This guide has outlined many strategies for success in terms of time management, thinking and planning, learning styles, managing the assignment writing process, improving memory and so on. The aim of this last section is to encourage you to think about how you might approach the whole issue of attending a tertiary institution and some considerations that might help to ease that transition.

There are probably five major approaches to making the transition to tertiary life (and of course many variations on these as well). I will outline these approaches briefly, as you read them, think about which approach you are most likely to take and consider whether you need to modify this approach at all.

The approach Beliefs Strengths Weaknesses
The ‘I can do this’ approach * Uni will be like school.
*If I do what I did at school, I will be fine.
* I am a good/OK student. This will be OK/easy.
* I am pretty sure I won’t need help.

* Confident.
* Positive attitude.
* Caution: uni is NOT exactly the same as school and may need a new approach

* Reluctant to seek help.
* Leave seeking help to the last minute.
The ‘What am I doing here?’ approach * I don’t particularly enjoy this course.’
* I don’t know why I am doing this.
* I would rather be doing…..
* I wish I had not been influenced by my parents/friend etc when I chose this degree.
* Realise that uni is tough if you are ambivalent about it.
* Begin to make decisions independently.
* May seek help.
* Find it difficult to get down to study.
* Lack motivation.
* Poor performance.
* Procrastination can be a problem.
* Sometimes reluctant to take advice.
The ‘missing the boat’ approach * Only 10 (or some small amount of) hours of contact time, I’d better get a job!
* Uni would be OK if I didn’t have to read so much.
* Fairly confident * Lack of understanding of how much time outside of contact time is necessary to do well.
*Lack understanding of the importance of reading and independent learning.
*Poor achievement because of unrealistic view of tertiary study.
The disengaged approach * Uni is to get a degree.
* I can socialise elsewhere.
* I will spend as little time at uni as possible.
* Classes are the most important part of the learning process.
* May have a strong support network outside of uni.
* Class attendance may be good.
* May be task focussed.
*Miss out on the experience of uni socially and in terms of clubs, societies and activities.
*Miss opportunities to learn from other students, especially if English is not the first language.
*May struggle with assessments because of limited interaction with staff and other students.

Whichever approach you may relate to, there are additional factors that can affect how you will make the transition, for example, it is quite common for people to feel isolated when they first start at university, simply because there are so many students, classes are often very big and it is easy to feel lost. Some people are more withdrawn than others and find it difficult to get involved. Others may be naturally more anxious than other people and find it difficult to settle in. Still others feel uncertain because they do not have friends or family who either have attended uni in the past or are attending along with them. All of these concerns are real issues that need to be dealt with.

Here are some suggestions to overcome these concerns and ensure that you make a smooth transition to university or tertiary life.

• Know that it is most likely that plenty of people have faced similar issues to those you are facing and they have been successful. However daunting it may be for you, it is almost certain that others have faced similar concerns and succeeded. You can too!
• Seek help early. Don’t leave it until the last minute. Most universities have free and confidential services where you can seek advice in the following areas:

  • effective study
  • language and writing issues
  • counselling and personal concerns
  • career planning
  • subject choices
  • degree planning
  • support and consideration for disabilities (whether temporary or permanent)
  • international issues (such as visas, family reunion and so on)

• Attend workshops about some of the issues above. Often they are offered centrally in the university, but sometimes there may be workshops offered in your faculty, especially during orientation week before uni starts. Go to these with an open mind, ready to learn and apply the ideas.
• Place learning and performing well at the core of your life. This does not mean you have to study all the time and achieve top marks all the time, but it does mean that study should not be fitted in around everything else. It should be central rather than incidental in your life, especially if you are studying full time and do not have serious work or family commitments.
• Make time to engage with activities and clubs so that you meet other students and have time for relaxation. If English is not your first language it is most important that you talk often with English speakers. This will improve your grasp of English quickly.
• Consider volunteering in your field, doing non-compulsory internships in holidays and going on exchanges to universities in other countries. These will give you invaluable experiences and may even help you to find work when you graduate.
• Realise that the uni is different from other learning environments and that you will have to work differently to become an independent learner.
• Take responsibility for your own learning. Have plans about what you will do and how you will do it. Don’t wait for the assessments, rather work steadily throughout the semester.
• Have a measure of humility. You cannot learn if you think you know it all! This is especially true when it comes to learning new ways to study effectively.
• Make time for reflection. Spend a small amount of time each week thinking about study and consider:

  • Are my plans working out?
  • How is my time management going?
  • Do I have a good balance between study, social life, family and work?
  • What do I need to do differently if I have concerns in any of these areas?

• Take charge of the situation. Be active in your approach to learning and trial the ideas that have been presented to you in this guide.

Reflection and Conclusion

Your approach

Which approach or combination of approaches is most like you?

Consider the strengths and weaknesses of the approach(es) and outline how you plan to overcome these weaknesses and utilise these strengths.


Look back through this guide and make a concept map of what you have learned (call it ‘Plan for Success’). Identify the main issues you are going to address and the strategies that you will use. You might like to do this on a sheet of paper that you display in your study area to remind you of your plan for success.

I wish you all the best in your studies.