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Got Your Place At University? How To Shape Up Your Study Skills, Fast!

If you've secured a place at university, congratulations! You did seriously well to score the grades you needed. You aced the application system. And you now have the opportunity of a lifetime. You definitely deserve to celebrate.   

But when the party's over, and you've had a chance to catch your breath… it'll soon be time to get focused again. In the next few weeks, you'll need to get ready for a major step up in your study. 

1. Prepare for a test 

University isn't just harder: it's different from everything that's come before. So it's not surprising that there are some important things to do in preparation for the big challenge ahead. 

Yes, you've got to sort out stuff like accommodation, travel, pots and pans… But you also need to work on getting your study skills up to scratch.  

Prepare well, and you'll be able to start your course with confidence. You'll be in great shape to get your money's worth, achieve excellent results, and enjoy everything that student life has to offer. 

2. No regrets

There's no time to waste. I talked to many students during the process of writing "The Study Book," and many of them told me how much they wished they'd done more to get ready. 

"I just didn't realise it was a new type of studying," one said. "I suppose I learned to do it in the end… but I wish I'd worked it out much, much sooner!" 

"Looking back," another commented, "I wasted my summer. Just a few hours of effort would have been so useful when uni began."

Don't get me wrong: you're not expected to be a degree-level student the moment you start. However, you do have to hit the ground running. When your course begins, things will move quickly. You'll need to be ready to learn fast – and to learn differently, from day one. 

It's about getting used to some new ways of working and thinking. Your study skills will be tested like never before. And for good reason: you're taking on a challenge that will benefit you more than almost anything else you can do. 

3. You're not alone

Your university will help you, of course. That's their job: to show you how to think, learn and work in the subject you've chosen.

Over the weeks and months to come, they'll give you opportunities to develop into a successful student, and you should expect to feel very well supported in your study.

But you'll also have to do your bit. Crucially, you'll need to get on board quickly, or you'll be left behind. 

6 things to do ASAP

So, what can you do before you even get to university, to make sure that you're ready to throw yourself into higher level learning? 

Here are 6 things from "The Study Book" that you can do right away, to put yourself on the path to success from the start.  

1. Get motivated. Remind yourself why you're taking on this challenge. Even when you're relaxing over the summer, spend some time thinking about what you hope to get out of uni. My book will show you how to harness all your best study experiences from the past – and how to handle any negative ones. Start building up your energy and enthusiasm, maximizing your motivation to learn how to study well. 

2. Get reading. Tackle your reading list strategically. Start with the core texts, then see what else interests you – either because it's familiar, or intriguing and new. Don't worry if you don't understand everything (or anything!). Just try to "tune in" to the academic style, and to the type of studying you'll need to do next.  

3. Get clued up. Read all the practical information you're sent. But pay just as much attention to details about your learning. What are the different modules involved in your course? Which forms of teaching will be on offer? When are the key assessments? Get a head start by seeing what you're letting yourself in for, and understanding where the big study challenges lie.    

4. Get talking. If you know someone who's done the same course in the past, find out what they wish they'd known beforehand. Your uni may organise links with current students, and there are often ways to connect with other new starters. See what your peers are doing to prepare for university study – and copy their best ideas! Share key bits of information you've picked up, and look out for potential "study buddies" from day one.

5. Get real. Be honest: which aspects of study have gone well for you in the past, and which haven't? In my book, I show you how to make the most of everything you're good at, but also how to spot the things that need work. Brush up on any areas of weakness – like your memory, concentration, or key literacy skills. You'll feel so much more ready to start your next study challenge.  

6. Get your supporters on side. As a student, your friends and family can be your biggest assets. Some of them may be able to support your study itself, giving you tips, debating key ideas, or helping you to revise. Others might have more practical things to offer. Use the next few weeks to get their advice, talk through any issues, and tell them what you need them to do. Studying can feel lonely at times, so organise your support team now!

Want to know more?

In "The Study Book," I explain how to get all of these things done in good time.

There are questionnaires to take, quick activities to try out, and step-by-step advice to put into action from today, to make sure that you're doing all the right things in the run-up to uni. You'll almost certainly struggle if you try to start studying "cold" when you arrive.  

Once your course is underway, my book is full of down-to-earth advice on surviving and thriving at uni. It will show you how to embrace all the challenges, so that you grow into a confident, successful student.

I want you to develop with every new test of your abilities. To enjoy learning how to think like an "academic." To turn all your ideas and understanding into work you're proud of.  

Enjoy it all

So be energetic in your approach to university study. But also learn how to work quickly, stay well, and leave yourself with plenty of room for all the social aspects of uni. 

In the book, I've included advice about coping with any particular problems you face along the way.

I hope that my experiences, coupled with the expert guidance of students and uni staff, will give you the very best chance of loving your time in higher education – from the moment you begin. 

It's going to be a real challenge, but one that's definitely worth it! I'm very envious of you. 

So get started as soon as you can. Use the 6 steps above – and then do everything else you can to prepare yourself to study in this new and exciting way. 

Go get 'em!

With the right preparation, studying well will get you a superb university experience. You'll come away with memories to last a lifetime, a degree you deserve – and personal strengths that you really can’t get any other way. 

So, embrace the challenge – and get stuck into it now!

Jonathan Hancock is an expert in learning and study skills. An experienced teacher, school leader and specialist tutor, and the author of 14 books on thinking and learning, he's also a former World Memory Champion. He secured a First from Oxford, and his new book will help you to get the very best out of your university course – whatever and wherever you're studying. "The Study Book" is available now, in paperback and on Kindle, from leading publisher John Murray Learning.