Building Your Support

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This Skill will help you recognise your needs and to identify potential sources of support. Building your support network is important as is knowing that you can ask for help when you need it and who to ask. Support can be both external, including fellow students, academic and support staff together with other agencies and what you develop within yourself to complete your course successfully (see also ‘Building Your Resilience’).

Sometimes students are embarrassed or reluctant to ask for support, perhaps because they think they should know everything already, or that everybody else knows, or that asking sounds silly. Building your support involves recognising that you are not alone and that you can ask for help from anyone who is a potential source of support.

You need to give time and energy to building mutually supportive relationships and this will probably start with making a circle of friends early in your course. This is an ideal time to meet new people and make new friends who can be an important part of your support network. Social networking online has increased the possibilities for making social connections, even before you start your course. If you find meeting new people difficult, even to the point of having a ‘social phobia’ this can be overcome, but you need to give more attention to developing your people skills. You may find that your course includes group assessments, so developing your team skills will also be important to your success. One way to develop your team skills is to join a student society that can help you meet people from beyond your course or accommodation.

While some of your support will come from others, you also have to find support within yourself. It helps to find your motivation from the start and remembering this helps you complete your course successfully. Your student experience is a time of change, so understanding and processing your emotions helps you to achieve your aims. Central to developing a positive mindset are ‘self-efficacy’, which relates to confidence in your ability to succeed, and ‘growth mindset’, which has to do with your beliefs about your ability to learn and grow successfully (see also the topic ‘Making It Count for Your Future’).

Should you encounter problems, it is important to know where you can get support. You probably have a Personal Tutor who has a special interest in your progress, but all your tutors should help you. There may be Learning Support Officers to help with study problems and Librarians/Information Advisors to help locate academic resources. You may have disabilities and need particular support for your studies. If you encounter other issues such as discrimination or harassment, this needs to be dealt with to avoid it undermining your success. Whatever support you need, your university should provide a range of support services, from accommodation, careers, and financial problems to welfare and counselling together with a dedicated health centre.

Giving time and energy to building your support will help ensure your success. There are many sources of support to explore and draw on. They are all there to help you succeed, but remember, you have to ask.

Suggested Readings
Burns, T. & Sinfield, S. (2012). Essential study skills: The complete guide to success at university (
4th ed.
, Chapter 3, on making university positive). Sage.
Buzan, T. (2018). Mind map mastery: The complete guide to learning and using the most powerful thinking tool in the universe. Watkins Media Limited.
Cottrell, S. (2019). The study skills handbook (5th ed., Chapters 1 & 2 on taking charge of your success and getting the most from your course). Red Globe Press.
Dweck, C. (2015). Carol Dweck revisits the growth mindset. Education Week, 35(5), 2024.
Goleman, D. (2020). Emotional intelligence:
25th anniversary edition
. Bloomsbury Publishing.
Jeffers, S. (2017). Dare to connect: How to create confidence, trust and loving relationships. Crossroad Press.
Smale, B. & Fowlie, J. (2015). How to succeed at university: An essential guide to academic skills, personal development & employability (
2nd ed.
, Chapter 1, on preparing yourself for higher education and Chapter 5, 126–130, on developing teamwork and leadership skills). Sage.