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How To Prepare Yourself for Study at University

Going to university is an important milestone and – aside from being a lot of people’s first experience living away from home – also requires you to develop your self-led learning skills. Academically, it’s a big jump from school but just how different is university from A-Levels or college? 


How is studying at university different? 

The biggest difference between the structure of school and university study is the amount of independent study time you’ll have. This means time when you won’t follow set learning structures like in the classroom. It will often be spent alone, reading, and understanding your academic texts and resources. Your independent study will help inform things like your seminar participation, essay writing or preparing for exams. 

Developing your independent study skills is crucial for success at university. It involves taking responsibility for your own learning, setting goals, and managing your time and resources effectively.  


Key things to remember 

Develop effective time management: Break your study time into manageable chunks and prioritise your tasks. It's important to set specific and measurable goals to achieve during each study session and to track your progress. 

Be organised: Whether it's keeping track of deadlines and assignments or keeping your notes, workspace and resources in order, an organised approach to learning helps to formalise your understanding of the course material.  

Ask questions: Develop a deep understanding of the subject by engaging with the material, participate in lectures and don’t be afraid to admit you’re unsure of something – it’s always best to ask. Seeking out additional resources such as tutors, study groups, and online materials can be very beneficial. 

Vary your approach: It's important to use a range of study methods, such as reading, writing, and quizzing yourself. Remember it's crucial to take breaks, get enough sleep and physical activity. This will help when you come to study.  


Our tips to stay on top of your studies 

While it can feel daunting to come from a more directed teaching environment – as now it’s you that will primarily be prioritising your own time and focus – as long as you keep the following tips in mind, you’ll be up to speed in no time. 

Academic reading can be challenging, but several strategies can help to improve your reading comprehension and speed. One tip is to preview the material before you begin. This means looking at the table of contents, headings, and subheadings to get an idea of what the text is about and what to expect.  

Another is to take active reading notes. This means summarising, paraphrasing, and highlighting important information as you read, and asking yourself questions about the material. This will help you to better understand and retain the information. 

Practice skimming, which means reading quickly to get the main ideas of a text. Additionally, you may use the SQ3R method which stands for Survey, Question, Read, Recite and Review. This method helps you to preview the material, generate questions, read actively, recite the material, and review the material. 

It's also important to pace yourself and take breaks when needed. Reading for long periods can be tiring and lead to decreased comprehension. Taking short breaks every hour or so can help you to stay focused and retain information better. Finally, try to find a comfortable and quiet place to read where you can minimise distractions.

Developing strong study skills is essential for success in university. Good study habits and techniques can help you to better understand and retain information, improve your grades, and reduce stress. This will help you to be more confident when preparing for exams, which is a crucial aspect of university education. Overall, developing strong study skills is an investment in your academic and personal growth and will pay off in the long run. 

Effective notetaking is key to success in university. It's important to keep your notes organised, whether that means using dividers, coloured pens, or a digital system. Actively engage with the material while taking notes, by summarising, paraphrasing, or asking questions.  

When it comes to studying, it's important to create a dedicated study space, eliminate distractions and establish a routine. One effective studying technique is the use of flashcards to help memorise facts and key terms. Another technique is the use of mnemonic devices such as acrostics or acronyms, to make information more memorable.  

Think about how you learn. If you enjoy developing your knowledge by listening to others consider looking up podcasts that can help deepen your understanding of a topic. Explore different methods to keep yourself interested.  

Effective time management allows students to efficiently balance the multiple responsibilities and demands of their academic and personal lives. It also allows for adequate time for studying, participating in extracurricular activities, and taking care of one's physical and mental well-being.  

This can help reduce stress and anxiety, leading to better academic performance and a more enjoyable university experience. Without proper time management, students may find themselves struggling to keep up with their workload and may experience a decline in their academic performance. 

Creating a schedule and sticking to it is essential to managing your time effectively in university. One tip for creating a schedule is to break your day into blocks of time and assign specific tasks or activities to each block. It's also important to be realistic when planning your schedule and not to overload it, leaving some time for relaxation, exercise, and other non-academic activities

Preparing yourself for study at university is crucial to succeeding academically and personally.  

By setting clear goals, prioritising tasks, and creating a schedule that works for you, you can maintain focus and stay on top of assignments and deadlines. 

Additionally, finding a study environment that suits your needs, taking regular breaks and engaging in activities you enjoy, and staying organised can help to keep you motivated and energised throughout your university journey.  

Remember to also take care of your physical and mental health, and don't hesitate to reach out for help if needed. With the right mindset and approach, you can set yourself up for success at university.

Northumbria’s Study Support Services 

Our Student Library and Academic Support services offer a range of ways for our current students to gain key study skills. 

Whether it’s one-to-one sessions with an advisor, taught sessions, or online modules that you’d prefer, the University Library have got you covered.  

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