10 things to know before you begin a history degree!

Written by Kesia Wills

Starting a history degree? Read on to find out the 10 must know tips before starting your degree. From getting a good nights sleep to making revision cards in advance, we have you covered!

1. Make time in your week to recharge

I know, easier said than done ! But it is essential. Take time out of your revision schedule or week to have some time to yourself. It is so important to recharge ahead of a new week so that you can make the most out of your degree and absorb all the new information. We all recharge in different ways- so find what works for you. I found exercise really useful, hey why not get to know your new city by walking/ running around it?

2. Try something new (but look carefully at the module specification)

Even if you know exactly what you want to write your PHD on your first day as an undergraduate, give something different a go. First year is a wonderful opportunity to broaden your knowledge, but do be cautious. Read the module specification carefully, there is no point taking a module that you are not qualified to take. I've heard many a horror story about students that have enrolled in classes to only then realise they are expected to be fluent in a language they have never even heard of!

3. Decide if you are going to write or type - and stick to it.

This one is easy. When it comes to revision it helps if you know where all your notes are. If you are going to type, back everything up ! Seriously do it ! I have had one too many close calls with loosing my whole dissertation. And if you are going to handwrite your notes, keep your notes in a folder (preferably a waterproof and a fire-retardant one)!

4. Read your specification and do your research

How will the course run? Who is the teacher? How will you be assessed (and does that play to your strengths)? If they are already released what essay questions take your fancy at first glance? Has the library got copies of the core reading? And if all else fails does the university allow you to change modules midway through the term?

5. Sleep

Everyone knows you should try your best to get a good nights sleep but it is equally important not to get too much sleep! Everyone is different and I was always amazed by some of my friends abilities to do all-nighters, but that's just not me ! If you have a 9am in the morning perhaps the club isn't the wisest of decisions. Equally lie-ins are for the weekends, stick to your alarm Monday-Friday. You'll thank me one day.

6. Prepare for your essays

As much as other people will undoubtedly tell you, you CANNOT do an essay in a night ! An undergraduate history essay requires a weeks worth of work - at a minimum ! Everyone works at a different pace but remember that you must allow time to read around the topic, research concepts and themes, include historiography, plan, and mostly importantly write !

7. When it comes to revision timed essays are a MUST

I must have spent more time making and colouring in revision cards than actually reading what was on them. Although revising content is always important I found timed essays most useful. They aren't fun but they do prepare you best for that moment of dread when you open that exam paper in the middle of the exam hall.

8. Speak up in class

Get your moneys worth! Questioning what you are being taught is the best way to enhance your understanding and develop critical analysis - a skill necessary to secure those top marks. Similarly it helps you get noticed by your lecturers and seminar leaders !,

9. When it comes to dissertations don't try to sound clever do something you love

I spent hours (if not days) trying to create a catchy, yet academic title for my dissertation. Don't bother! Your focus should always been on your content, you have to have a interest in what you are writing about otherwise you and your readers will lose interest very quickly. Focus on finding a lecturer that can properly support your research. Be practical, unless the university are subsidising your travel, are the archives that you require at a reasonable distance?

10. Enjoy

Although everyone has a different experience of their 'university days', I loved every second ! Enjoy questioning everything you have been previously taught, develop a lifelong passion for history and treasure this time researching and investigating the past!



Written by Kesia Wills




The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the InFocus History website or its editors.