How to Prepare for your First University Assignment

Moving to university is a massive step in your life. It will shape your first few years as an adult, propel you into the unknown and help you grow up, learn vital skills that will stand you in good stead for your future, and help you build a career. 

There are certain ways in which your GCSEs and A-Levels are formatted, and you’ll have become accustomed to how best to write essays in your school years to get the best results. 

All of this now goes out of the window when you enter university and you’ll be taking on coursework and exams that are the next level up from anything you’ve encountered before.

That’s not to say you should be worried though. As your first university assignment approaches there are some clear and effective ways that you can approach it. 

We’ve put together some helpful hints as to how you can best prepare for your first university assignments. If you are clever with your approach, hardworking and determined to succeed, you’ll do well at university life.

1. Attend All Your Lectures And Seminars

lecture and seminar

You are attending university to learn, and your lectures and seminars are there for you to take on board all the information and expertise that your tutors will pass on to you. 

You might find that it is a struggle to get out of bed on a daily basis and go to university after you’ve been partying hard during freshers’ week and getting to know new friends.

It is vital though that you get into the habit and that you attend everything. There are times you might not be able to attend, but always let your tutors know and try to get access to notes from those you will miss. 

The more information you take on board, the better your knowledge and assignments will be.

2. Plan Carefully And Be Prepared

sticky notes planning

The first thing to consider with any university assignment is that the best way to do well is to be as fully prepared as possible. 

Take the time to plan carefully and methodically. It is perfectly ok to take as much time as you need to look over the details of the assignment and to plan accordingly. 

Look at the criteria of the assignment, write down a list of all your ideas relating to the specifics of the assignment and think about what questions you need to ask and what the purpose and end result of the assignment is. 

Writing a plan at this point will help you when it comes time to write and complete the assignment.

3. Research Thoroughly

female with laptop preparing for assignment

This is the phase of a university assignment that takes the longest, but it can be truly fulfilling and will help you learn key research skills that will help throughout the cycle of your university course and beyond into your post-graduate life. 

If you are unsure about the types of sources that you need, take the time to speak to your tutors and ask the university library for help in finding them.

At this point, you should take as many detailed notes as possible, before working through and bringing the puzzle together.

4. Using Academic Journals

academic journal

One of the best ways to improve your referencing and research is to understand how to effectively use academic journals, rather than relying on Wikipedia and other easy to find Internet sources. 

Using peer-reviewed journals and books is the best way to enhance your university assignments and make sure your thoughts and opinions are based on a solid foundation of academic research. 

Journals are found in university libraries in both physical and digital form.

5. Write A Draft

writing research

Your first draft of any university assignment is important, as it is the first chance you get to try and bring together your research, notes and knowledge to try and get to that end point you’d written about in your plan. 

Put together a draft that is in some semblance of working order, but at this point you don’t have to worry about your spelling and grammar being perfect, just make sure you have a general draft written that follows the specific guidelines of your course.

6. Re-draft

woman with deadlines

This is the point where you need to schedule in a big chunk of time to look through your first draft and figure out what works, what doesn’t, tweak and amend things, delete, and add sections where necessary and then finally, proofread. 

At this point you are tightening everything up into a clear university assignment that is ready to hand in.

7. Understand How To Reference

man referencing for his first university assignement

This is one of the biggest changes you’ll encounter between school learning and university learning. 

Your first university assignment is where you’ll learn how to reference for the first time. It is an essential part of almost every single course at university, and you’ll find that your tutors will bring it into lectures and seminars early on in your time at university to ensure you get to grips with it as quickly as possible. 

There are different referencing guides and systems depending on which university and course you are studying, so always make sure you understand what is expected of you and always ask questions of your tutor and other students to make sure you are doing things the right way. 

There is no shame in asking for help.

8. Lay A Marker Down

writing in book

Think of your first university assignment as your first marker for the year ahead. In your first year of university, you generally only need to get a passing grade to go through to the second year. 

After that, your grades will go towards your final degree classification. This takes the pressure off the first year in some ways, but it also gives you a chance to hone your skills and your first university assignment is a chance to see where you are right now and to work out where you need to improve with future assignments. 

You can use this first assignment as a template and a marker to look back on in future and to see how far you have come.

As you can see, there are some clear steps that you can take to ensure that you are fully prepared for your first university assignment. Be fully involved with your lectures and seminars, utilise the university library to find journals and other academic sources, ask about referencing and what you need to do, and always have a plan of action and thorough research to back up your first draft. You’ll get there, we have faith in you to work hard and get results with your university assignments, whatever course you are studying.