Sponsored feature, words by Russ Thorne

The end of year holidays are a time to be merry and recharge your batteries a little after the first term. But they can also give you a chance to think about the year ahead: how can you make the most of your student experience? We put our heads together with the team at Bucks New University and came up with five ideas to think about over the holidays, and try out next term...

1 – Stop and reflect

Buck New Uni
Whether the term was your very first at university or the start of a postgraduate programme, there can be a lot to take in. To help get the very most out of the academic year ahead, why not take the opportunity to look back at the first term?

“Thinking about the past few months is a good way to make sure you're on the right track,” says Naomi Franco, President of Bucks Students' Union. “Were there areas you were really pleased with, like meeting deadlines or getting good grades? Or were there things you could do better?”

You don't need to be too strict on yourself – just spend a little while deciding what you'd like to improve, or continue with, in the coming months. You can even eat a mince pie to help.

2 – Look at your time management

Student life makes plenty of demands on your time, with essay deadlines, social events or allocating time to hide from your flatmates so you don't have to clean the fridge. Getting on top of your schedule is a great way to pack more in and feel more in control.

A good place to start is pinning your commitments down with a diary or an app like Wunderlist and scheduling blocks of time to write essays, visit the library, hide and so on.

In addition many universities, like Bucks New University, have dedicated Student Centres with expert staff who can give you advice. “Lots of students find time management a challenge,” says Naomi, “but once you know it's something you need to work on, you can get it under control. There are lots of places
to get help, including your student centre or union.”

3 – Broaden your horizons

You'll get more from your studies and enhance your career prospects if you look beyond the course content. Wider reading (in journals, textbooks or online) is a useful starting point, whatever your subject, and your tutors and classmates can often point you in the right direction.

Going one step further, you could investigate industries that you're interested in. Joining LinkedIn groups, relevant forums and even professional bodies looks great on a CV and will improve your knowledge. “Many professions have information and services just for students,” says Naomi, “so if you haven't already, it's worth finding out about them and signing up.”

4 – Think about your next move

Whatever stage you're at, it's good to use the time and facilities university can offer to develop your CV, learn to write killer job applications and go to as many networking events as possible.

Not sure where to start? Most unis (including Bucks New University) will have a careers service to help you. “Getting some tips from the careers service early in the new year will give you a great start in your job search,” says Naomi, “or help you start developing some of
the key skills you'll need at work.”

5 – Get involved

Buck New Uni - charity car wash
If you haven't already, think about joining some societies or sports clubs. It's useful for a few reasons: for example, exercise and social stimulation give you more energy (and may help shed a few post-turkey pounds) and give you something to focus on away from your studies.

Uni is also a perfect time to try out new things – institutions like Bucks New University have a huge amount to offer, so why not use your student status to try out some theatre, a new sport or perhaps a little music? You could also consider helping others with a spot of volunteering.

With all of these activities you'll enjoy yourself, as well as developing skills in teamwork, communication and leadership that employers will love when they look at your CV. “Getting involved in sport, societies and volunteering gives you a chance to really make the most of your student life and meet new people,” says Naomi. “But it can also help your life after university.
You win both ways!”