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8 Things to do in Fresher’s Week 2017

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Make each Freshers’ week 2017 moment count with my 8 top tips for super smooth Freshers’ week success:

 

1.Get out there and make as many friends as possible both in halls and on your course. Locate potential buddies in lectures theatres, seminar rooms, hanging out around your department, at the Freshers’ Fair and lounging on the Students’ Union sofas.

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2. Get cracking on reading the material on that book list. Fresher’s week fun is clearly top priority on most students’ intro to uni check list but wild nights aside you will be hitting the ground running when it comes to that first class so best be prepared in advance.

 

3. At the Freshers’ Fair sign up for as many clubs/societies as you can and ‘follow’ any others that take your fancy too in case you can squeeze in time to join that wakeboarding society…and if you change your mind about bonding with other like-minders at that Harry Potter Appreciation Society.

 

4. Stock up on paracetamol, bacon for greasy mid-morning butties and doggie bag your left over pizza and if you’re planning to party hard. Or go natural and healthy and make sure you keep hydrated with water throughout the week, sip green tea or orange juice and tuck into plates of scrambled eggs on toast.

 

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5. Check out the lay of the land to familiarise yourself with what’s where and when. Yes, you do need to locate the student bar but you will also need to familiarise yourself with where your department lurks, where the lectures and seminars will take place, what amenities there are, where the sports facilities are to be found…

 

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6. Locate the nearest discount supermarkets in town. You’ll be a frequent shopper here for the foreseeable future so you need to know where to get the best croissants, muffins, cakes, beverages, veggies and fruits. Plus discount supermarkets are also rather good for yoghurt, cheese, gluten free products, household cleaning materials, tin foil, cling film and plastic bags of varying sizes.

 

7. Familiarise yourself with the place you’re living in too. Find out where the cinemas are, local library, art galleries, bookshops, best bars and cafes and dance destinations. Check out where the local chippy is too for when the late night munchies come on and what time the last night bus leaves to get back on campus.

 

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8. Phone home. Your parents will probably be crying into their pillows every night for the next 6 months at the fact that you’ve flown the nest for good. Or perhaps not! But whatever it is, be decent a give them a call at least once during Freshers’ week to let them know how things are going.

 

 

 

If you’ve followed all that, then I’m impressed! You’ll be hard pressed to fit much more than that into a week. One more tip though…whatever happens and whatever you do enjoy, enjoy, enjoy. You’ve worked hard to get into uni so take full advantage and love every moment.

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Coaching based Academic Skills Training Programmes for university students

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Why I think Coaching based Academic Skills Training Programmes are essential today for university students studying in UK universities.

 

Over the past 4 years there has been much talk about how to give university students in the UK better value for money. Students are feeling that they are getting a worse deal now that university fees have soared and so universities themselves are rightly asking questions about how to offer a better quality service.

 

The annual HEPI/HEA Student Academic Experience survey published in June revealed that students feel most disgruntled about their perceived lack of value for money. When you’re investing £9,000 a year you want something for it.

 

The survey finds that a lack of communication between what students expect and what universities are providing lies at the root of the problem. And this is not just simply about the types of courses universities provide. In fact, there are various layers of miscommunications in their preparation for life beyond the lecture halls and within the student experience.

 

Many students feel abandoned and unable to manage. An article published on The Guardian’s Academics Anonymous blog on 11th August 2017 supports this view that students are not sufficiently equipped for the changes into adult education and professional life after school. https://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/2017/aug/11/how-do-you-finish-a-phd-when-you-dont-feel-you-belong-at-university#img-1

 

One way to close this miscommunication gap is to provide Coaching based Academic Skills Training Programmes. 100% of home and international students I asked said that they would use this kind of service if it were made available. Types of Academic Skills Training Programmes already exist in some UK universities.

 

However, these are currently called ‘Pre-sessional’ and are only provided for international students who are entering the UK higher education system for the first time. Some of these ‘pre-sessional’ programmes are also more focused on English language training rather than pure academic skills training which limits their effectiveness.

 

However, Coaching based Academic Skills Training Programmes would be beneficial for both home and international students because they not only train students in pure academic skills but also help them to boost their confidence and understand what might be stopping them from reaching their potential.

 

In fact, Coaching based Academic Skills Training Programmes have 8 key advantages.

 

Coaching based academic skills training programmes:

 

  • give students the knowledge to get a better quality degree – perhaps a 2:1 instead of a 2:2 or even a first class degree. With a structured knowledge of academic skills, students will feel less confused and more confident in their own academic abilities.
  • boost students’ confidence and consequently motivating them to do better than they may have done
  • equip them for academic realities such as lectures, note-taking, seminars, public speaking, library research, debating etc
  • give them life tools for social and professional relations post-graduation
  • teach students how to find information out for themselves
  • highlight that UK higher education environments are not places where the teacher stands at the front of the class and gives you the answers but places where you are provided with the spark for motivating your own research
  • give you the maturity to manage academic demands
  • help them to become better critical thinkers, problem solvers and decision-makers

 

These 8 advantages would indeed help students to have a better experience and make them more appealing to employers.

 

 

 

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3 key ways Life Coaches support international students

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I worked as a Life Coach supporting international students at the European Innovation Academy in Turin, Italy for 3 weeks in July. The world’s largest extreme entrepreneurship program sees budding international student entrepreneurs from over 70 countries take their ideas to tech start-ups in just 15 days.

 

There are 3 key ways in which we as Life Coaches provide support for the students throughout their entrepreneurship and innovation journey:

 

  • Multi-cultural team building – In the first few days we set up ‘clinics’ to promote the formation of international teams, giving them a platform to pitch their ideas and send out appeals for specific roles such as in design or marketing or if they are in need of a CEO. We are also there to assist with any intercultural issues that may arise when people from different countries work together.

 

 

  • Social relations and self-enquiry – We are on hand to help the multi-cultural teams of 5 manage their social relations with the other team members, their mentors and fellow entrepreneurs. We support them when they are grappling with the challenges of undertaking their own individual roles, learning how to communicate with others and when they are feeling disheartened with their own performance.

 

 

  • Pitching & listening – We make sure that all teams have booked sessions with their pitch mentors and are busy practising their pitches over and over again in time for the pitch carousel on the last day. We help coach the teams to perfect their pitches, offering feedback, advice and suggestions if requested. Or we are just simply on hand to listen to anyone who wants to get things off their chest, any students who would like advise on next steps, suggestions for reading material or to reflect on the massive learning experience and journey they’ve been on.

 

 

The important role that Life Coaches play in the program means that the students feel fully supported during their experience. For many of them, it might be the first time they have been so far away from home. It can be the first time they’ve worked with people from so many different countries. And the first time they have had to face up to their own fears, learn to manage their own insecurities and have the courage to put themselves out there and set up a business.

 

Deeksha Singh one of this year’s participants tells us how she felt that my Life Coaching sessions helped her raise her own awareness of such issues…

 

“There are certain things in life that you know, going in, will be emotionally intense, such as academic journeys, or competitions.  The European Innovation Academy, being both, was a rollercoaster of emotions, solely because it was designed to test your mettle. To see if you had what it takes to survive in quicksand. I was initially wary, but conversations with Lara helped me discover tools I didn’t realize I had, to rise up to the challenge, while she gently introduced me to new ones. The idea, she kept subtly reinforcing, was to let your so-called limitations challenge you, rather than define you. Every insecurity, she reminded, stemmed from a person’s urge to improve, to be better. It proved that you were open to change, which was (I later realized) what the EIA journey had been about all along.”

Deeksha Singh Vijay Singh

Deeksha Singh

 

Read Deeksha’s blog account of what 3 weeks on The European Innovation Academy’s Extreme Entrepreneurship Program was really like https://arocube.wordpress.com/

 

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Leaving home for university

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If you are planning to leave home and go to university this September there are a number of things you might like to take into consideration before packing your bags and waving goodbye for the next few months.

 

Here are my Top 5 tips:

 

  • Know the demands of your course. It might seem pretty obvious but read the prospectus carefully and understand what research or reading you might need to do beforehand. It is also critical that you are going to be able to work and think independently in order to take effective notes, participate in seminar discussion, do library based research, reading and digesting long form text, work to deadlines and juggle heavy workloads that kick in before you know it. You will find yourself having a number of assignments on the go at the same time. and you have to be able to deal with it.

 

  • Get your accommodation sorted. Halls of Residence is usually the recommended option for Freshers. It gives you a sense of community, a degree of safety, you’re with people in the same position as you are, people thrown together can help each other. However, remember that sadly not everyone is an angel. We have to be on our guard too. The alternative is to share a house or flat. This gives you more choice of who you live with and even more independence and autonomy to do as you please. However, I wouldn’t recommend living alone. You need people for company and to talk about things when you first leave home.

 

  • Student deals. For money conscious students you can check out deals on a number of sites that cover uni essentials, eating out, clothing, travel, insurance, finance etc.
  1. https://www.myunidays.com
  2. https://www.nus.org.uk/en/nus-extra/
  3. http://www.savethestudent.org/
  4. https://www.studentmoneysaver.co.uk/

 

  • General household and kitchen essentials. Don’t forget to buy crockery, cutlery, towels and bedding etc. You don’t want to have to rush out any buy them when you first get there! Best to do that with mum and dad or a bunch of friends before you go. That makes it a nice way to include your nearest and dearest in a new chapter in your life. Plus when unpacking it helps you to feel at home and create a relaxed atmosphere.

 

  • Common sense – it should rule every part of your life and can keep you out of a lot of trouble – safety wise, health wise and relationship wise. Perhaps surprisingly, a lot of people can lack in this area – even the most academically minded person. Things like not opening bills, not switching off appliances in the home before going out, leaving bank account details lying around for anyone to see etc. The list could go on! So, protect yourself people with a bit of self-awareness and the common sense will start to happen!

 

Check out the complete university guide below for more information:

https://www.thecompleteuniversityguide.co.uk/preparing-to-go

 

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How to choose a university (now ‘A’ Level results are looming)

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How to choose a university now ‘A’ level results are looming? You sent off your UCAS form https://www.ucas.com/ ages ago but now ‘A’ level results day is fast approaching and you’re starting to be very aware of the important life choice you’re about to make. You have probably already made a decision but don’t underestimate the importance of reassessing your options and your choice so far. This is something that you should do over the next few weeks to be sure that you are doing what is right for you.

 

Choosing a university has never been easy. And now with the rise in university fees https://www.thecompleteuniversityguide.co.uk/university-tuition-fees/  you feel that choice is all the more important.

 

You need to see a return on your investment.

 

You need the university you choose to provide 4 straightforward characteristics: 1) to care about your best interests 2) to support you through your studies 3) to provide you with the facilities you need and 4) to offer guidance on future career options and choices.

 

In short, you need value for money.

 

So, how do you go about making that happen?

 

Well, you have around 130 universities to choose from in the United Kingdom. Which means that one big advantage is that you have plenty of choice. However, having lots of choice as you know doesn’t mean that it makes choosing easier. In fact, it can be quite the opposite. The difficulty is in narrowing down that choice to find what is best for YOU.

 

So, how do you do that?

 

Make it personal

 

The relationship you hope to have with your university will be unique.

 

And that uniqueness will be down to them and you.

 

Don’t forget that.

 

So, following 4 simple steps can help you to make the right choice for your specific circumstances and future.

 

STEP 1:

 

  • Ask yourself what YOUR end goal is. Getting clear on what is most important for you is key. You can do that by asking yourself two simple questions. First ask yourself: ‘What is my main reason for going to university?’ and second ‘What do I want to achieve by the end?’ For example, do you want a specific job after graduating? Are you doing it because you think you won’t get a good enough job without it? Are you doing it because you are being pressured into it by family and friends? Or are you doing it because you have a passion and drive for a specific subject? Take all the time you need to answer those questions. Your next step will obviously then depend on the answers you give. Depending on your answers you might even decide that university is not for you. But let’s just imagine, for arguments sake, that you decide to go ahead regardless of your reasons for applying to UCAS in the first place.

 

STEP 2:

 

  • What are you interested in? It’s no good doing something for the next 3 years or so if you’re not going to be remotely interested in it. I’m not saying that you have to be hugely passionate about a specific subject. As Elisabeth Gilbert says in her popular talk Don’t Chase Your Passion and Maybe You’ll Find It https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z_PSUskgiZU , we shouldn’t feel pressured into having just one single burning passion. You might be the type of person who is interested in lots of subjects making it difficult to choose just one thing. Take the pressure off yourself. Simply do something YOU’RE interested in. Not something that you’re feeling pressured into doing. At least, that’s my advice, anyway!

 

STEP 3:

 

  • Where you go is important. Take all the time you need to do your research and consider your options carefully. University is a big step and where you choose to go to university will have an impact on what your future holds. Earlier this year you already made your choices and you will perhaps have a number of conditional or unconditional offers. Don’t forget that clearing is an option too if you decide to decline the offers you’ve had so far. https://www.studential.com/further-education/UCAS-Clearing-Guide-2017  When you get your ‘A’ level results make sure that you take the time to reassess the options you have and the choices you’ve made.

 

STEP 4:

 

  • What will you commit to doing? It’s not good deciding to go somewhere if your heart isn’t in it. Listen to your intuition. If you feel it isn’t right then it probably isn’t. The right choice is not always the most prestigious place, part of the Russell Group, where you are expected to go or where your boyfriend or girlfriend is going. The right place is a delicate combination of where YOU feel most comfortable, where YOU are going to be challenged in positive ways and where YOU can afford to live.

 

So, whatever you decide over the next few weeks, I wish you all the best.

 

 

 

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Revise for your exams with ease in 4 simple steps

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Exams are just around the corner! It’s the end of term and time for celebrations of a sort as you all breathe a sigh of relief that another year is done. Phew! What’s more, summer is just around the corner. At last! But…hang on a minute…you can’t quite stop yet. Before you kick back to truly relax it’s time to start revising all that materials for those all-important exams.

 

Argh!!!! I can almost hear the collective groan of reluctance reverberating through cyberspace! But you know it’s got to be done. One last push to the end.

 

No sweat! Just one final slog to the finish line and then you’re free. Free to go off on holiday and spend that quality time with friends and family that perhaps you’ve found yourself having to sacrifice over the last few months. So, make sure the sacrifice is worth it and get cracking on your revision. No better time than now to start.

 

So, here are just 4 simple steps you can put into action now to ensure you are well on the road to exam success.

 

1) Get organised. The first step is to put your stuff in order. It may sound obvious but it really is the key to a successful revision programme. Make sure you can locate the books, notes, saved articles, video materials and references that you have worked hard to put together during your course. You have to be able to reach them and refer to them easily. You don’t want to be wasting precious time looking through pages and pages of notes or searching wildly and desperately through your computer files each time you need to find a specific piece of information. That time you save means you’ll be much more productive and it’ll even give you chance to squeeze in some free time and a catch up or two with your mates between revision sessions.

 

2) Create a plan. The second step is to draw up a revision plan. And this means to actually go to your diary and block out the days and times you are going to dedicate to revision. If you use a paper diary, highlight the time slots if necessary so that they stands out from the other appointments and ‘things to do’. Then you’re not likely to forget. If you use a digital diary, you could even set the phone alarm for the allotted revision sessions for the first week, until you start to get into the routine. Just the act of diarising will help you to actually do it and not get distracted by other stuff. It doesn’t matter if you have to adjust it later. It will have already entered your consciousness as something you will be doing for the next few weeks.

 

3) Set time limits. Whatever you do, don’t be tempted to revise for hours on end. Cramming might be what we think we’re supposed to do but believe me it doesn’t make a lot of sense long term. Filling up all your time with revision will likely cause your stress levels to spike and is not good for your physical or mental well-being. In cramming mode you are not going to be putting on your best performance. Plus studies show that when we cram we forget what we have ‘learnt’ almost immediately after the pressure is off. You might pass the exam, but at what cost to your long term knowledge and personal well-being? Better to set specific time limits. For example, revise for 2 or 3 hours in the morning and then have a break. Revising that way, you are more likely to retain the information and the breaks will give you the mental space to think critically about what you have reviewed, leading to a deeper understanding of the issues.

 

4) Enjoy the process. At the risk of sounding impractical and overly idealistic I nevertheless strongly believe that we must aim to enjoy the task of revising. We are culturally conditioned to see revision as something negative – something that’s a pain and that gets in the way of the nicer stuff we’d rather do. But if we just change the way we think about it we can teach ourselves to enjoy going over our notes. Acknowledge that not only will this help you to pass your exam but the process will also help you towards longer term economic, cognitive and social benefits too. What you’re learning may be helping you to create the set of knowledge needed for a job, acts as a mental gymnastics that keeps us engaged with the world and people around us.

 

 

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Getting started: 7 steps for effective preparation

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Getting started is actually one of the most difficult steps in the academic writing process.

 

You’ve got an essay to write? Or perhaps a summary? Maybe even a process report? Or you’ve got to get started on your literature review?

 

Where do you start?

 

It can be thoroughly overwhelming.

 

You’ve got a task, you’ve got a supervisor, you’ve been to the lectures, you’ve done a load of reading, you’ve participated in the seminar and you’ve got pages of notes.

 

But how do you start pulling it all together into one concise piece of writing?

 

The laptop’s open and fingers are poised ready to start hammering out those beautifully succinct, linked paragraphs. But the ideas just don’t come. You start typing a few sentences just to try and get started. But the ideas are not flowing. What you are writing sounds jumbled and awkward and doesn’t hang together coherently. You feel stuck.

 

There’s an art to writing. And as in the process of producing art, it takes time to get to the finished product. But you certainly don’t have to be artistic to see this through to the end. However, like any great artist, you do need to prepare!

 

If you prepare for the writing process is will be so much easier. I’m not saying it will be easy – just that the task will flow more easily. You will feel more comfortable…and hopefully even enjoy the process. The stress will have been taken out of it. Giving you more time for the other things in your life.

 

To do that here are my 7 steps for effective preparation:

 

1. Patience. Lots of it. Don’t try to rush through the first draft because you’ll only run the risk of losing focus in your writing and having to make more changes later on. Your supervisor gives you feedback on a draft that is considered to be the best first draft and is not going to mother you through the entire redrafting and editing process.

 

2. Focus. You need to concentrate on the task in hand and cut out any distractions – both internal (letting your mind wander onto other stuff) and external (sending messages, taking calls).

 

3. Confidence. A good dose of that too. You need confidence in your own ability to produce a piece of writing. You’ve done it before, so you can do it again.

 

4. Trust in the process. Trust that something will happen. It has happened before. It will happen again.

 

5. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Aiming for perfection is unrealistic and only leads to frustration and misery. Instead aim to do the best job you can with the tools and resources you have at your disposal at this moment in time. You can’t ask more of yourself than that.

 

6. Make sure that you’re not going to be interrupted for the duration of time you’ve set aside for writing. Put devices out of arms’ reach and make sure the cordless is in the next room. Update your status to let people know you won’t be answering messages for the next 3 hours.

 

7. Write a plan!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I can’t emphasise this enough. Before you even start writing your first draft you must have written a plan if you are to take the pain out of the writing process. And this doesn’t mean just a few words scribbled down on a scrap piece of paper! You need to have thought clearly about:

 

  • What the task is asking you to do
  • What you need to have done to answer that question – reading, note-taking, lectures, seminars, talking the issues through with co-students etc…
  • And if this is an essay, what your main line of argument is going to be and how you are going to support that with examples and explanations.
  • Indicate how these examples link back to your main overall argument. 

 

Now you’re ready to start…!

 

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Hands up if you procrastinate!

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Got an assignment to write?   

 

Got a deadline looming?

 

Don’t know where to start?

 

Have you been putting it off?

 

Or are you feeling pretty laid back about it because you’ve got ages yet until you need to hand it in, right?

 

But time doesn’t stand still. The more you put it off the worse that nagging feeling is going to get that you should be at least be starting to check out some sources.

 

Or maybe you’ve sourced your references, made impeccable notes and have your bibliography in order but just can’t seem to find the time or rather you can’t find the ‘thinking space’ to get into the writing zone, sit down and start hammering away at the keys on your laptop, the words just flowing easily, fluently and succinctly onto the page, perfectly…like a dream.

 

And that’s the point, isn’t it? We dream about being able to write like that. Before we start writing, we wish that it could be easy…because we know what’s coming. We know that it isn’t going to be. We hope that our ideas, thoughts and viewpoint will magically turn themselves into perfectly synthesised logic of position, line of argument and counter argument.

 

Perhaps there are people with exceptional academic talents who find the writing process runs more easily and smoothly than for the rest of us. But most of us feel uncomfortable at the thought of writing academically.

 

We fear the writing process itself, thinking that it is going to be difficult, messy and overly time-consuming. But we also fear that our piece of writing is not going to be good enough. We imagine that we are not going to be able to express our ideas clearly enough. We worry what our supervisor will say in their feedback. We feel that perhaps we don’t have the right to be expressing our opinion on such matters. We don’t feel authoritative enough.

 

So, we procrastinate.

 

But…

 

…the thing is, if we want to be successful in today’s world we have to find strategies to learn how to manage procrastination. It might be to our benefit to put a piece of writing off for a short period if we have an intense week coming up or if there are too many other things going on at the same time.

 

But…

 

….we might be putting off writing because we’re persistently finding other things to do such as checking our phones, looking at websites, watching videos on Youtube, signing up for things, messaging, going out, organising stuff and being a slave to constant interruptions. Then we end up complaining about all the things we’ve got to do. But at a certain point we have to ask ourselves what our priorities are.

 

Stephen Covey in his book ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ says we have to learn to ‘”put first things first” (Habit 3) if we want to be successful. So, if we really want to be our best selves in our academic life we can get rid of the worst of our procrastination if we learn to prioritise.

 

How?

 

Well, here are some strategies for prioritising:

 

  • Learn to say no to ourselves and to others.
  • Learn to schedule your writing time and use a diary to make yourself accountable.
  • Get clear on your own values and the reasons why you have chosen to go to university.
  • Create boundaries for yourself so you can plan time for writing, for example, in the mornings and then use the afternoons for going out.
  • Learn to work in shorter bursts over longer periods so you avoid doing everything at the last minute. Set a timer if necessary so you stick to it. You will be much more productive this way.
  • Keep your notes and references organised in one place so you don’t waste time later.
  • Set strict limits on electronic distractions. Keep your phone out of arm’s reach when writing and close all other tabs on your laptop.
  • Update people on when you’re going to be writing and when you’ll be free and contactable. That way they won’t bombard you with messages if you don’t answer straight away.

 

If you put these strategies into practice you will find that your lives improve immeasurably. You will be more productive, people will treat you better and you will being to feel that you actually have more time to get our assignments done but also more time for downtime too.

 

You’ll feel so much better for it. And you will find that the quality of your writing improves too leading to better marks.

 

 

 

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