Study Independently

Differences to school and college

Unlike school and college when your teachers are breathing down your neck to ensure that you are doing your work, at university the onus is on you to make the most of the resources at hand. Lectures are often less interactive and less regular than classes in previous education, and as such, it is important that you keep yourself motivated and put in the work necessary to fulfil your potential, and make the most of these important academic years.

Whereas teachers frequently encourage interaction and individual contribution within the classroom at college and school, lectures follow a slightly different format, in which the teacher is likely present the information to a large lecture theatre, meaning a less personalised learning environment. Although your timetable is also likely to feature seminars, which are more akin to learning environments you have previously been exposed to, and will be related to the corresponding lecture. In these classes, the tutor will provoke discussion and debate surrounding the topic of the week. Although it will be a more concentrated environment, often accommodating around twenty students, the tutor will expect students to have researched around the content of the lecture and act as the driving force, whilst they supply structure and guidance. As a result, it is important that you not only take notes during lectures, but you subsequently read around the topic in your own time.

Independent research

Tutors are likely to supply you with both required and recommended reading, which you will be expected to retrieve and study outside of tuition hours. Such resources will typically be available from the university library or online. Due to the depth of discussion which occurs in seminars, often requiring input from each student, you will be expected to draw upon your research, whilst delivering your own opinion. Therefore, ensuring that you are familiar with the week’s content is essential to your development on the course.

As well as being expected to study in preparation for seminars, the assessment structure of university will also require you to familiarise yourself with the library’s hotspots. As well as the dedication required for exam-based revision, you are also likely to undertake coursework and presentation assignments. As such, you are expected to do extensive research around the subject in question. This goes beyond reading a revision guide or revisiting your notes, as your teachers may have previously advised you to do so. The materials you will be expected to draw upon (not literally – book graffiti is bad) should be broad, yet relevant. Although you will likely be supplied with a list of books on the topic by your tutor, researching into the best research is a good way of giving your assignment strong foundations, along with an impressive set of references at the end. In the case of a presentation, this study is likely to be divided between a group, thus developing your skills at delegating and scheduling.

As a university student, your timetable may appear slightly less full-on and regimented than what you may be used to. However, this is due to the fact that you are typically expected to do in excess of 30 hours a week independent study.