Going off to university or other tertiary institutions to study is exciting, but it could also be challenging. Knowing (and having) some of the skills you’ll need to do well at university could help you get off to a flying start.
Yes, there’ll be plenty of help and guidance, and you can always ask for more, but it’s a different style of learning to what most students experience at high school.
The main differences between uni and high school
Not sure what to expect from university? Here are a few pointers:
- Your uni lecturers won’t be pushing you to do well
- Attendance isn’t compulsory for the majority of lectures (tutorials and lab work might be more monitored)
- Timetables are not rigid and you get a lot more choice over the modules and topics you take
- There’s not as many scheduled hours but the workload could well be tougher
- 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 straightforward assessments of how well you’ve learned subject matter. You’ll need to show deeper understanding, be expected to illustrate your own research, reasoning and original thoughts.
- At uni you’ll have to prioritise your workload and keep track of deadlines yourself
- If you’re having any problems, you’ll have to step up to resolve it, decide who is the appropriate person to approach, and have an idea about a solution
- 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. Meaning it could be harder to stand out, so even if you were top dog at school you’ll have to work harder to achieve the same status at uni.
Skills you’ll need to do well at university
There are tonnes of skills that could help you to do better at university, we’ve put together some of the top ones.
Don’t panic, you won’t have to perfect them all, but you could practise them before you’ve even left high school – get a head start on making the most out of your uni experience.
Mentioning these skills in applications and interviews, showing awareness and effort to develop them could help to get your application in the YES pile.
- 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, parents, lecturers and tutors expect you to do the necessary work
- 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 – requires research, analysis, assessment to draw your own conclusions
- Self-directed study is essential at uni, you’ll need to be efficient, productive and use resources effectively by yourself
- Time management – plan ahead, note down all your commitments from lectures and tutorials to assessment and test deadlines. (Get the most out of your studies and social life)
- Interpersonal skills – will could you to actively listen, work well alongside anyone, express yourself clearly, be confident in all situations
- Independence and Self-reliance – no surprises here, you’ll need to take of your own needs and be responsible for your own decisions and actions
The hard skills it could pay to work on as well
Lots of the skills mentioned above are soft skills, here are some of the practical skills that could benefit you too:
- Accept criticism and feedback, use it constructively
- Great written English and essay writing skills for clarity and persuasiveness
- Reading skills – the ability to scan large amounts of information, take away only the most important points, condense and add your own interpretation
- Note taking – work on ways to make thorough, accurate notes, that make sense later on
- Research – know how and where to find the right information and highlight the relevant or important facts
- Referencing – it’s so important that you’re accurate and thorough in your referencing. Find out what’s expected of you as soon as possible, start practising. There are even
- Presentations – work on your public speaking, it’ll make it easier to stand up in front of a lecture theatre full of students and speak confidently the more practise you can get now. You could also learn how to create great work using PowerPoint, KeyNote or similar programs so that you’re familiar with them when you start at uni.
- Budgeting – becoming a budgeting whizz 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 your debts that you’ll have to pay back when you graduate
- Cooking – if you can’t already cook, now is a good time to learn. At uni you’ll save a fortune if you can plan and make meals at home, stretch food out for longer, and it’ll probably be better for your health than living on take aways.
How can you work on these skills?
Be proactive, find your weaknesses and show them who’s boss.
- Get a part time job
- Find work experience placements
- Do short courses online
- Ask your friends, teachers and parents for tips
- Do some research online
Don’t stress, university is a learning curve
Don’t look at this list and feel overwhelmed, you can probably already tick off lots of the skills we’ve listed. Then just focus on the ones that you haven’t yet addressed and see if you can do a bit of work on them.
By the time you get to Uni you’ll be better prepared and could save yourself a bit of stress adapting. Which will leave more time for getting on with your studies and for having fun.
Read a few more tips about preparing to spread your wings in our blog “Ready to leave school?“