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Peer mentor Amie holding her framed qualifications following graduation

15 April 2021

Don’t overthink it; just start: peer mentor Amie shares advice on tackling assignments

How are you feeling about completing your assignments at this point in the trimester?

If you’re lacking confidence in a subject, aren’t sure where to start or you could use some help constructing your arguments, consider speaking to one of Deakin’s peer mentors. They are students just like you, so they’re in a unique position to understand where your challenges lie and have the necessary experience to help you.

To get you started, we asked student and experienced peer mentor Amie Morgan about what Deakin resources and services could help you, and what she has learned about effective study habits throughout her time at uni. Amie recently graduated from her Bachelor of Forensic Science/Criminology double degree (pictured above!), and is now completing her Honours year in Criminology at the Waurn Ponds Campus.

What are you hoping to do after university?
After my Honours year I plan on completing my PhD, after which I hope to get a job in the field as an academic – lecturing and publishing research.

What led to you becoming a peer mentor, and what peer mentoring programs have you worked in?
In my first year of uni I was a peer mentee and I thought the Peer Mentoring program seemed like such a fantastic resource, so I joined as a peer mentor in my second year. From there, I learned about opportunities in PASS and the Success Coaches program, so I applied for a role as a PASS leader and to join the Success Coaches program. I am still part of all three programs and I absolutely love it.

What do you wish you had known about studying and/or getting help with study skills when you were in your first year of uni?
How much help existed and what a big difference it can make! As a first-year student there is a lot of information to take in and it’s everywhere! It’s very easy to get overwhelmed and end up with a pile of paper in your bag from OWeek and your head spinning from trying to take it all in. It’s definitely worth taking the time to really talk to people, read whatever you can, learn what’s out there. Deakin offers resources that are more than worth utilising and can help you out a lot more than you may realise.

What are common challenges new students tend to face when starting at uni, and do you have any tips on overcoming these?
Getting overwhelmed is a challenge that everyone faces, not just in first year! I still get a little overwhelmed at the start of each year when there’s so much to get organised. My biggest tip for overcoming this is to utilise the resources available to help you get through, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. You’re not the only person feeling overwhelmed and you definitely don’t need to try and wrap your head around everything by yourself.

The other big challenge I hear a lot from new students is struggling to figure out how to start their assignments. I always say, ‘Just start’. It doesn’t matter how you start, it doesn’t matter if it’s a messy mind map, or some dot points, whatever! Just get something on paper. Getting going is the biggest hurdle.

Also, don’t overthink it. Students get tripped up on simple assignments because they overthink it. There are no tricks – the instructions and rubrics are available to show you exactly what you need to do. So take a breath, read it and just do what it asks.

What key academic skills should students practise and focus on to do well in assignments?
Referencing and academic writing. I cannot stress that enough. The Deakin guide to referencing is a fantastic resource but so many students still don’t use it and get continually pulled up on their poor referencing style.

In regards to academic writing, DUSA Bookshop has a lot of books about how to write academically, and the Writing Mentors, PASS and peer mentors can also help with this. A portion of assessment marks always come from how well written an assignment is, so learning how to write in more formal, academic language is absolutely essential.

What has worked for you in the past when it comes to finding a good work/study/life balance?
Scheduling. Always scheduling. I make my timetable for the week every Sunday night, and I do this each week. That’s because things change – work shifts might change, you might have a friend wanting to do lunch on Tuesday, not every week is going to be the same. By doing my timetable week by week, I can be flexible.

I also make sure that I don’t just schedule classes and study hours; I also schedule leisure hours. This makes sure that you don’t forget to take a moment to relax, and that you don’t spend too much time relaxing. If you don’t take breaks then you’re more likely to lose focus and end up losing time daydreaming, or just needing to stop and not being able to get back into it.

Anything you’d like to share with new students about what to expect from uni in general? 
Expect to be busy. Being a uni student isn’t like a 9–5 job where you can clock off. Your work is always there. You will have late nights and you will lose some weekends. But if you are working towards your dream career it’s more than worth it!

What have you enjoyed most about studying at university?
Getting to study something that I chose, and which I am genuinely interested in. Sure, there’s always boring units in any degree, but I get to do research that I really love.

What are you most looking forward to in 2021?
I’m so excited to write my thesis and see the end result of all my hard work. I want to have my thesis printed and bound so I can physically hold it and see this great thing that I’ve worked hard for and created. I’m proud of how far I’ve come and I’m excited to see how much further I’ll go.

Need help from a peer mentor?

Learn more about our peer mentoring programs in this recent Deakin Life blog and via the Students Helping Students webpage.

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