What to do when your essay needs clarity

What to do when your essay needs clarity

Thoughts don’t line up like people in a queue. Or ducks in a row for that matter.

Thoughts are messy. Untidy. Jumbled up. Muddled. Flying off at a tangent.

You think you know what you’re doing. You understand the question. You’ve done the reading. You sit down to write your essay and…




Those thoughts you knew, the reading you did, the topic you understood - won’t line up on paper.

Because thoughts aren’t like people in a queue. They don’t line up one, after another, after another. They don’t wait their turn. They don’t linger patiently until you get to them. They are pushy. They jostle for your attention. And they come en masse, grouped together, each one vying for position as your mind makes connections all over the place.

Which is why you THINK you know what you’re going to write in your essay - that is until you have to take this bunch of jumbled thoughts and order them sequentially to make a reasoned argument.

Five tips for writing better essays I learned from competitive swimming

Five tips for writing better essays I learned from competitive swimming

I spend a lot of time poolside. And no, not like Rihanna in a bikini in the Bahamas. (I wish!)

My eldest son was talent spotted age 6 as he swam at our local leisure centre. I knew he was a good swimmer, but I'd thought that was in a 'every Mum thinks their kid is brilliant' sort of way. So, I'd dismissed my mama's pride and simply took pleasure in watching him have fun.

Well, all that changed. The talent scout was just the beginning and over the last nine years I've watched this little kid grow into an awesome swimmer who swam for our county aged 11 and now represents the region we live in.

I spend a lot of time sat by the pool in training sessions and competitions. And when I say a lot of time I mean DAYS. Most of my PhD was written in my notebook and typed on my laptop sat poolside.

I've been sat by the pool today since 8.00am and I won't leave until 5.00pm. And I've been thinking - what does it take to be successful? To be the best you can be? To be absolutely freaking KILLING IT in one particular area of your life?

Whether it's sport or essays, here's five factors I believe lead to success.

Are you sabotaging your essay success?

Are you sabotaging your essay success?

You have an essay to write. You know you should start now. You know the longer you put it off, the harder the task will become. You read the question. It seems okay. Maybe it will be easy. How long does it take to write 2000 words anyway? You have a week until it’s due. Maybe you’ll start it tomorrow.


You’ve done all your reading. But you’re not happy with that opening paragraph. If you could just get that right, you know the rest of the essay would flow from there. **sigh** You've rewritten it at least five times. Why does it have to be so hard? You don’t feel in the mood to work on your essay now. What’s the point? - it’s probably not going to be any good anyway.

Reality check

If you find yourself behaving in a way which you know isn’t going to help you achieve a goal you desire then you are almost certainly a victim of self-sabotage. In today’s blog post I’ll explain why you are sabotaging your essay success and what to do about it. If you know on an intellectual level that you DO things you SHOULDN’T do and DON’T do things you SHOULD, then read on!

Three reasons you should aim for great first year results

Three reasons you should aim for great first year results

Many universities understand it can take time to settle into a new way of life and get accustomed to a higher level of study. As a result, they tend not to count the marks from the first year and instead award the degree classification based on results from the second and third year, most heavily weighted towards the third year.

Technically, students are right when they say first year essay marks don't count because they don't count towards the final mark. But this doesn't mean they shouldn't be taken seriously. First year essays can have a major impact on your academic writing, critical thinking and ability to secure industrial placements and internships.

How? Well, I'm going to go into each of these points in more detail today.

How to succeed in group projects at University

How to succeed in group projects at University

University group projects.

You either love 'em or you hate 'em.

But they're a fact of University life.

And because they're integral to many University modules, the sooner you can learn not only how to survive, but thrive when completing group tasks, the better.

Many people find group work problematic. It’s not surprising because it can be difficult to work closely with other people you don’t know very well, especially as they may work in a different way to you.

Group work is based on trust and mutual respect, as are most relationships at University and in the workplace. Today, I’m going to share why learning to work in groups is so important, why different doesn’t have to mean difficult, five of the common characters you may find yourself working with and how to get the best from teammates.

Why knowing your purpose helps you study better at University

Why knowing your purpose helps you study better at University

Mindset is everything.

Well, not quite everything. But it counts for a lot.

A positive study mindset is an essential part of achieving success at university which is why it became one of the three pillars of signature 3M approach alongside Method and Mastery.

Your mind is immensely powerful. But it’s also rather conservative.

It wants to keep you safe. But sometimes safe means sticking with what you know, not standing out and staying in your comfort zone.  That little voice in your head? It can be your critic telling you to not dream too big, you’ll probably not succeed anyway, why bother to be great when you can be good enough. Or it can be your cheerleader inspire to reach higher, encourage you to push further and excel. And the best part is…you get to CHOOSE!

But it’s not always so easy. Your mind tends to err on the side of caution so you must actively train your mind to focus on opportunities and push past fear. An excellent way to do this is to have a strong sense of purpose. With a focus on what you want to achieve in life, it is easier to stay motivated, have clarity around what action to take and make decisions and choices in an intentional way rather than drifting along.

Last week I talked about how the Japanese concept of Ikigai provides a framework for determining your passion, talent, mission and future profession. Now, I want to show you how this can be used to your advantage in your studies. 

How to find your life's purpose

How to find your life's purpose

There is a plan and a purpose for your life.

It’s a phrase I use A LOT – in emails, videos and in face to face conversations with students. It is my belief that identifying your purpose is a major component in giving you a sense of fulfilment and satisfaction and giving life significance and meaning. Knowing your purpose in life provides a compass to direct your behaviour and action towards the field of study and career in which you are most likely to enjoy, excel and be rewarded.

The reason it’s sprung to mind this week is because I saw a Tweet a few days ago which said it was important to think about gaining skills rather than gaining a job at University. It caused me to stop for a moment and reflect on whether this is true and dig deeper into the topic. The result is this blog post.

“Okay Rachael, but what does this have to do with being a student? Why does it matter? Surely, I can only figure this out later in life by trial and error?”

Well, as time passes and you engage in more paid and voluntary activities then it’s true this will help solidify and hone your understanding of your purpose. But it’s still possible to find it now. Identifying it now is important because your sense of purpose underpins three of the biggest drivers of personal success – motivation, clarity and intention. And who doesn’t want more of those at Uni? More on those next week…

But first, here’s an explanation of what I mean by finding your life’s purpose.

Two major myths to ignore when you start University

Two major myths to ignore when you start University

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

Big mistake!

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, no matter what your starting point, which brings you more marks, more ease and more fun systematically - as long as you have the RIGHT things in place.

It's worth unpacking these myths further, so you know why they trip up so many students.

Why you should set up a study group

Why you should set up a study group

Are you part of a study group?


Well, you’re definitely missing a trick!

Forming a study group was one of the BEST decisions I made while studying for my Undergraduate degree. Although it may conjure up visions of dull, bookish students, it doesn't have to be that way.

Your group, your rules!

The study group I set up met every Wednesday at 11am for cappuccino and cake. And a chat about our course.

That’s why today I'm going to be talking about how you can set up a study group of your own and how it will benefit you at University.


How to target your effort and reach your study goals faster!

How to target your effort and reach your study goals faster!

Those of you who know me will know that I talk a lot about having a positive study mindset and in particular a growth mindset.

Students with a growth mindset know that the more effort they put into their studies, the better their results. 

You can contrast that with students who have a fixed mindset - who believe their talent and ability is limited - and they believe nothing they can do will improve it.

So they don't put the effort in, or don't put as much effort in.

But simply putting effort into your studies is not enough. It has to be TARGETED effort.

To give you an example – you could jog on the spot for an hour and put in a lot of effort, but you're not going to get very far! I see this with students who are clearly putting effort into their studies, but because they don’t have the right strategies they're not getting very far.

What can you do?

3 reasons why you shouldn't use Wikipedia at University!

3 reasons why you shouldn't use Wikipedia at University!

Today, I’m talking about Wikipedia: yes, is Wikipedia really the scourge of higher education? 

Controversial, I know!

But a lot of lecturers and tutors get very hot under the collar and frustrated when students cite Wikipedia as a reference in their essays and assignments. And with good cause!

Now, don’t get me wrong, Wikipedia does have its place. If you are completely brand new to a subject and you know nothing about it then Wikipedia can be a useful place to look up some basic facts and get a grasp of the topic. However, there are a number of problems with using Wikipedia more extensively.