Author Archives: Prepare for Success

Advice for Living in Student Accommodation

Communal living roomThis month’s blogpost is provided by Sophie Barber from Beaumont House, who provide student accommodation in West London for all UK and International students. Their accommodation is an inclusive, calm and supportive environment, ideal for postgraduate and international students.

Finding student accommodation can be a difficult task, especially if you are an international student coming to the UK for the first time. At first, it can seem as though all of your energy is spent on finding the perfect place to live! Then, it’s a big relief when you finally find somewhere.

However, during the busy period of finding somewhere to live, we sometimes forget that we will actually be living here! Whether you are studying in the UK for one term, three years or even more, it’s important to get some advice on living with other students. We’ve outlined some top tips below so that you can make the most out of living in the UK.

Socialise with your housemates

How you start your life at university tends to be how it will continue. In those first few days in your new room, flat or house, you will have plenty of opportunities to socialise with your housemates and get to know them. Everyone will be in the same boat as you, so there’s no need to be nervous.

You can start by getting a takeaway meal together, or playing some board games as a house. After a few weeks, you will probably find that you have already made great friends in your housemates!

Create a jobs rota

University accommodation can get messy – that’s just a fact. However, there are ways to prevent things from getting too out of hand! It’s a good idea to make a cleaning or jobs rota with your housemates. That way, everyone plays a role in looking after your accommodation and keeping things tidy.

The jobs might include taking the bins out, hoovering or keeping the kitchen tidy. However you decide to do it, make sure everyone is aware of their responsibilities and stays on top of things.

Work out a way to split bills

Although some student accommodation comes with bills included, there may be things that you need to work out with your housemates. These can include gas and electricity, the internet, your TV licence and water. There are a number of apps which allow you to split the costs between you, or you could set up a monthly bank transfer to whoever is paying.

Even if your bills are included, you will still need to consider shared household items such as toilet roll, washing-up liquid and soap. You can create a communal money pot for these items, or make sure that there is a fair rota for who buys them.

Set boundaries

While socialising with the other students in your accommodation is great, it’s also important to have your own boundaries, particularly if you have a heavy workload. If you’re stressed or just want some alone time, let your housemates know that you won’t be around as much.

This also works both ways, so if you can tell that one of your housemates needs to get their head down and do some work, try to let them get on with it.

Communicate

If you begin to get frustrated with one of the people you are living with, it is important to approach the situation in a mature way. There is no point harbouring grudges or talking behind their back as nothing will get solved this way.

The best approach is to address them about the issue in a calm and polite way. If you can communicate with your housemates, it helps any problems get solved a lot easier.

Be supportive

The final thing to remember about living in student accommodation is to be supportive of your housemates. University can get stressful and there may be times when they need a shoulder to cry on.

If one of your housemates comes to you with a problem, help them to find a solution or at least listen to them talk about it. Then, if you are ever having a difficult time in the future, you can rely on them to be there for you.

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Specialist Academic Preparation for starting the IB

StudyingThis month’s blogpost is provided by John O Brooks, an educational content developer, blogger and online tutor with an interest in software.

The International Baccalaureate (IB) is a global-standard academic programme run by the Swiss-based International Baccalaureate Organisation (IBO). There are other academic programmes available but the Diploma Programme is one that you could consider.

The Diploma Programme (DP) is a two-year pre-university course that you can take in your sixth form, college or last two years of high school, as an alternative to other qualifications such as A-levels.

However, you need to be enrolled at an IB-accredited school to be able to take the Diploma Programme. If you are studying outside the UK, there are about 4,000 such schools in 148 countries. But before you get carried away, it is worth checking out first if your school is one of them.

If you are an international student studying at IB or A-level at a UK sixth form or Further Education college, this will help you decide whether to take an IB academic programme at a school outside the UK.

Will you be able to get into UK universities?

Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that success in the IB programme will get you into a UK university. Although it is highly-regarded by UK universities, it is valued differently; depth of knowledge and involvement in activities related to what you want to study is often more desirable than a broad range of subjects.

If you are applying for a degree in the UK, admissions officers will look for proof that you are knowledgeable in the subject area. You will need to prove to the university that you are really interested in the field.

However, this does not mean that taking the IB will hinder your application. The truth of the matter is that there is high respect for IB students. It is just not necessarily as valuable as it may be in the United States.

What IB score do I need to get into a top university?

Another thing to consider when planning to enter the IB academic programme is the required score to qualify for an IB-accredited university in the US or UK.

In US universities, they do not release specific IB Diploma Programme cut-off scores. If you want to enter an Ivy League or more selective US college, you will need a mix of scores of sixes and sevens to have a chance of getting admitted. A score of 40 will make you competitive but a score of 38 is considered a good grade. If you are aiming for admission in an Ivy League college such as Princetown or Columbia, you would need to get a score of at least 36.

UK universities are much stricter when it comes to IB admission scores. They will not only consider your overall IB DP score but also your grades in specific higher-level subjects. UK universities commonly have different score requirements depending on the degree. Some universities even have cut-off scores across the board which makes admission much easier.

Both UK and US universities have a high regard for the IB programme because they are well aware of the difficulty and intensity of the programme. They also believe that the programme provides enough preparation for students for university education.

Studying

Tips for doing well in your IB academic programme admission test

Once you have decided to take the IB academic programme at a school of your choice, preparing is the key to successfully passing the admission test. Here are some tips on how you can pass this competitive exam.

Organise

Although some IB teachers will require a notebook for turning in assignments or a pen for exams, most do not really mind how you organise your materials. Organising your notes, handouts, and other study materials can go a long way in ensuring that all valuable information you need for the exam will be intact.

Take notes

You may find it difficult to remember everything from your lectures. You will be dealing with specific details that cannot always be easily retained by your brain. When taking notes, do not just use keywords but make a detailed summary of what the teacher is talking about. Use bullet points if possible and do not try to transcribe the whole lecture.

Complete work on time

The IB academic programme is such a fast-paced course, so falling behind on the lectures can be detrimental. You may not be able to catch up if you fall behind. Also, the work you submit will often count towards your final grade. Submitting homework or worksheets can be valuable for offsetting a low test or exam grade. Thus, you should try your best to submit assignments before or on the due date.

Find test preparation materials

A good thing about the IB programme is that there are already a lot of resources that can help you prepare for the exams, including books, flashcards and Khan Academy videos. There are online apps that can give good practice questions and quizzes as the exam draws near. It is good to start using these near the beginning of the course.

Do the readings

You will need to do a lot of reading in an IB programme. The lesson covered in the lecture may be expanded on in the reading. It is your responsibility to know both the lecture and reading materials for the exam. Without doing the required readings, you will miss out a lot of valuable knowledge. Find time to read the assigned reading material.

Be Confident

Having the right mindset is one of the keys to passing the IB programme. Treat them like a regular sixth form or high school course. The only difference is that they are faster-paced. Be confident and ready to work hard and you are on your way to getting admitted to the IB academic programme.

If you are on a low budget and there are not enough teachers, you can consider working with an online tutor. There are many tutors to choose from worldwide.

Image Sources: https://pixabay.com/photos/studying-exams-preparation-951818/ and https://pixabay.com/photos/man-men-hand-person-people-male-3653346/

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What can I do over the Christmas holidays?

Christmas treeThis month’s blog post is from Andrew Davey, Project Manager for Prepare for Success and Products Manager for eLanguages, the University of Southampton team behind this website. It is in response to a student question, ‘What can I do in the holidays?’

The Christmas break can be a lonely time for international students who are spending time in the UK away from their families. However, this doesn’t have to be the case! There are often plenty of activities to get involved with, and here are some you might like to try:

Go to a Christmas market

The UK has hundreds (or possibly even thousands) of Christmas markets and fairs. These range from the larger city-based markets we featured on our blog in 2016 through to smaller town or village fairs. Some markets even continue into the new year!

Go to a carol concert or Christmas church service

Carol services are a traditional Christmas celebration in the UK where many people get together, often in a church or cathedral, to sing well-known Christmas songs, known as Christmas carols. These are a great way to enjoy music with plenty of other people – it’s a good idea to arrive early! You can also attend a church service on Christmas Day (times are usually on local websites or outside churches) to find out more about Christmas. If you’d like to stay with a British family or enjoy a traditional Christmas meal, you can also look on the Friends International website to find out more information about this.

Meet up with friends

If you have friends staying in the UK over Christmas, why not meet up with them? There are likely to be other students staying at University or college over the break and they are likely to want some company as well. You could even hold a Christmas party!

Work on your course

Many courses have exams and coursework deadlines in January – so the Christmas break can be a great time to get a head-start preparing for these. Do make sure you get enough rest as well!

However you choose to spend the break, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from the Prepare for Success team!

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5 Tips for Postgraduate Study

Studying at a deskThis month’s guest blogpost is provided by Callum Dawson, a writer for Mears Student Life, a trusted provider of purpose-built student accommodation across the UK.

The jump from secondary school or high school to sixth-form? It’s a big one. How about going from sixth-form to university? Even bigger. There’s not much talk about the jump from university to postgraduate study, though, but there should be, because it’s monumental.

The change can be a big culture-shock if you’re not prepared. Postgraduate study requires far more independent learning than undergraduate study, not to mention a great deal of self-motivation. For this reason, we’ve collected five tips for you that will help you to succeed at postgraduate level. Here they are!

1. Pick a subject you love (but can still be objective about)

There’s a unique point to be made with this one. On the one hand, you want to study something that you’re passionate about, and something that you obviously enjoy. On the other hand, you need to be able to step back from the subject at hand and view it with impartiality. You need to be critical with the work. This is important if, for example, you’re studying English literature and you choose to write a dissertation on your favourite novel. Is that really the best choice – the one book you’ve held dearest all these years? Probably not. You could be too close to it – bias is the scourge of the academic community, remember!

2. Prepare for epic amounts of reading (epic in the actual sense of the word!)

At postgraduate level, there’s a lot more focus on reading around your subject. As an undergraduate, your reading list will consist of a limited number of texts, with the option of reading around the subject. You might not expect such an increase in workload when you move on to postgrad work, but the reality is that you have to make a big step up.

You need to show that you’re capable of extensive research and can go down avenues that you found on your own. It’s all about working independently and trying to do things a little differently.

When you’re planning your dissertation or thesis, pick a starting point (a core text, or maybe an overarching question that you intend to answer) and plot a few points which are mentioned to investigate. As you do this, you’ll land upon ideas that you may not have come across before. Basically, be prepared to read as much as possible! Postgraduate work is hard, but you’ll soon get the hang of it.

3. Talk about your work with others – it helps!

Although independent learning is, as we’ve said, important at postgraduate level, you should still engage in group work (as much as you may hate it!). Discussing work with your peers, or even a few family members or friends, will give you some precious outside perspective.

It’s quite common for postgraduate students to get ‘tunnel vision’, which is having too much focus on a single specific point. When you’re so far into your research and you’re so close to the work at hand, it can be difficult to look at the bigger picture. It helps to get outside of your groove every now and then and talk to others! You might come across a few gaps or holes in your theory – ones that you’ve not noticed before.

4. Rethink your strategy

The old phrase ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ doesn’t really apply at postgraduate level. Your revision strategies up to now may have been fine for your A-levels or your undergraduate work, but things are different now.

Your first few months of postgraduate study are perfect for trying new things, whether that’s revision methods that you’ve not tried before or learning-strategies that you’d like to try. Now is the time! The intensity has increased, and you need to be reactive to this.

We can say that what has worked well for you before may not work anywhere near as well for you at postgraduate level. You’re expected to up the ante, all in the name of academic progression.

5. Get a head-start on your reading

You’ll have been told this at undergraduate level, we’re sure, but it’s vital that you actually get a head-start on your reading list at postgraduate level. This is what your summer is for (although you’ll want to spend some time relaxing too!) Get out in the garden or head down to the park, and get yourself ahead of the game. If you are taking a pre-sessional English course before your postgraduate studies, this will help you to get used to the language and study skills you’ll need.

Every little bit helps. Get to grips with the concepts you’ll be tackling, as well as any bits of vocabulary or terminology that you might not be familiar with. You don’t want to start your postgraduate course unprepared, so it’s best if you do some preparation. You’ll thank yourself later!

It’s a big jump, but you can handle it.

With the above tips, we’re confident that you have postgraduate life planned out. With preparation, forward-thinking and plenty of reading, you’ll be in a great position to do your best!

If you have a question related to academic life and study in the UK and you can’t find the answer in the Prepare for Success learning resources, write it on the Question Wall and we will try to answer it here in the blog next time.

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How to Write an Essay: Tips for ESL (English as a Second Language) Students

This month’s guest blogpost is provided by Grace Carter:

Essay writing can be challenging for ESL students. Essays can be hard enough in your native language, but trying to organise and argue ideas in an unfamiliar tongue is even more difficult. Essay writing can be made more approachable if students follow a few simple tips.

Thesis statements

The basis of your essay will be your thesis statement – this is the point you will be arguing in your essay. Put some careful thought and planning into your thesis statement; it is the most important part of your essay. Try brainstorming some ideas, write down everything that comes to mind when you think about your topic. You can also try mind-mapping. A mind map is a diagram that starts out as one idea, then you branch out into words that come to mind when you look at your idea. Write out some arguments and connect them together, making sure they are directly related to your main idea.

Your introduction

Here is where you will introduce your topic and thesis. You will also want to get the reader interested in reading more and orientating them on your topic. You should also briefly outline the points you will be arguing in your explanatory paragraphs. Short quotes can be a good way to engage your reader, so as you do your research keep your eyes peeled for a quote you might be able to use for this purpose, and make sure that you take down details of your sources so that you can reference any quotes you use.

Explanatory paragraphs

A basic essay structure is the five-paragraph essay, which includes three explanatory body paragraphs. Each one of these should argue one of your three supporting points. State your point, explain it and expand on it, and then back it up with evidence and references. Prioritise clarity by breaking down complicated ideas into short, simple sentences. Supporting with evidence is important. Use different kinds of sources such as book references, statistics and quotes.

Concluding paragraph

Your conclusion should contain a summary of your main points and a repeat of your thesis statement. This is your final opportunity to make your case and drive your points home. Be careful not to add any new information in your conclusion; you should just be summarising and restating.

Try out some online writing resources for help

Writing an essay can be challenging enough when it is in your native tongue, but it can be especially tricky when you are writing in a new language. There are plenty of resources available that can help make the process more accessible. Here are some good sites to get started with:

  • ViaWriting, AcademAdvisor and StateOfWriting – Grammar is a common topic for ESL students to struggle with. English has many grammar rules, and they can be confusing. These grammar resources can help you to improve your knowledge of grammar, so you can use this knowledge to improve your writing.
  • WritingPopulist and LetsGoandLearn – These are blogs devoted to proofreading. Proofreading is a critical step in any essay writing process, but it is one that is often rushed. Read some blog posts and see what other writers have done to improve their proofreading process. You learn a lot from other writers’ successes and failures.

When you come to the UK to study, you will be expected to use UK English spellings so it is important that you are familiar with these.

Conclusion

Essays can be tricky, but hopefully these tips will make essay writing a bit simpler and more approachable. A good thesis, some well-argued main points, and a conclusion that summarises and restates the thesis make for a well-rounded essay.

If you have a question related to academic life and study in the UK and you can’t find the answer in the Prepare for Success learning resources, write it on the Question Wall and we will try to answer it here in the blog next time.

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