University Tips Blog
Image of a group of students studying together
A headshot image of the author, Hannah Emery

by Hannah Emery

Academic Achievement Manager at Blackpool and The Fylde College

posted on 20 Jun '23

A guide to university study skills

Higher education study develops all kinds of skills for students. Writing an assignment is not just writing an assignment: it is effective notetaking, the ability to understand a question, researching, reading and evaluating secondary sources, using a referencing system, and setting aside time to write and edit. Students are expected to work on individual assignments over extended periods of time, which also requires motivation, confidence, organisation, and persistence.

It is never too early for students to be aware of their approaches to studying, and for them to consider how they might apply their skills in the future. The tips below can be used during discussions with your students to encourage them to see higher education study skills as buildable over time, rather than as a new and daunting prospect.

Students will have already developed skills

Students rarely start from scratch with their study skills. Problem solving, analysing, and evaluating are often used in everyday situations such as making decisions and maintaining friendships. Daily life at school also involves organisation and time management. It is helpful to make explicit links between these existing skillsets and how they might apply to academic study. Ongoing self-reflection can also have a positive impact on confidence, as it allows students to appreciate that their skills are not fixed and can be developed.

Image of a student typing on a computer

Developing skills can take time (and that is okay)

Unrealistic expectations of their own abilities can form barriers for students who expect too much of themselves in a short space of time. It is important to emphasise that students will develop skills during their chosen course; they do not need to excel at them all on the day they enrol! Highlighting the differences between immediate and long-term goals, and how a student can approach these, can make all the difference in confidence and outcomes.

Assignments are often designed so that feedback can be used to constantly improve. Using feedback as a tool to enhance their work rather than focusing solely on the grade given will encourage students to have a positive approach to constructive criticism.

Independent does not mean alone

Higher education involves lots of independent study but that doesn’t mean students shouldn’t ask for help. Providers offer vast amounts of support and using the available services will improve the student experience, both prior to and during study.

Potential students should be reminded to check websites of providers they are interested in for information on transition activities: for example, Blackpool and The Fylde College runs ‘Flying Start’ workshops each summer so that students can meet staff, pick up study tips and share strategies for good time management. Although some students can be initially reluctant to seek out support, those who do invariably comment on how useful it is in building their skills and confidence.

In conclusion: writing an assignment is not just writing an assignment. It is meeting expectations, communicating effectively, appreciating the views of others, receiving feedback and learning how to improve. It is developing a complete set of skills that will continue to be valuable in education, employment, and life.

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