Goal-setting Managing Oneself

5 Things You Must Do To Get a First In Your Degree

I’m a second year Economics student, and I’m heading into my second year final exams on 82% overall so far. I want to share with you how I have got myself into this situation, because a couple of years ago, I don’t think anyone, let alone myself, would have predicted this for me.

Iam going to share with you 5 key tips for achieving a first in your degree, but do remember this, getting a first is no easy journey, or else everyone would have a first! It will require hard work, sacrifice, and dedication, but I am to going show you that getting a first doesn’t have to come at the cost of all the other fantastic aspects of university life.

#1 Surround Yourself With Smart People!

Jim Rohn once said, ‘You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with’. If you befriend the smartest people on your course, not only will you be able to tap into their ideas, but also see how they work. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel, if someone is succeeding in their studies, simply apply their fundamental principles to your life.  Think about this, if you run a 100m race with people who are slower than you, then sure, you will always win. However, if you run a 100m race with people faster than you, sure you will come last, but your time will be faster because you are being pushed by the fear of failure. So surround yourself with success, and soon it will become second nature. You will naturally strive to achieve a first in all your work because that is where you have set your standard. Anything less is simply not enough for you anymore!

#2 Know When To Party, And When To Not.

A big part of university life is socializing, whether that be a sports team, societies or going out with friends. To neglect this side of life would be a mistake, you must enjoy your leisure time. However, you must know when it’s time to knuckle down. An image synonymous with student life is cramming in the library all night long surrounded by energy drinks. This is neither productive nor necessary.

To succeed at university, you must be able to sacrifice some of your social life around exam time in order to achieve those top marks. After all, if you want to be in the top 10% of your class, you must work harder than the other 90%. To avoid this panic revision done by the majority of students, you must get ahead. Make a revision plan well in advance of your exams and consolidate notes during term so you know the content by the time it comes to revision. Too many students seem to lose focus of the real reason we go to university and thus achieve sub-par results. If you strive for a first class degree, focus is a necessity, be clear on how you are going to achieve your academic goals, while living a balanced life.

#3 Exercise Routine!

Exercise has been proven to release endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators, reducing stress and anxiety. A regular workout will also give you some time off during your day to focus on something other than your studies. While hitting the gym may often be a chore and undesirable, ask yourself this, do you think anyone has ever left the gym and said; “I really wish I didn’t do that”. No, once you leave the gym, having pushed yourself physically, you are now ready to tackle any of life’s challenges. Working out also provides a basic framework for setting and achieving goals. There is a fairly basic formula for exercise, if you consistently push yourself, then you will improve. This will help you achieve that first as you are now regularly setting and achieving goals in the gym, just as you must do with your studies.

#4 Work Experience!

Work experience boosts your CV, which will help when you come to the end of your degree. It will also provide you with the framework to put in the study hours required to attain a first. It will not only instil disciplines such as getting up early and working long days, but it will give a greater focus to your degree. This is because you can start to plan a career, and give your work at university a purpose because now you know what you are working towards. This will give you the extra motivation you need to work through tough times as you can see what you’re aiming for, and why you work so hard.

#5 Start Small, But Think Big – Break Tasks Down Into Small Pieces.

When starting revision or writing essays, it can often seem like an insurmountable task to get started. This is when procrastination begins to seep in. To avoid the slippery slope that is procrastination, you must make a plan that breaks down your end goal into small manageable tasks. If you then start early enough, after doing lots of these small daily tasks, you will have done 10 times more revision than is possible when cramming the night before. You will also avoid the stress and panic of cram revising, which will often lead to anxiety and sub-par results in your exams and assignments. The last minute revision is ineffective and completely avoidable by simply planning your work well in advance, and breaking each exam/essay into a small daily workload.

Take-home message. I hope these principles will help you along your academic journey, while these 5 have been key to me, you must take them and apply them to your own situation. This list is not exhaustive and there are many other factors that will shape your university outcome. Just remember to work smart, as well as work hard. Remember, “Hard work will beat talent, when talent fails to work hard”, so go get it! 🙂


  1. First class honours student here (not bragging, okay maybe just a little bit). Your advice here is right on the money.

    For 1) I used to always go for breakfast with two other people on my course who happened to be very inquisitive and dedicate to achieving top results. We had a lot of academic discussion and not surprisingly the three highest achievers was us – all for the price of an additional breakfast.

    2) Yes – my biggest regret in the first year was that I would go out once a week while everyone I lived with went out every night. Yet by the third year I had gone from 2:2 average to my first. While they had to play catchup I was taking it easier.

    3) Goes without saying, almost part of the discipline that goes with 4)

    4) I didn’t work as I joined as a mature student (so five years of savings to back me up), but agree – though I did voluntary work.

    5) Also goes as great advice. I would probably add break your work up by going for a walk, so many times I got stuck on how I would approach a task so would go for a 30 minute walk that would clear my head enabling me to think how I would approach the task.

    If I had to add anything else I would say be innovative to make your study more fun – I would draw scatter diagrams and talk into a dictaphone.

    Great list and great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Omg, I can so relate to your experience during your first year! This literally sounds like me! 😀
      And yes, regarding your point about dictaphones, I’m using voice notes on my phone to record notes and stuff haha. But it works quite well!
      Thanks for sharing your advice! Appreciate it! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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