Students entering into their first year of study at university experience a wide range of different transitions.
These transitions could include adapting to a new education system, adapting to life in London, adapting to life away from family, and making new friends. This can be both exciting and daunting.
Your role as an Academic Mentor can help students mitigate the daunting aspects by helping them navigate through new expectations and experiences. This area offers ideas for how you can support your first year undergraduate students during key periods of their first year.
During the first few weeks, students will be navigating their timetables, engaging with reading lists, learning about lectures and class expectations, trying to liaise with key LSE services, and for many, adapting to life in halls.
This can be particularly overwhelming for students, and they may need signposting as well as advice from their mentors on what to do.
Here are some questions you could ask your first year undergraduate students during their first mentoring meeting:
- Where are you living? Are you happy there?
- Which sports or activities have you done previously? Are there any you hope to continue?
- Are there any new activities you would like to try out? Which ones?
- Are you interested in joining any SU societies? Which ones?
- Have you registered with the NHS and/or a GP surgery?
- Do you know about all the services that the Student Services Centre offers?
- What interested you about studying on this particular programme at LSE?
- What do you hope to learn / get out of your programme?
- What do you hope to achieve over the a) term, b) year, or c) programme?
- What are the first steps you plan to take?
During this period, international students may be trying to sort out any Visa issues they have as well as registering with the police. As their Academic Mentor:
- Do ask any first year international students if they have any visa concerns.
- Do NOT try to offer advice if they do have concerns.
- Refer students immediately to ISVAT.
The ISVAT team runs drop in sessions in Michaelmas and Lent term at the Student Services Centre from 1.30pm to 2.30pm on Mondays to Fridays. During the Summer Term and Vacations, the drop-ins are from 1.30pm to 2.30pm, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Alternatively, you can call them at 020 7955 6853 with specific questions on anything from working on a Visa to attendance or police registration.
International students may also not know how to register for the NHS, as in many countries, health services are provided by the university for students. Here is the link where students can search for a GP in their catchment area.
Finally, if your international students are interested in learning more about London, but are uncomfortable discovering the city on their own, you can refer them to LIFE in London – a programme of events where students can engage with different London based activities.
During the first couple of weeks, students may be sorting out their housing, be it in Halls or in private rented accommodation. For support with Halls, contact Accommodation and LSE Residences. If students need support with their Private Rented Accommodation, they can contact the LSESU Advice team or University of London Housing Services.
Beyond LSE, students in rented accommodation can also contact:
Shelter: a national housing and homelessness charity who can advise on rental rights
The UK Government: on local services and renting, as well as Council and Housing Association housing
Citizens Advice: further information on all areas of housing.
Students may find it hard at first to feel like they are fitting in at University, and making friends can be challenging, especially for those that have left home for the first time. As an Academic Mentor, you may want to reassure your students that homesickness, loneliness, and feeling out of place are perfectly normal, and that LSE has support to help them through it. If students need to talk, support is available through LSE Counselling, Disability and Wellbeing Service and the LSESU Advice team.
You may want to recommend that your students get involved with the LSESU activities and societies as they are a great place to meet people with similar interests and learn new things. They can find out more on their website.
There are some great tips for dealing with culture shock here.
Students may have little experience with the expectations of university study and autonomous learning. Coming from learning environments that were highly structured with high numbers of contact hours into university with lower contact hours and more time for self-directed learning may be difficult for them. They also may struggle in terms of their reading load and the expectations of university study. Therefore, much of your early contact with first year students could be focused on helping them transition to this new learning environment.
To get a sense of how they are doing, you may want to ask them:
- How much studying are you doing outside of class time?
- How are you managing your reading load?
- How do you tackle an academic text?
- How are you enjoying seminar discussions?
- What time management tools are you using to help you stay on top of your studies?
- In what ways are you balancing your studies with other areas of your life?
Offer advice based on study techniques that have worked for you. Also, show students examples of how you take notes from readings while describing expectations of engaging in seminars and connecting ideas from seminars, lectures and readings. If students are looking for more support on specific aspects of university study, refer them to LSE LIFE, which has a large suite of workshops on a variety of different study skills from learning independently and critical thinking, to writing and conducting research.
Many student will want to undertake an internship while at LSE. These offer an opportunity to engage with hands on, ‘real world’ experience and to see how a discipline looks in a professional context. LSE has a variety of schemes that students can apply to, and it is worth discussing them with students who are keen.
Some key advice to offer students who are considering applying for internships:
1. Pay attention to key deadlines.
2. Begin the application process early to give you plenty of time to ensure you are happy with what you submit.
3. Remember that with certain internships, such as Spring Week, that students will be studying for exams at the same time as the internship.
There are a variety of internships available including LSE Parliamentary Internships, Santander University Internships, LSE Graduate Internships, and Spring Week Banking Internships. For further information and help on how to apply for these, students are encouraged to speak to an LSE Careers Adviser.
In Lent Term, students will have a greater sense of what LSE and university study is about. However, students may still be struggling with such issues as homesickness or lack of belonging. For these cases, refer to the Michaelmas Term advice.
In addition, in Lent Term, students might become more aware of their struggles with assessment criteria and expectations. In most cases, they will have had their first summative assessments and will be receiving their first results. Therefore, Academic Mentoring meetings in Lent Term could focus heavily on assessments.
Questions you may pose to your students as a means of holding discussions on assessment could be:
- How did you do on your assessment? Is this what you expected? (Why / why not?)
- What kind of feedback have did you get on your assessment?
- What were the strengths of your work?
- What areas of improvement were mentioned?
- In light of the feedback, what do you plan to do now?
- How are you going to develop some of the areas of improvement?
- Do you understand what you need to do to improve next time?
If students are looking for additional support on specific aspects of preparing for assessments, refer them to LSE LIFE, which has a large suite of workshops to support a variety of different assessment forms, from essays to take-home exams. They can also meet with a Study Adviser for specific advice on how to improve their own work.
The Summer Term can be a particularly stressful time period for students. They may have lots of questions about procedures, practical tips for studying, and content of exams. Below are some common issues that first year undergraduate students might have during this time and how you might be able to support them through it.
Often, lecturers and seminar leaders for courses will no longer have office hours during the Summer Term, so the students you mentor may turn to you for help. You may want to give students advice on the following:
- How to manage study time: students may want to know how to set up a study schedule, and how to break up their study time. Consider helping them create a plan, and remind them to include study breaks. Also encourage them to consider balancing their study time across each module.
- What to study: students will want to know what specifically to study. You may want to refer them to the past exam papers bank. This will give them a sense of the type of questions that are likely to be asked and offer them a direction for what to study.
- Referencing in exams: for essay exams, some students worry about referencing requirements. Let them know what you expect within your department.
- Drawing connections: for most exams at LSE, students may not know how to integrate readings and their learning. Remind them to draw connections across the weeks within a course and even to draw connections across their different modules. This will help them study and understand the wider field.
If students would like more help on how to set up a study plan or how to use past papers to prepare, refer them to LSE LIFE where they can attend workshops or meeting with a one-to-one Study Adviser about their exam schedule.
Because this may be their first exams at LSE, students may have many questions about exam procedures including concerns about what they are allowed to bring into the exam room. You should refer to LSE Exam Procedures for any questions students may have.
It is normal that students may feel stressed and anxious about their first major exam period. It is important to remind them to maintain healthy habits during their revision and exam time to ensure that they do well. Check in on their sleep habits, and verify that they are creating study schedules that include breaks. Remind them that we can only be productive for a certain number of hours each day. These small things can help.
However, if their stress and anxiety is interfering with their ability to study and prepare, they may need more specialised help. If students are struggling with high levels of stress and anxiety that are interfering with their ability to study, please refer them to Wellbeing or LSE Counselling for support.