School’s Out, Summer’s Here  and it’s Time to Celebrate! Preparing to go to University Can Wait, Right?


Get in! Well done, you! You’ve done the hard work. So why am I about squish the happy and start waffling on about preparing to go to university? You haven’t even got your results yet, surely you are entitled to enjoy a summer of relaxation before you have to start thinking about studying again?


I get it! I understand that you feel entitled to a bit of rest and recuperation. I’m guessing you’ve got a pretty good idea of the exam results that you can expect very soon so now it’s time to let your hair down and partaaaaay!!


And, quite rightly so! You’ve slaved over your revision notes, sweated over your text books and not slept properly for weeks, if not months. You deserve this down time.

Black silhouette of people with their hands in the air against a deep red background. It appears to be a party at sunset


Well, yes! Of course you deserve to rest up and have some fun. But here’s the thing, I’m guessing that right now the autumn (and university) seems to be a gazillion light-years away and that you have plenty of time to get yourself ready to go to university. But, the truth is there’s one helluva lot to organise before you go.

Firstly it will mainly be practical (& fun) stuff – preparing to leave home for the first time (exciting yet scary, right?), buying plates, cutlery, bedding, Netflix – oh yeah, & maybe some stationery!

They have some great advice about what you need to take with you when you’re preparing to go to university over at The Student Room – it’s worth a look.

Then there’ll be the more uni based stuff arranging halls, registering for courses/modules etc. It probably won’t be until you take your first few lectures that your realise how different your experience of studying is going to be at university.

I’ve produced a worksheet to help you prepare for your first lectures. You can download it here and yes, it is free 🙂

Let’s take a look at how Studying at school is different to studying in Higher Education

I can hear you now saying something like,

“Err, Nicki, I’ve been at school for twelve years, I reckon I know how to study by now!”

Well, yes of course you do…at school – but studying at university is very different because for the most part you’re going to have to do it on your own. Whereas, in the past your teachers have given you everything that you need to pass your exams, at university the lectures are just the beginning of the knowledge transfer relationship and you’re going to have to find a lot of things out for yourself.

There you go, I can hear you again,

“The knowledge transfer what? What are you talking about, Nicki?”

Let me show you what I mean:

Diagram showing Vertical knowledge transfer from teacher to student at school
Vertical knowledge transfer from teacher to student at school


This diagram shows that for the most part, the learning process in schools is quite linear. The knowledge only flows in one direction from the teacher to the student. It is the teacher’s job to make sure that their students have the right knowledge to be able to pass their exams or assignments.

Now, the way information or knowledge is transferred between teachers and students is very different at university, and students who understand those differences have a huge advantage over those who are just winging it.

Here’s a rough idea of what the knowledge transfer looks like in Higher Education:



Diagram showing cyclical path of knowledge transfer at university
Diagram showing cyclical path of knowledge transfer at university


It should be noted here that the same colours have been used in both diagrams to represent the individual participants in our knowledge transfer journey. This was done to help you see how the actions of individuals change in the different educational institutions.

Hopefully, you can see that the flow of knowledge follows a very different path at university. The lecturer is really only the starting point of the student’s learning journey. Notice how much more of this diagram is coloured yellow to represent the student’s learning responsibilities.

Notice also that the red arrows, which indicate knowledge transfer (not a super talented group of British display jet fighters) flow both from the lecturer and from the student.

So, let’s delve a bit deeper – what else might be a bit different at university?

New Teaching Styles


Just as you had teachers who had different teaching styles at school, you will find when you to to university, that lecturers have different ways of teaching too. Some will just use presentation slides and literally deliver a lecture based on the content of the slides (although hopefully the number of lecturers adopting this style of teaching is diminishing these days. It can be deadly dull -and really hard to stay focused when tutors use this style of delivery). Others will be more dynamic and will include a lot of interactive activities to help consolidate your learning experience (and help keep you awake!).

In addition, there will be seminars which are usually much smaller groups of students gathered together with their lecturer to discuss a specific element of the module in more depth. These can be really interesting as long as everyone has properly prepared for the seminar and gets involved in the discussion.

Then of course, we have the implementation of technology based teaching and learning where teaching materials are provided to students electronically. This is very much a growth area and there is way too much information to cover all of the ways that universities use electronic resources here.

Watch this space – more information coming soon to a blog post near you!

However, no matter what style your lecturer uses to deliver the teaching materials it is your responsibility to LEARN in a proactive way.

New Learning Styles


As you settle into the new lecture/seminar style of teaching you will find that you will develop a very different learning style to the one that you’ve been used to at school. As we have seen in the diagrams above there will be more responsibility placed on you when you, as the student, to take control of your own learning experience. Not everyone will learn in the same way (we’ll be looking more into different learning styles in a future post).

Your tutors will give you the foundations of what you need to do well, but the onus will be on you to take that knowledge and enjoy the freedom that independent learning affords you. You are no longer on a strict prescribed route and there are no absolute truths, you will be free to explore your chosen subjects, to examine them from many different perspectives and draw your own reasoned conclusions based on your own research. How cool is that?Funny picture showing one picture of two people chinking bottles of beer together with the line - the advantage of going to university: nobody tells your what to do. There is a second picture of a stressed out student at her desk biting a pencil with the same tagline

Of course it does mean a lot more work and you’re going to have to figure out just how you’re going to do that for yourself! Don’t worry I’ll be with you at every stage to give you plenty of  guidance and support to help you.

It is true that nobody is going to tell you what to do (especially me, this is your journey, not mine). But it’s certainly a good idea to take advantage of any help that’s available to you, don’t you think?

So, why not make a start on making the most of the help that’s available to you. Check out our worksheet, How to Prepare for your First Lecture at University (did I mention that it’s free?):

So, now let’s go even deeper into this overview of why you need to be starting to prepare to go to university, NOW!


Skills that You will Need to Succeed

Here are some of the skills that you will need to master in order to succeed at university:
  • Understanding How You Learn/Independent Learning/Confidence
  • Time Management/Planning & Goal Setting
  • Note Taking/Research & Critical Thinking
  • Essay Writing & Referencing
  • Understanding Tutor Feedback
  • Teamwork & Presentations
  • Writing Your Dissertation
  • Exams & Revision

I know this looks like an awful lot to learn but don’t worry, that’s why we’re here. And nobody expects you to be excellent at everything straight away. It will take time to get it right, but you will!

Remember the Academic Skills Academy motto – Always learning!

I don’t intend to go into these skills here, to be honest I’m a bit worried about overwhelming you with too much information all in one go. I’m not patronising you. I know how it feels to be bamboozled by information overload from all the training courses I’ve been doing so that I can write this blog. I have a little equation that highlights this feeling of  overwhelm:

Too much information in one session = No information being retained

And really, what’s the point in you taking the time to read and me taking the time to write if you don’t take anything useful away from the post?

Don’t worry, you don’t need to know it all now. Learning is cumulative and over the coming weeks and months we’ll be covering each of these skills areas in this blog in more depth. In addition, I’ll be giving you loads of free mini-courses and worksheets to help you practise and improve your skills in each of the areas detailed above. I won’t be the stand-and-deliver lecturer type I promise, I believe that the best learning happens when the tutor and the student can have a bit of fun too!

What Type of Learner are You?


As I’ve already said, there is no right way or wrong way to learn. Unfortunately, you just have to figure out what system works best for you. So, over the next few weeks I’ll be covering lots of different methods to help you find your learning style.

We’ll be looking at things like:

  • Time management systems
  • How to take notes from lectures
  • How to carry out your own research and how to record your notes so that they serve you best when it comes to writing your assignments
  • How to write and structure kick-ass essays
  • How to use a system that I call Feed-forward (its a bit like feedback only better – you’ll see!). It’s a system that will help you get the most from your tutor’s feedback so that you can take it and use it to help you improve your work
  • How to work as part of a team and deliver killer presentations with the confidence of a TV presenter
  • How to revise for, and sit exams
  • We’ll also be covering how to write dissertations (but that’s waaaay down the line from here).

Question: Have you noticed anything about the list above?

If you said that it matches the skills that I identified you’d need then give yourself a pat on the back.

If you also noticed that the skills have been listed in the order that you’re most likely going to need them then GO YOU!!

Are you excited about this journey? I am!

What Can You Do To Prepare to go to University?


Stick with me! I seriously want to help you be the best student that you can be. I also want us to achieve that goal in the most interesting and fun way we can! We all need a little help sometimes (especially from those who’ve been where you are and have already made most, if not all of the mistakes – that’ll be me then!).

I’m not going to lie to you there is no magic formula and it is going to take work…a lot of hard work. But like most things in life the more you make a habit of doing things, the more you work at them, the more they become second nature. The more they become second nature, the easier it becomes to get the job done.

So, before I go, just a quick reminder to download the How to Prepare for your First Lecture at University  worksheet. Don’t worry, there’s nothing difficult in there and it won’t take long for you to do the exercise – you’re still going to have plenty of time to enjoy your much deserved summer break 🙂

Now, enough work – go play!

Nicki Walsh My Signature

Always learning!


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