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Independent Study Style at University
College vs. University
I studied half of a maths degree at a different university before coming to study at Leeds Beckett and so have experienced both an exam-based degree and coursework-based degree after a fully exam-based college experience.
The main difference I found when arriving at university was the focus on independent study, compared to college. My college did try and encourage some independent study, however looking back, we still got given a large amount of revision resources and assistance with our writing as well as constant reminders of exam days/times. Whereas at university you are encouraged to try and find answers yourself first by using resources available and talking to your peers before you go to a tutor. Once you have tried to work things out for yourself, the tutors are always there to help when you need.
The actual process of taking an exam at university compared to college isn’t too different. However, at university I found that it was important to keep track of my own exam dates rather than relying on the tutor like I did at college.The first assignment I got in my degree at Beckett was a portfolio where we had to discuss different theories of how children learn. This was a fairly big task and was very different to anything I’d done before and I realised quite quickly that I had to adapt my study style to suit university essay writing formats.
Adapting to Independent Study
Adapting to university study isn’t something you will be doing on your own, everyone on your course will likely be in the same position. This means that a large amount of support is given at university to help students both online and in-person. I’ve put together a few of the resources and ways in which the university has helped me learn independent study techniques and academic writing skills.
The university has Skills for Learning, an online resource which has a range of sections that covers pretty much any skill you may need for academic writing. I’ve added an example of a page on essay writing which is split into several different sections for easy navigation and a reflection sheet which can help to get your thoughts organised and document what you’ve learnt. I’ve used this quite a bit and it really helped when I was initially struggling with writing my conclusions.
The university library is also a great independent study resource, both online and in person. I’ve found the best way to access it is to use the discover feature for more general searches and then advanced searches when looking for more specific things. You can also filter the search to only find certain resources so, for example I've been using the filter for ebooks and journal articles to use whilst I’m studying from home. Most courses will also have a reading list. If there are more general resources suggested, then I’d recommend giving them a read at the start of the year before you get busy with assignments or exam revision. There are also librarians available to chat to online, and in person when the library is open who can help with any library/resource-based questions.
With physical books, I got into the habit of searching for the codes of books and jotting them down using discover (search engine mentioned above) before going to find the books as it makes the searching process a lot faster. Each library will contain books linked to the courses studied on that campus, so most of my education books are on Headingley campus as that’s where I’m based. I have needed history books before, to help with some research for a lesson I was running so these were on City campus as that’s where history is based. On the whole, most books you need will be on the campus you go to lectures, which is really useful if you want to do some after lecture/seminar study or grab some books before heading home.
These resources are all explained in much more detail during induction which I think differs in length depending on your course, but they all explain the help you can get from different areas within the university. You also get to chat to your tutors and then in the weeks after induction, you’ll speak with your academic advisor who works with you to reflect on academic progress throughout your time at university. They will likely be your academic reference if you need one for jobs or placement and are a great person to go to if you’re struggling with anything. They will know what you’re up to in your studies and know about university workings so can advise who to go to for issues that aren’t within their expertise. They can also help with future planning and can give some general advice for how to improve your work. When struggling with my introductions within my essays, my academic advisor suggested I have a read through journal articles to get a sense of how to make them sound more academic.
You will be supported
Overall, adapting to independent study can be quite tricky as it’s something new but I do just want to reiterate that you absolutely aren’t doing it on your own. All university students will have the experience of needing to adapt to this new study style and will mostly all do their best to help each other. I’d also encourage anyone that feels more confident with these systems to help others with it if they look like they’re struggling and share any tricks you’ve found to make things easier.
First year is learning curve. It’s all about discovering how you work best so that it’s not a worry and you can plan your time properly in second year onwards when your results count towards your degree. I really enjoy independent study because I can choose exactly how, when and where I want to study. I really hope this helps explain how you can study and the support/resources available to you so that you can look forward to and enjoy your first year at Leeds Beckett.