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Skills you need to succeed at university

Going off to university or another tertiary institution to study is exciting, but it can also be challenging. Knowing (and having) some of the skills you need to succeed at university could help you get off to a flying start.

The difference between university and high school

Not sure what to expect from university? Here are a few of the main differences:

  • Your university lecturers won’t be pushing you as much as your school teachers do.
  • Attendance isn’t compulsory for the majority of lectures (tutorials and lab work might be more monitored).
  • Timetables aren’t rigid and you have a lot more choice over the modules and subjects you take.
  • There aren’t as many scheduled hours, but the workload is probably higher.
  • Your day won’t start at 9am and finish at 3pm – you could be starting much earlier and have lectures that go on into the evening.
  • Assignments aren’t just memory tests to show how well you’ve learned subject matter. You’ll need to show deeper understanding and are expected to illustrate your own research, reasoning, and original thoughts.
  • You’ll have to prioritise your workload and keep track of deadlines yourself.
  • If you’re having any problems, you need to take action to resolve them yourself.
  • Unlike school, your parents or guardians won’t be able to get involved, speak with administrative or teaching staff, or receive information about your studies unless you provide written consent.
  • Your cohort will be a lot bigger than you’re used to at school, with huge diversity in ages and backgrounds.

Soft skills you’ll need to succeed at university

There are ton of soft skills that could help you to succeed at university. You won’t have to perfect them all right now, but you could get a head start before you leave school to make sure you’re as prepared as possible.

Tip: mentioning these skills in applications and interviews and showing the awareness and effort to develop them could help boost your chances of success.

Self-motivation

While it’s tempting to have a lie in and then meet your friends at the pub, that’s a day wasted. Remember, you’re in charge – lecturers and tutors expect you to do the necessary work in your own time. You’ll need to be efficient, productive, and use resources effectively by yourself.

Participation

Get involved, go to lectures, speak up in discussions – the more active you are, the more you’ll get out of your course.

Critical thinking

Most of your assessment will probably require a high level of research and analysis, as well as being able to draw your own conclusions.

Communication

This is essential at university – you’ll be doing a lot of writing and speaking, and being able to express yourself clearly and succinctly is key in a lot of assessment.

Time management

Plan ahead and note down all your commitments, from lectures and tutorials to assessment and test deadlines. This will help you make the most out of your studies and social life.

Interpersonal skills

You’ll need to actively listen, work well with others (yes, the dreaded group assignment), and be confident in all situations.

Independence

No surprises here – you’ll need to take care of your own needs and be responsible for your decisions and actions.

Other valuable skills to work on

The skills mentioned above are soft skills, but there are lots of the practical skills that could benefit you too:

Reading and research

Knowing how and where to find the right information, scanning it quickly, and taking away the most important points will make your life much easier at assessment time.

Note taking

Work on ways to make thorough, accurate notes that make sense later on.

Referencing

It’s critical that you’re accurate and thorough in your referencing – plagiarism is a big deal at university. Find out what’s expected of you as soon as possible and start practising. Most universities have lots of resources for students on referencing.

Budgeting

This will not only help your money go further and ensure you don’t have to miss out on the fun stuff, but it could help you to reduce the money you have to pay back when you graduate.

Cooking

If you can’t already cook, now is a good time to learn. You’ll save a fortune if you can plan and make meals at home, and it’ll probably be better for your health than living on take away.

How can you work on these skills?

Be proactive, find your weaknesses, and show them who’s boss.

  • Find part-time or casual work
  • Volunteer
  • Undertake a work experience placement
  • Take short courses online
  • Ask your friends, teachers, and parents for tips
  • Do some research online

Don’t stress about the learning curve

If you’re looking at this list and feeling overwhelmed, remember you can probably already tick off lots of the skills we mentioned. All you need to do is focus on the ones that you haven’t addressed and you’ll be set.

By the time you get to university, you’ll be better prepared and could save yourself a whole lot of stress – which will leave more time for acing your studies and having fun.

You can find more blogs, tips, and information about university study and life on our website here.

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