Want to make a strong start in your first year at university? Pick up and practise these study skills strategies now to put you ahead of the game.
The study skills you develop in your first year at university form the foundation for success in second and third years. Starting the academic year with a few skills to hand gives you a real headstart and an extra level of confidence to tackle your first assignments and make good progress.
Make a start on them now, while the sun shines (or not!).
Breaking down tasks
When you are faced with a task that seems too large or too complex, and you just can’t seem to get your head around it, you’ll need the ability to break it down. You can picture it as a journey made up of milestones, or a project to split into sub-sections. If you can’t identify all the steps at first, it's ok to have one or two in mind to get you started. The steps may not be presented to you in an easily identifiable order, so effective prioritising is a key part of the process. Write down the steps and try to put them into a timeframe. Learning this skill helps to lessen your stress and saves you time on the overall task.
Practise this one on decorating projects or family events. List individual sub-tasks and set to work.
Our brains need variety, apparently. Therefore, some switching from one task to another can be helpful. Multi-tasking is not seen as a good approach so rather than flitting randomly from one task to another, it's best to do one subtask for a set amount of time and then switch to another subtask. For instance, read up on a topic for twenty mins and then stop, take a short break and switch to note taking for twenty mins, then for another twenty minutes you can check for gaps in your notes and understanding. This practice develops your adaptability and also gets you used to ‘time chunking’ (see below).
Try switching tasks using a timer. Be disciplined with time and make a clean break from one task to another.
Academic study requires you to make connections between different pieces of information, link your own ideas to new ideas, and see ‘the big picture’. This is a particularly tricky one for many students. One of the best ways to make connections is to use mind maps and other visual elements. No expensive software is needed for this one as pen and paper is often much more conducive to the process, especially during brainstorming. However, if you do have software standing by then now is the time to unleash its potential.
Make connections using arrows, boxes and doodles. Try not to focus on perfecting your drawing skills; instead simply get used to using visual elements more freely.
Working in time chunks
Are you able to manage your time effectively? Many students struggle here. Time chunking is just one technique that can be used to develop the time management skills you’ll need at university. Working in chunks of time should start with deciding how long you will spend on a task before you start. You then need to remain disciplined to work for that amount of time, before switching tasks. During a chunk of time you should actively minimise any distractions and focus fully on the task you are doing. Although the time will go quickly, you’ll get a good amount done, and then you can take a mini-break to catch up with the world.
Get used to this technique by chunking your time at the start of the day - start with a couple of hours and build up to a full day. Write your schedule downl
Those were just four study skills strategies that every student will need, regardless of the course of study. They are things that can be practised before attending uni, and throughout the academic year. They will strengthen your study muscle and let you get off to a confident start.
They are skills that can also be applied in the workplace, whether you are working alongside studying, or entering full-time work.
Good luck building your study skills!