Student perspective: Staying motivated after receiving feedback

Steph, the author of the blog postby Steph Hook, French and Spanish student and Bristol Futures Advocate

We’ve all worked so hard on essay and exam preparation, but what happens afterwards? Receiving feedback can be both rewarding and helpful. However sometimes, it’s tricky not to feel disheartened if you receive feedback that you weren’t expecting. This happens to many of us at one point or another over the course of higher education, but it is important to stay motivated. The main thing from feedback is how we grow as learners.

 

1. Be kind to yourself

‘Be kind’ is something that has, rightly, been seen more over recent years. However, we often don’t offer ourselves the same courtesy of kindness that we would to others. I’m one of those people that reaches for a cup of tea in any situation, so personally I find myself putting the kettle on the moment that a mark has been released. That won’t work for everyone, it’s important to find your own cup of tea- if you can excuse the pun.

2. Look at the feedback comments, what do they mean?

It can be very easy after receiving a mark to close Blackboard and never look at the work again. However, the point of feedback is to help us grow as learners, which is what we are at university to do. Constructive feedback can be really helpful if you know how to use it. By accurately identifying what you need to improve on, you can increase the mark you receive on your next piece of work.

3. Focus on what went well too!

Human nature often means that we home in on the things that require improvement. A key feature of staying motivated is to focus on the positives too! Positive feedback is just as important as constructive comments, as it shows us what we should keep on doing. It’s also an acknowledgment for all the hard work that goes into a degree, which can be used as a boost for tackling future assignments.

4. Plan your next steps

To truly make use of feedback effectively, it’s not enough to simply read the comments. Think about what you’re going to do to give yourself the best chance of improvement in future pieces of work. Think about who you can talk to. Often, tutors will have office hours where you can speak to them. I’ve used this time before to ask specific questions on what I can do differently to gain more marks in the future. Do you have a friend on your course that you would feel comfortable talking to about the work? For more general advice, the Study Skills team have an array of tools which you can use independently to help yourself, from the Stepwise guide to writing essays, to Understanding essay verbs. It’s a resource on Blackboard that’s definitely worth a quick look at.

These are just a few things which help me to stay motivated after receiving feedback. Hopefully at least one of them will help you too.

Student perspective: The art of embracing dispiriting feedback

Photo of Tala, the author of the blog postby Tala Youhana, Law student and Bristol Futures Advocate

You’ve put in the substantial cycles of work, you’re certainly no stranger to long hours and late nights at your designated study spot, and you’ve exhausted all the caffeine in your system in hopes of finally receiving spotless reassuring feedback from your tutors. Nonetheless, the threshold you’ve been working tirelessly to meet, still feels out of reach. If this is you, then here are some healthy reminders to help you cope with and defeat the initial discouragement.

1. Accepting the mark is the first checkpoint

Oftentimes, we attempt to rapidly locate the mark before anything else in the feedback form, because it feels like glowing comments are distorted without a glowing mark. In my first year, I had professors disclose their own experiences with disappointing marks and remind us that such marks are not the be all and end all. Marks only go as far as a submission goes, so don’t let that dissuade you from the fact that you’re at university, because you worked hard to be here. Therefore, accepting the mark as a fair reflection of that particular submission would be a promising first step to moving forward. Ultimately, the larger the improvement, the more to be proud of when you’re done!

2. Interrogating the comments objectively involves personal initiative

Now that you’ve accepted your mark as a fair and accurate reflection of your work, you will be well-equipped to objectively evaluate the feedback. If you identify any issues, you will be able to investigate them further by preparing some questions. After this, you can make use of the many helpful resources available to you such as booking office hours with your tutors, revisiting feedback lectures, and perhaps even swapping papers with a peer to identify key feedback patterns, and ultimately gain a holistic understanding of the feedback given. Asking for help where needed reflects strong personal initiative and is actively encouraged.

3. There’s always room for improvement

No matter how you previously performed, it is advisable to keep your targets at least as high as they were prior to the feedback, if not higher! After all, feedback is far from failure, it is as the playful saying goes, “the breakfast of champions”. By visualising your targets clearly, you are then able to create a solid and detailed plan to improve on any skill gaps which you have encountered. The key point to stress here is that asking for help where you feel any doubts, either by consulting with your tutors or by making use of Study Skills and University resources, is a very important step forward, and one which you should be proud of.

To conclude, kindly note that this method is merely a guide and certainly not the only way of embracing feedback effectively- it is just what has worked for me when I had been hesitant with feedback in the past. The silver lining here is that feedback is meant to be critical, but when used wisely, it’s a chance to start over and progress!

Meet the Advocates in the Life Sciences team

We are Bristol Futures Advocates from the faculty of Life Sciences. Our role is to support you in your studies and help you expand your skills.

Aisling MahonyAisling Mahony

Hi, I’m Aisling! I’m currently in my third year at Bristol studying Biochemistry and this is my second year as an advocate on the Life Sciences team. I decided to work in the Bristol Futures team after the pandemic caused a switch to online learning. I had used the Personal Development Plan throughout my first year of university to help plan my growth both within my studies and in my career journey, so I understood how beneficial Bristol Futures and Study Skills can be to students. My experience as an advocate has been really rewarding and I’ve really enjoyed working with other advocates in the Life Sciences team to deliver workshops and run peer support sessions.

Breanna Goff

Hello, my name is Breanna and I am a third-year Psychology student. I have been working as a student advocate for a month now and I am loving it so far. I was interested in becoming an advocate as I wanted to contribute to the ever-developing learning environment we offer to Bristol students. The job itself is also really flexible for anyone looking for a job within uni. Since being a student advocate, I have worked with the amazing Life Sciences team to create workshops and develop future plans for Study Skills as a whole. Not only has this been an enjoyable experience so far but it has also allowed me to refine my own study skills to apply to my degree.

Carol HuangCarol Huang

Hey, I’m Carol. I’m a year 2 Plant Sciences student from the School of Biological Sciences. Throughout my first year Study Skills tutorials have helped me break down reports and essays, it really helps to have a look from a generic perspective to stop me from getting carried away in subject knowledge and forgetting the basics.

 

 

Emily Thomas

Hello, my name is Emily and I’m a year 3 student in Biomedical Sciences. I started working as an advocate this year, I thought it would be a great way to develop professional skills whilst contributing to the wider university community. I really valued the opportunities offered by Bristol Futures as a whole such as the Bristol Plus Award and found the online resources on Blackboard have some helpful tips on how to adjust to university-style learning and learning during the Covid-19 pandemic. This made me keen to get involved as I already had experience with Bristol Futures as a student.

Martina MattioliMartina Mattioli

Hey, I’m Martina! I began my journey as a student advocate in September and it’s been a great experience so far! It’s really rewarding to be able to help students both in drop-in sessions and workshops. I really enjoy the sense of community Bristol Futures tries to build; it isn’t always easy to feel a part of something at university because there is so much going on. I decided to become a student advocate because during my first year Study Skills tutors helped me a lot in my studies and adjusting not only to studying at university but also online learning and I wanted to be able to do the same for other students.

Jasmin Rahman

Hello, I’m Jasmin, I’m in my 3rd year of Cellular and Molecular Medicine. I have been a Bristol Futures advocate for a year and since starting my advocate role I have definitely become a more self-aware learner. It’s taught me to experiment with my learning rather than sticking to old revision methods as a force of habit. I’ve really enjoyed engaging with so many different students last year and I’m looking forward to doing more in-person advocate work this year!

Sabrina ChoongSabrina Choong

Hi, I’m Sabrina! I’m a 3rd-year Biochemistry student. This is my second year as a Bristol Futures advocate, I joined because I wanted to try something new and to feel what being a part of the university community is like as not just a student. It’s been really enjoyable being able to meet new people and help other students like myself integrate better into university life. As a student what I found the most helpful thing about Study Skills are the workshops. If you don’t use any other services or features in Study Skills, I urge you to try out workshops you think might be useful to you because it has helped me immensely throughout university.

 

Book a workshop with us or come find us at our Drop-in sessions from 1pm-2pm on:

  • Mondays online
  • Wednesday in the Biomedical Sciences Café
  • Friday in the atrium of the Life Sciences building

We look forward to meeting you!

You can find current drop-in times & locations for Life Science students on our Peer Support page on Blackboard.

 

What to expect from an online Study Skills workshop

Photo of Tala, the author of the blog postby Tala Youhana, Law student and Bristol Futures Advocate

Whilst it is now second nature for groups to arrange meetings remotely, this has hardly been common practice for long. In fact, for many, these online venues can still feel like unfamiliar territory. “Is my mic switched on? Will my Wi-Fi hold?”, you probably resonate with these if you are no stranger to using Zoom, Teams, Collaborate etc.

Nonetheless, negative connotations aside, online workshops can have numerous plus-sides that shouldn’t be overlooked, and a good way of experiencing them first-hand is by attending an online study skills workshop. So, what exactly can you expect from an online study skills workshop?

  1. Guidance on using Collaborate

Firstly, the hosts will often assess whether anyone is having any issues with using the platform and are always happy to help if you are! These sessions are often held via Collaborate and login instructions would be provided beforehand.

  1. Unpacking of the intended learning outcomes

To ensure the most productive outcomes for the session, it is common for hosts to assess what participants’ want to achieve by attending the workshop. A slide will normally appear detailing the objective intended outcomes, but feel free to contribute your targets here, as even if the workshop may not wholly deal with them, your contribution would be considered by the team for a future session! 

  1. Lots of questions – no wrong answers

A workshop, unlike a talk or a lecture, is completed only insofar as the participants are responsive with the host- therefore, it is as much your contribution as it is the facilitator’s. Most importantly, it is an environment where you can expect no wrong answers- a safe space to exchange your personal experiences and ideas, because by doing so, it will yield optimum results for you and others in the session. These discussion-based skill-building exercises are unique because they result in a bank of resources and ideas, and it will be up to you to simply find out what works for you!

  1. Plenty of live engagement with the option of anonymity

The unique aspect of an online-based study skills workshop is that tools such as Mentimeter, Padlet, and polls truly shine in this environment. The ability to retain some anonymity throughout the session whilst still being fully engaged makes online study skills workshops unique in sharpening the skills you are looking for. For me, these tools really helped promote reflective and critical engagement with my study habits and routines.

  1. A welcoming environment

I think it’s crucial to reiterate what a friendly and welcoming environment you can expect from these workshops. They are open to all students and are designed in a way that is accessible to those who speak English as foreign language, have learning difficulties, or are still getting started on intensifying a particular skill.

You now, hopefully, have a better idea of what to expect from an online study skills workshop, but the best way to really get that insight, is probably to try it out yourself!

Student perspective: How to make the most of your Reading Week

Photo of Tiegan, the author of this postby Tiegan Bingham-Roberts, Bristol Futures Advocate

If you are in the Faculty of Arts like me, it is likely that you have an upcoming Reading Week! For most Arts students this is Monday 1st – Friday 5th March, although some of you may have a different date range. I hope this blog will be useful ahead of Reading Week to inspire some activities you can do in order to stay productive and make the most of this time. So, here are my are my tips below:

 

(R)EADING: the clue is in the name, catch-up on reading!

If you didn’t quite manage to finish one or more of the texts you have studied so far in TB2, now is the time to set aside some time to finish them. Or, if you have an upcoming text that is quite long and will require a big chunk of time to read, you can use this week to get ahead and at least start reading that text. As a final year English student myself, there is usually always one ‘long’ text per Unit each term that is significantly longer than most of the others (remembering George Eliot’s Middlemarch from my second year here…) and Reading Week is a great time to tackle these head on.

(E)NHANCE: enhance your Study Skills by attending sessions and creating a study schedule

Now that you will be aware of roughly how much time it takes you to prepare for all your TB2 Unit seminars each week, how long it takes you to watch the pre-recorded lecture materials (be realistic – with pausing to take notes or skipping back to hear something you weren’t paying attention to for a few seconds – can make a 30 minute recording take 45 minutes!), and how long it takes you to do your readings for each week, you can set aside some time to create a study schedule. I personally find that writing into my diary/calendar a specific day and time to watch lectures, as if they were live sessions, to be really helpful. I also write into my diary/calendar when I am going to complete the preparation for all of my seminars, by paying attention to my usual working patterns and when I am at my most productive and energised to study. If you would like any advice on creating a study schedule that will set you up for success in the latter half of TB2, you can book into a 1-1 tutorial or drop-in session with the Study Skills team here.

 (A)NALYSE: analyse your feedback from TB1 assessments to spot common areas to improve on for TB2 assessments

You are likely to have received some if not all of your feedback from TB1 assessments by the start of your Reading Week, so it is a great time to look over that feedback again in an impartial way now that you have had time to digest the grade itself. This is a task that you often do not have time for when in the throws of writing a piece of academic writing or doing academic research – it feels like a waste of time to look back to past essays when you have so many future deadlines! However, Reading Week gives you the time to do this, and it can seriously improve your prospects of getting higher grades in TB2 because you can make specific changes and improvements. My other blog post, about using feedback effectively and building academic resilience, can be found here if you are interested to read more about this.

(D)ECIDE: get ahead on TB2 assessments by deciding on your interest areas

Check the ‘’assessment information’’ tab on the Blackboard pages for your TB2 units, to see whether your tutor has uploaded their essay questions document. They will probably have done this by Reading Week, because deciding on an essay avenue to explore in the latter half of the term is quite a common task for students to undertake during Reading Week. Even if you are not sure on the text, concept, event, framework, or author/scholar you want to write on, perhaps you haven’t studied the one that looks the most interesting to you yet, you will have a vague idea about what interests you and excites you when looking at the reading list. It’s also a good time to start thinking whether any of the tutors’ questions sound interesting to you or whether you want to devise your own question.

(I)NVITE: send some Zoom social invitations to your friends or coursemates

Now we move on to the personal side of Reading Week rather than all of the academic things. It is important to use this break productively, of course, but it is just as important to enjoy yourselves and do things that you don’t manage to find the time for whilst participating in normal teaching weeks. One of these things might be to catch-up with your friends or coursemates. At the moment in Bristol, with national lockdown restrictions, it is difficult to meet up in-person due to the rules apart from if you have a support bubble or are meeting one person for socially distanced exercise. Considering this, Zoom meetings (or similar platforms) may be the most practical way of catching up. You could organise a quiz (throwback to lockdown number one…), have a dinner date, have an afternoon tea meeting, have a cooking/baking session, host a watch party, and more!

(N)OTHING: set aside time to do nothing, to rest and relax!

All of the above activities are useful and involve actively doing something – but please so set aside time to do nothing. It can feel aimless to think of doing ‘nothing’, so you can make this more distinct by choosing a specific day of the Reading Week which you will spend doing whatever you like, whether it is sleeping in all day, watching Netflix, having a pamper session, going for a long walk to a place you want to explore, having a killer workout session, listening to loud music, doing some online shopping, etc.  Reading Weeks are designed to offer extra time for being productive as well as resting, relaxing, and rejuvenating. Letting yourself get burned out is never fun, so do something that will help to prevent this and allow you have consistent energy levels in the latter half of TB2.

(G)ET ORGANISED: clean and tidy your bedroom and organise your notes

Tidy space = tidy mind. During the chaos of the teaching weeks and the exhaustion of getting back into the swing of things since Winter Break, especially since TB2 started so soon after January assessments for many of us, you may not have spent much time on cleaning, tidying, and organising. Personally, I find having a clean house (albeit difficult to maintain in student accommodation!) makes me feel a lot more comfortable to work in productively. I also find that organising all of the random pieces of paper, receipts, letters, returns labels, that I have somehow accumulated over a month or so to help clear my mind. When you know that your room is tidy and contains nothing that doesn’t belong in there, it is usually a more attractive space to use. Reading Week is not only about replenishing your mind, you can also replenish the physical area around you.

Finally, thank you for reading, and have a great week! Do you have any other suggestions for How to Make the Most of your Reading Week? Feel free to share them in the comments section.

Student perspective: Study Skills – Your Studying Companion

Photo of Iskandar, the author of the postby Iskandar Bin Suhaimi, Bristol Futures Advocate

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t panic. Even if your winter break was naff and you didn’t get much studying done, there’s still time. Perhaps you just barely managed to pull through the assessment period, and now you have a massive backlog of revision to handle while also juggling term-time work. Why don’t you head on to the Study Skills website on Blackboard and you may find some tricks at your disposal.

Cartoon character Hey Arnold performing a magic trick
Credits: @nicksplat.com / Giphy

Managing your time

First, a schedule. You would likely want to identify your tasks and plan out how you are going to get back on track. Head on over to the Study Skills tab on Blackboard and click on ‘Time management’ under Online Resources. From time management apps to schedule analyses, I’m positive you’ll find something handy.

Talking it out

You know what you want to do, now to actually go about it. If you’re unsure how to proceed, I suggest booking onto a Drop-In with a friendly student advocate. Once you book in, you can relay any questions or concerns you have about your studies and they can direct you to various useful resources such as subject librarians, the Centre for Academic Language and Development, and the Student Wellbeing Service – all tailored to your needs. Besides being specifically trained to signpost you to the University’s services, they can also be equally fun to chat with as well (just don’t ask us to work on your essays please)!

Getting things done

A few essays here, a coursework there, and a research project to finally give attention to. The Study Skills’ online resources tab is jam-packed with useful tips from critical writing to exam tips – all at your fingertips (excuse the bad joke)! For some writing practice, you can also book on to a weekly Wordsmiths workshop where you can hone your academic writing with zero judgement! Once you’re done with a draft, it might also be prudent to book a slot with one of our specially trained tutors who can assist in reviewing your work.

Naturally as a law student I may a bit biased towards essay-based resources, but Study Skills also run a Maths and Statistics club, Coding club and other ad hoc workshops you may find useful; so keep an eye out for them!

A conducive ecosystem

You’ve got your tools, you’re cracking on, and everything is going great isn’t it? Until you realise that studying alone can be isolating at times. What’s more, you may find that the new blended learning approach may not provide as many contact hours as you were used to. The library could be an option, but not if you’re studying remotely and even then you can’t communicate with people.

Under these circumstances, might I suggest booking onto an Online Study Lounge? This Study Skills initiative provides a space to study with other people with a scattering of interesting conversations and activities throughout, including an opportunity to have some structure to your day which if you’re like me, is much needed.

All best

As a fellow student trying to stay on top of things, I hope this article has proved useful! Study Skills is part of a larger framework called Bristol Futures that also includes the Bristol Plus Award, the PDProject, and a lot more. While I encourage you to explore what’s on offer, remember that your friends and/or family are always just within reach if you ever need extra support 😊

Goodluck!

 

 

 

Letter to my undergraduate self: Beckie Arden – ‘failure will help you recognise what to do to succeed’

In a nod to the Big Issue’s regular feature Letter to My Younger Self, we’re asking staff to think back to their own experiences as a student and tell us what advice they would give to their undergraduate selves.

This month we hear from Beckie Arden, Study Skills Tutor.

 

What and where did you study? 

Biology and French at Sussex University.
Which turned into just Biology at Sussex University.
Which then became Human Science at Sussex University.

Did you experience culture shock when you started university?

Yes! I found university a huge challenge in my first year. I was a hardworking student from a small rural town in Devon. I worked hard because I was terrified that if I didn’t, I’d fail. However I also felt that all my academic success was down to chance. I assumed it was luck that led to my GCSE success, or my strong A ‘levels, none of it could possibly be down to actual ability or hard work. Luckily I had some very intuitive teachers at school that spotted my ‘imposter syndrome’ and tried their best to help me. Things were a bit different at Uni. Huge lecture halls, the conveyor belt of practical classes, brief and infrequent seminars or tutorials. No one knew who I was or what I was thinking. I had to work very hard to overcome my insecurities myself. I nearly quit many times in that first term. I very nearly didn’t return after the winter break. But then I managed to take control of a few things. I changed my accommodation as I was very unhappy in my first flat. I managed to drop the ‘French’ part of my degree, because it was just not working out (I hadn’t actually done French A’level). I found some balance. Things seemed a bit more manageable. And I felt that I had some control over my journey through this very unfamiliar world.

What was your biggest failure and what did you learn from it?

So after two years of a Biology course that I was succeeding in but wasn’t very excited by, I discovered my perfect degree course; Human Science. It involves five major subjects – Biology, Anthropology, Philosophy, Psychology and Linguistics. Look it up. It’s amazing.

But I was a scientist. I had aced my science A’levels and that was why I had applied to do science at university. I could do science. I knew what was expected. So when I got 41% for my first anthropology essay (honestly I’m not even sure I knew what anthropology was at that point) it was quite a shock. I realised that applying the same approach to studying and writing in anthropology as I had in biology wasn’t going to work. I needed to learn how to read, think and write for anthropology. I came to see that for each of my new subjects, there was a skill-set that I had to employ, a way of doing things for each that was distinct. It was my first experience of learning how to learn.

What are you most proud of about your time at university?

That I persevered. I was unhappy at the start, but I changed things and made things better rather than giving up. I asked questions I didn’t know I could ask – like ‘please can I change my degree’. I carved my own path through a very alien setting, despite the culture shock and the imposter syndrome, and I achieved a 1st class degree on a course that even today I could talk about for hours because I loved it so much. I’m proud that I made it work.

What was the best bit of feedback you received? 

When I failed my driving test I was told ‘failure will help you recognise what to do to succeed’. I wasn’t keen on hearing it at the time, but this feedback came flooding back to me when I struggled with that anthropology essay. I had been terrified of failure. This fear underpinned the mammoth efforts I put into my work. However I learned that my understanding of how to study and how to achieve was unlocked once I had experienced failure.

What advice would you give to your undergraduate self?

Take every opportunity offered and keep your ears and eyes open for what’s available. I didn’t use nearly enough of the support that was available as I just didn’t know it was there, and I didn’t join nearly enough clubs or societies, as I just didn’t realise that you could. Also maybe don’t wear tin foil and cling film to the freshers ball, and go easy on the free margaritas on salsa night.

Student perspective: Assessment deadlines – meeting and managing them

Photo of Claudia, the author of the postby Claudia Raymond-Hayling, Second year Theatre and English (BA) student and Bristol Futures Advocate.

As the winter break approaches, many of us have upcoming deadlines and assessments. This can seem daunting, but there are some really simple ways that can help you manage them, ensuring your deadlines are met and completed to the best of your ability.

 

Establish how your modules are assessed

On blackboard, there’s usually an ‘assessment’ section to each module. This should help you find out how you are going to be assessed and how each assessment is weighted. This is really useful to know, as different methods of assessment require different skills. If you’re aware of anything you need to work on earlier, then you’ll have as much time as possible to work on these specific areas. If you regularly check your module information, you’ll also keep updated with any extra assessment information that will help you.

Find the dates of your deadlines and exams are as soon as possible

Write down these dates – I find it useful to write this on my calendar, so I can visualise the due dates in relation to other things I have going on. However, you could also write them down on a note somewhere that’s visible, so you are always aware of the due dates, and there’s no chance of you missing a deadline. If dates or assessment information have not been released yet, make a note of it and email your tutor to find out.

Look at the essay questions and exam topics in advance

This will give you a clear idea of what topics and information you’ll be covering in your assessments. When you’re in your seminars and lectures, it’ll help you think about the information to particularly focus on, making delegation of tasks easier during term time.

Email your tutors

Your tutors will always be happy to answer questions you may have, so make use of their expertise when thinking about any specific queries in terms of assessments. Alternatively, ask other people on your course for advice – you’re in the same boat!

Attend study-skills sessions

Study-skills will equip you with the skills needed that can be applied in exams, essays and coursework, through discussions with other members of your faculty. These sessions are very insightful and can be attended through workshops, drop-ins and ­bookable sessions.

Don’t be afraid to ask for extensions if you need to

Sometimes deadlines for certain assessments can feel quite overwhelming and extensions can be very helpful when needing to complete a piece of work. Whilst there are restrictions due to COVID, it is the upmost importance that your mental health is a priority, and extensions can be invaluable during times like this.

Take breaks

Whilst making lists and revision notes can be helpful, taking time away from your studies can be just as beneficial when managing deadlines. It’s important to have a balance and doing things you enjoy outside of your studies can boost your motivation!

I really hope these tips will help with managing your deadlines, and whilst different techniques of working help for different people, it’s worth trying to implement a couple of these and see how you go. Good luck!

Student perspective: Staying motivated in the lead up to and during Winter Break

Photo of Tiegan, author of this blog postby Tiegan Bingham-Roberts, Y3 BA English student & Bristol Futures Advocate

There are only three weeks left of TB1… congratulations on making it this far! I for one am certainly looking forward to a break, especially to spend some time doing activities that do not involve staring into the abyss of my laptop screen all day every day. I might do some baking, go for some walks in the countryside of my hometown (weather dependent of course, which does is not a great dependent if you live in the UK like me), read some books that are completely unrelated to my English degree, and catch up on the extra hours of sleep that ran away from me this term. I hope you are also planning on doing some relaxing activities, whatever they may be for you.

Before you can do those activities, though, you must get past the finish line. Especially with the recent updates that all teaching is going to be moved online gradually from the 3rd December, you might be feeling worried about how to stay motivated. If you are staying on-campus, the lack of in-person teaching may impact your motivation because you feel as though you are being held less accountable for how much work you put into your studies. If you really enjoyed the in-person teaching, you might be worried about being less engaged with your learning materials. In general, you may be feeling unmotivated purely for the fact that you are tired of 2020 and all the changes it continues to bring to our lives. If you are returning to your non-term time address, if you have one, you might struggle to stay motivated because you are no longer surrounded by other students and so it feels as if the Winter Break has started early, even though it has not.

However, and this is a big however, it is hard to escape from the reality that Winter Break is not truly a ‘break’, because unfortunately we cannot switch off our student status as soon as we leave the classroom. I know that every student, no matter what course they are studying or what year group they are in, will have tasks to complete over the Winter Break – whether that be essays, reports, research, exam revision, reading, proposals, job applications, internship applications, volunteering, part-time jobs, the list goes on and on…

Alongside these tasks, comes the big distraction of Winter Holiday Celebrations. During the final few weeks of term and in the month and a half that follows, you might be participating in one of the many festivals happening across the globe, perhaps in a different capacity this year due to coronavirus restrictions. Between the tasks you have been set to complete over the Winter Break, and the festivities of the season, it is understandable why many students get sucked into the intoxicating fun of it all only to soberly panic as our deadlines or exams quickly approach before our TB2 timetables start.

Here are some things you can do to stay motivated amidst all the chaos, excitement, and relaxation:

· Remind yourself of what you have achieved so far in such strange circumstances of a global pandemic, why you are here at University, and why you want to do well. Sometimes it is easy to forget how far you have come as you get wrapped up in deadlines and what can feel like aimless days of staring at your screen, but there is a point to all of it – to get your degree from a top University. This is very cliché, but the phrase ‘it will all be worth it in the end’ is apt here.

· Make sure your goals are realistic. Whether these are daily or weekly goals, have them noted down somewhere such as on a physical or virtual notepad or calendar. Make sure they do not completely fill your time, as often unexpected things come up or things may take longer to complete than you initially realised. Allowing flexibility means that you will be much more likely to achieve the goal by the end of the day or week. I get so much satisfaction from being able to tick things off my to do list and go to sleep each night knowing that I can truly relax and watch a bit of Netflix without feeling guilty for it.

· Create a study space. This is going to be easier for some students than others depending on your living situation, and my advice here is to work with what you have got to the best of your ability; try to get creative. It might be that you clear one area of the room you are staying in to be a blank canvas so that you are able to focus, it might mean stacking up a pile of academic books in your space to serve as a reminder that you are still a student!

· Check in with your peers on your course or other students you know who are studying different subjects – ask them how they are doing, what work they have managed to do, discuss deadlines, peer review each other’s work. I find that having somebody to hold you accountable for what you have been up to can be a great motivator, and even having a small conversation about University life can help to jog your memory and get you back into the right mindset of being a driven and determined student.

· Book onto one of the Bristol Study Skills Online Study Lounges. These are a fantastic way to study with and meet other students whilst studying remotely.

· Check out the Bristol Study Skills resource online about Studying From Home, which breaks down different ways of studying remotely which is what we will all be doing from between 3rd-9th December onwards until the end of January (if in-person teaching resumes of course).

I hope the rest of term goes well for you and that you have found this post useful for thinking about motivation over the Winter Break. What activities are you most looking forward to during your rest days?