Many students are naive about University study because they believe one of two myths:
- I’ve got good exam results so far, so I’m going to be fine, or
- first-year results don't count so I can figure it out as I go along
Either one of these two myths will steal your peace of mind and cost you marks.
Not only do you need to acknowledge the GAP between A levels and University to bridge it effectively, you need to make this transition FAST.
You can get RAPID RESULTS and have more marks, more ease and more fun - as long as you have the RIGHT things in place.
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It's worth unpacking these myths further, so you know why they trip up so many students. Let's take the first –
I’ve got good exam results so far, so I’m going to be fine.
I’ll begin by saying – yes, you have all the raw ingredients to make a good scholar.
You’ve demonstrated you are intelligent, diligent and able to perform under pressure. But how much of that has been down to your personality, organisation and intrinsic motivation compared to the direction, instruction, and drive of your school or college tutors?
Have you been:
- shown what to study and how to study it?
- directed to relevant books and resources?
- coached in how to approach and complete any coursework assignments?
- advised what topics will come up in your exams and how best to revise for them?
Hmmm, if you’re honest, hand on heart, most students will say yes to some or all those questions.
If all student who did well in college found it straightforward to transition to University, then there wouldn’t be any students who:
- drop out,
- change courses,
- fail exams,
- flunk essays and assignments, and perhaps worst of all
- finish University with a poor degree result and thousands of pounds worth of student debt.
Take a few moments to think about it – you probably know someone - a friend, acquaintance or a family member - who has had one of these experiences.
That’s because the number of students who drop out during their first year is 1 in 16 and as high as 1 in 10 for some courses and institutions. Many more students seek help as they struggle to navigate the gulf between school teaching and University education.
Even if you’ve hit it out of the ballpark with your A-Level results, you’ll find there is a big jump upward in standard when you begin University. This is because school and college are tightly focused on the outcome of passing assessments.
The pressure on schools and colleges to achieve and maintain league table positions (which simply didn’t exist when I was in college in the 1980s and 90s) mean they often ‘teach to the test’ – they literally teach you enough to pass the exams. According to researchers at the University of Oxford, the UK and the US are the worst culprits for teaching to the test.
I'd argue it's not their fault, It’s an unintended consequence of the targets they’re measured on. But the way college is structured today makes it harder for YOU to make the step up from college to University than it was for me 26 years ago.
Teachers at college provide multiple occasions to practice for your final assessment through tests, mock exams, and revision classes. It’s different at University. Here the focus is on developing critical thinking skills so you learn to evaluate research independently.
This is why many students with good A-levels find it incredibly difficult to adjust to the learning environment and approach to learning they find at University.
There’s a saying that ignorance is bliss and this may be true in part because if you don’t know what’s around the corner, you’re not concerned.
But when you’re in a state of unconscious incompetence because you don’t know what you don't know – well that’s harmful. Because you need to comprehend your knowledge is deficient before you can move forward and close the gap.
Okay, so we’ve talked about the myth of believing good results at A level automatically translate into good results at University.
Equally misguided is the student who thinks they’ve got a year’s grace where they don’t have to put in too much effort.
First-year results don't count so I can figure it out as I go along
I shudder every time I hear students say “first-year marks don’t matter” or “first-year marks don’t count towards your final degree”. It’s maybe something that you’ve heard people say.
But if you choose to ignore your first-year results it DOES make a difference. Here’s why.
Every time you attend a lecture, read an article, write an essay, or revise a topic you have the chance to improve. If you don’t take those early attempts seriously, then you’ll miss opportunities to hone your research and writing skills in a relatively safe environment.
Often at University, you’ll simply be supplied with an outline of what is required to pass the module and how marks are allocated. You may get a rubric showing what the person marking is looking for, or you may be given a previous year’s exam paper or essays as examples.
Generally, though you’ll need to figure out what, when and how to study so you can pass the assessment by yourself.
Your lecturer or tutor wants you to be successful, but they’re there to share the themes and questions which are paramount in your SUBJECT; not to teach you HOW TO STUDY They'll expect you to study in a manner that reflects your intellect and ability.
The students who waste this prime opportunity to practice and improve? They are the ones who get to exam time and realise they're not going to pass or they get into the second year and suddenly panic because they've submitted essays in the high 40s and low 50s instead of using their first year to build their skills and knowledge to the required standard.
It won't just hurt your pride and your pocket in the here and now.
As student numbers continue to rise, employers look for different ways to differentiate candidates, not only for jobs after graduation but for internships and industrial placements too.
Understandably, these opportunities are hotly contested because there is a strong correlation between students who complete placements and those that are offered graduate positions after they conclude their studies.
And what employability factors do employers look for in applicants? Creativity? Confidence? Competence? Yes, all of those are obvious qualities that employers look for.
One attribute that’s often overlooked by students, but highly relevant to companies is consistency. It’s the number one quality I’ve looked for whenever I’ve hired a new team member.
Think about it. It makes sense.
Employers KNOW past performance is one of the biggest predictors of future achievement.
An internship or industrial placement is secured partly based on results from your initial year.
Fortunately, if you take University seriously from day one, this gives you a head start over those people who proclaim that first-year results don’t count. You’ll approach your studies with the knowledge that consistently achieving good marks (and working towards great marks!) shows you take your academic work seriously. To an employer, this suggests you’ll take their internship, industrial placement or graduate job seriously too.
These two myths will hold you back and that's why I am so keen to get the word out there and totally BUST THESE MYTHS! It's imperative you begin University with the right Mindset and Methods and Master the skills you need to succeed from Day One.
If you're already at University then you'll most likely recognise yourself in the picture I've painted here. Remember, it's never too late to study hard, stand out as long as you start right now.
If you're heading to University for the first time, then you'll be one of the students who go into their University years knowing how important it is to learn how to learn! Let me know in the comments below what your number one concern is with starting University.