised that’ or ‘I have been working hard but because the reading takes me so long I feel like I’ve gotten behind’. I think whatever the conversation needs to be it’s never as bad as you think. You would think that this is going to be a horrible conversation, this tutors really going to shout at me. The reality is that they are very invested in you doing well, they’ have heard it many times before, it won’t be the first time they have heard it and it won’t be the last either.”

Confiding in your tutor may mean they can take a look at anything you may have missed and check if you can pick up that material again? Are there some good notes or recordings that you can use. If not, you could suggest to meet with your tutor for a knowledge gap surgery to pick up on any areas that you are not sure of. Particularly if it’s before Christmas, you can be given some reading to do over the break that will help to get you back where you need to be.

So for this Christmas break, sneaking some extra uni’ work in between the mince pies, Brussel Sprouts and dodgy Christmas films, may be the start to the new year that will pay dividend, long after your New Year’s resolutions have faded.

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