I’m officially a degree student now.

I’ve completed my first semester and I must say, it’s good being on the degree course, even if it is all the hard classes. Let me explain.

Now that I’ve completed my HND, awarded with distinction I might add, I’m topping it up to a full blown bachelor’s, but in my HND I already took many of the modules, certainly many of the easier ones. So now on the top-up I’m enrolled in all the more difficult modules of the award, and all at the same time. As one lecturer somewhat apologetically put it, “The games top-up students either thrive or die within the first semester.”

So here I am, thriving I think. I’m one of only about 4 surviving games HND students and I’m just doing my best to keep up. I must be doing something right because so far it looks like I’m not going to have much, if any, work to do over the Christmas holiday. Just review for the exams.

End of Year 2 and HND


I completed an exam today that marked the last of all the work for year two of my HND. All being well I’ll have a diploma in a couple months and I’ll be more than half way to my degree.

I didn’t do particularly well this term. By that I mean that I’m pretty confident that I passed but I don’t like having less than distinctions and I’m not sure that I got many, if any, this term. I put it down to poor prioritising. I got so stressed and wrapped up in my project that I let it consume all my energy, thus everything else suffered.

Still, I did very well first term, and I had couple of curve balls thrown at me in the second so I’m still pretty pleased with my over all performance.

Things I learned.

Each subject gets equal time until they’re completed.

Learn the academic report structure and get used to using it. Introduction, Implementation, Critical Evaluation each having a conclusion. Most of my assignments had some sort of writing element to them and nearly all of them followed that format. Get used to it, learn to like it, because it’s everything.

I’ve definitely picked the right award. I had a class this year that I hated with my very soul and I found it impossible to put any effort into my work. I suspected this was going to be a problem when I decided to go to University and chose my course accordingly, and it looks like I was right.

Consider applying the chosen methodology of your FYP to all of your work. I found this to be a great way to keep everything moving.

Study groups are very helpful, even if you listen more than your contribute, just getting together and reviewing out loud is very useful.

Always read your assignments over and over. I wasted a lot of time on inconsequential or otherwise incorrect aspects of the assignments because I hadn’t read the assignment document correctly… or at all.


So, pending my results I now move on to top-up, which means I become a real boy and move in with all the degree students. Four terms down, three to go.

The Burnout

As a dyslexic I find that my biggest problem at University is burnout. I learned a long time ago that I have a limited mental capacity, I used to call it my mental threshold. People I worked with quickly learned how to identify when I’d reached this point and often would resort to intellectually picking on me when ever I was found in this state by forcing me to engage in a complication conversation.

Burning out for me is the end all. I can’t concentrate or focus on anything.
I can’t string sentences together. Sort of like a stutter but as well as pronunciation trouble I mix up my word order and often struggle to find the words at all.
I become very clumsy. I’m normally not a particularly clumsy person, I can’t dance but that’s not dependent on my mental state. After a burnout I find I bump into things and drop everything I pick up spill drinks, everything.
I can’t read, words disappear on the page or just plain don’t make any sense, it’s very irritating.

I drive my wife crazy at home, it’s like I’m in a vegetative state, only walking around. As a dyslexic my mind is disorganised at the best of times and adding mental strain to it is cataclysmic.

Burnouts have lasted as long as 6 weeks and can have a huge impact on motivation. I’ve completely abandoned projects in the past sheerly due to a lengthy burnout, most of which I’ve never been able to return to, despite my best efforts. When I started looking at University it was near the top of my list of things I’d need to learn to manage if I was going to get through it. I didn’t want to let some extended burn out lead to my quitting the course.

I’ve experienced two major burnouts this year, both were very untimely. The first was just before an exam when I’d been cramming all morning. I answered some of the questions so fantastically poorly that one of my lecturers actually assumed that I’d had some sort of computer problem during the test… sadly I’m honest and owned up to my mistake.
The second was just recently on my FYP. I missed out a couple of key elements of my design and research document, such as the front cover, hopefully it’s not going to cost me too many marks.

1. Time-management seems to be the key, not necessarily the allocation of time per task but the listing of the tasks itself it what helps. Somehow knowing what I’ve still to do delays the burnout.
2. I do my best to keep ahead of all my school work. As soon as I receive a body of work I start on it. Especially if I’ve still yet to learn anything about how to complete it (which is common in my Uni, they favour the ‘here’s what you’re going to do. Now let’s learn ya to do it’ approach) If I already have a start on it in some aspect, even if it’s just an idea, it’s much easier to work on it later.

Dealing with a burnout is tricky. I’ve found that there are two ways that work best.
1. A hobby. I bounce between music and writing. While music is immune, writing can be affected by a burnout, so I rely more on music but I value them both equally as therapies. After an hour or so writing or a jam session with the band I can actually feel my mind enter a state of repair. Usually by the next morning I’m back up to speed.
2. Sleep. It’s sometimes really hard to leave something until tomorrow but I find it’s usually the best thing to do. Unless the deadline is tomorrow morning, it can wait one night.

The trick is to keep your mind working, just not as hard and not of the same type of thing that caused the burnout in the first place. My school work is all technical thinking and information assimilation, both writing and music are creative outputs.