University Study Skills

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Students need to make a number of adjustments when starting university. Critically discuss some of these adjustments in terms of skills brought with them, and new skills that must be developed. Draw on relevant SSK12 material in your essay.


In this essay it will be argued that even though students may bring with them such skills as competence in writing secondary school essays and reports, good comprehension and grammar and motivation to succeed with them to university, there are other skills they will need to develop as well as refine those they already possess. The main skills which any new student will need to develop in order to succeed at university are critical thinking, which also includes critical reading, reflective thinking, learning independently and adjusting to the concept of the university culture which has its own languages and behaviours.

New students are likely to experience a cultural clash as university possesses its own culture, and sub-cultures. Adjustments will have to be made with students needing to develop bicultural habits. As Kolb asserts, students entering higher education will have to engage in ‘learning how to learn’ (Kolb 1981). The lead-up to the first study period, as well as the first study period itself, of a student’s beginning in university can be a massive culture shock. Some students may develop the feeling of uncertainty as to whether they have made the right choice about pursuing higher education and whether they are even likely to succeed. This can be observed by reading some of the student comments on the SSK12 Facebook page during the first weeks of the first study period. In other cases we may see students that take on a particular discipline and after a period of time find that they no longer have a desire to pursue that discipline. There may be few opportunities for students in these positions to change disciplines. This is primarily due to the fact each discipline has its own sub-culture within the greater university culture. As Kolb has discussed, there are many faculties within the university, each have their own conventions that are unique to themselves such as language, values, ideas and norms (Kolb 1981). This impending transition may be too much for a student who has already had to become acculturated and has potentially experienced a culture shock. The average individual can be affected by several cultures, for example and not necessarily restricted to, culture of family, culture of the workplace and culture of religion. The culture of university is but one of the cultures that can make a big impact on the individual.

Students are faced with a new workload that may come with a pace of instruction that is probably faster and more intense than what they may be used to. There is a potential to feel overwhelmed at first and ways to overcome this may be to develop habits of early preparation, prioritising and time management. There is an expectation that students need to be self-motivated and independent. There will be some guidance available but the general expectation is that the individual should know their own deadlines and the amount of study that is required. This may take some adjustment for individuals as they may be reeling from the cultural demands that university has already begun to place upon them. If they are studying more than one subject in their first study period they will have already potentially experienced the distinction in sub-cultures. For example, Ballard and Clanchy have noted that each sub-culture will have its own language and values and the new student will have to navigate themselves through an unsteady transition between cultures (Ballard and Clanchy 1988).

Individuals also need to develop critical thinking as it is a cornerstone of university studies. Warren contends that critical thinking is necessary to university studies as an individual cannot “process...
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