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When I start Cambridge, I’ll be returning to a school setting as someone who has been in the workplace for a number of years. I’m unsure how to successfully develop study and concentration skills I haven’t utilized in 3+ years.

Honestly, it’s all trial and error. As a gap year gal myself, once faced with the same worries, I can promise you that no matter how many essay-writing resources you memorise, your first essay is going to be atrocious. It’s a rite of passage I’m afraid.

After spending a year at the most soul-draining office you can possibly imagine, all I knew by the following autumn was how to sneak home early without arousing suspicion. My first essay assignment on the ‘stratigraphy of Ketton Quarry’ was a jarring shock after months of taking meeting minutes. Despite my worst fears, my supervisor patiently walked me through both the structure of rocks and essays, although we can ignore the part of the supervision where I panicked and forgot life was made out of carbon – a bruise I’m afraid will never fade from my ego. All good things come with time- and a lot of terribly rushed, offensively-bad supervision work.

“No matter how many essay-writing resources you memorise, your first essay is going to be atrocious. It’s a rite of passage.”

The real secret to success at Cambridge is time management. Whilst it’s fun to routinely send a sneaky 3am email to your supervisor after the 12am deadline and hope they won’t notice, I probably wouldn’t recommend 5 hours of sleep a night for your long-term sanity.

To save you having to learn this all the hard way, I’ve compiled a list of some key tips to help you survive your first term:

- Tip #1: Keep a detailed calendar. Fill it with all your deadlines, contact-time, and social plans or whatever else, and plan exactly when you’re going to do what over the coming week.

- Tip #2: Give yourself double the time to do every task. The only thing worse than an essay crisis are essay crises, so plan enough time for everything to go wrong.

- Tip #3: Be realistic. I’m going to be upfront here: you’re not going to want to write an essay at 10pm on a Saturday, so don’t pretend like you will. Allow yourself some time to blow off some steam instead.

“The real secret to success at Cambridge is time management.”

First term is a mess for everyone, especially now after lockdown: most school-leavers won’t have studied properly since March. My main piece of advice is to just throw yourself into it and give it your best go. If at any point you find yourself overwhelmed with work, email your supervisor! They will probably extend your deadline or walk you through the work in the supervision itself, so be honest and don’t unnecessarily overwork yourself.

You’ll soon settle in and figure out a work-groove that suits you, so do try to manage your time as best as possible, but above all, have fun!

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