Core Study Skills for University Students
University works slightly differently to school or college in the sense that you are a lot more independent and also tasked with more in-depth essays and projects. Some people may find this exciting, whilst many of us will find it a little daunting and not sure where to start. University also comes with a great deal of independence in terms of living away from home and having to manage your time to ensure you have a balance between academic studies and your social life. Today, I address five core study skills you need to master to be successful at university.
University timetables typically differ from ones you are used to because they come with a lot more time for independent study. It can be tempting to use this time to catch up on your favourite TV show instead of completing your work. To avoid any additional stress or fears of falling behind, I recommend that each week you make use of your calendar on your laptop or phone and plan. Organise when you are going to study, write essays and when you are going to do other tasks such as your washing or food shop. It is also important to schedule in society activities and see your friends too. Thus, planning and managing your time is an effective way of easing stress and keeping on top of everything.
Organisation and Planning
In addition to time management, organising and planning is essential. For instance, you may want to create folders on your laptop or tablet so you can find your notes. Making a to-do list can also help; you may want to write things in order of priority or use subsections to break down larger tasks. It is important to find a method that works for you to keep you on track. If you have a committee role in a society or sports team, organising your meetings and events will allow you to see what you need to do and who else may be able to help with some of those tasks.
One piece of feedback you will often get on your essays is to ‘be more critical’. This essentially means seeing the pros and cons of everything you read and being able to address that within your work. This can seem challenging and is something many courses at A Level do not require you to do. I recommend making use of your university’s study skills team- they are here to teach you how to do this and how to embedded critical analysis into your work. Your tutors may also offer some form of advice on how to do this. Therefore, make use of the resources at your university.
Using Feedback Effectively
It can be tempting to get a piece of work back and just look at the mark and do nothing more with it. However, feedback is so important! Using feedback means you can greatly improve on your next assignment and can continue to develop. To make use of your feedback, start by reading the comments your tutors have made and highlight anything you do not understand. Then, either make use of their office hours or arrange to speak to them to go through your feedback with them. They are there to support you and want to see you making use of their feedback too. Universities offer different levels of support- for instance at the University of Bristol, there are Writing Fellows who can assist with reviewing feedback and essay writing. So, have a look at your university’s website and see what is available to you. The main thing here is to not ignore your feedback!
Essay Writing, Exams and Adaptability
The final skill you need to master is essay writing or writing for exams. Courses will differ across universities in the way in which they are assessed. My course, for instance, is coursework based only and so it is really important to master essay writing. However, I can also be assessed in other ways such as through writing an annotated bibliography or developing a report or delivering a presentation. Therefore, it is essential to learn how to adapt your writing skills to different assignments and projects. Lots of university pages offer advice on how to write for a specific assessment such as ‘how to write for a leaflet’. You can use the advice from other universities too. As for exams, ensure you are doing practice exams or timing yourself when writing essays as a form of practice. You may want to ask someone to mark your work too.