Preparing to Study

  • Add to list Added to list Added
  • Cite
  • Share
  • Embed
  • Download PDFopens in new window


Going away to university is an exciting time. It will challenge, stimulate, inspire, energize, and stretch you. It provides the opportunity to mix and socialize with people from around the globe. You are joining a learning community where you are surrounded by like-minded people with similar aims and objectives. Friendships and networks can be made that will last a lifetime.

A picture shows the pillars of a university building.

Source: Photo by Ashim D’Silva on Unsplash.

For some, the move can be daunting, even overwhelming. However, there are techniques and strategies that you can adopt to make your transition into university study and life easier. These are covered in this Skill. Some students might have worries and concerns about becoming an independent learner. Others might feel a little apprehensive about the level of study, wondering how they are going to meet the standards required. It is natural to have worries and concerns when moving to university. However, with a little preparation, these can be addressed and overcome. Once you arrive at university, you can start to make these preparations to ensure a smooth and comfortable transition.

When preparing to study, it is important to consider your physical, mental, social, and academic preparation. Physical preparation involves your working environment, including finding or creating a safe and healthy workspace. This space will enable you to concentrate on your studies and contribute to your physical well-being (e.g., furniture that is good for posture, and natural ventilation that improves oxygen levels to increase energy and support the immune system). Physical preparation also involves access to, or the acquisition of, equipment and materials required for study, such as books, course materials, and information technology (IT). These issues are discussed in the first section of this Skill.

Mental preparation involves creating a mindset that is conducive to successful study. A big challenge for some students (in particular, those who have just left secondary school) is that they are expected to become an independent learner. Part of becoming an independent learner is the ability to build and maintain motivation. Creating this type of mindset might seem daunting, but with a little preparation it can be done easily (e.g., making the right learning choices, becoming active in the learning process). It is natural for students to have worries and concerns: some might be worried about the amount and level of reading required; others might be concerned about making friends and fitting in. All these issues are discussed in the second section of this Skill.

Social preparation considers the vast array of social and professional networking opportunities that university provides. You are joining a learning community, which presents great opportunities for co-operative and collaborative learning. Clubs and societies are available for you to follow interests and pursue hobbies with like-minded people. Entertainment and sporting venues are plentiful, for participants and for spectators. However, it is important that you know how to balance your social activities, studies, and rest so that you can get the most out of these exciting components of university life, while succeeding in your studies. These issues are discussed in the third section of this Skill.

Academic preparation covers the nitty-gritty: the practical, but extremely important, aspects of study. These include preparing a study plan, setting goals, and managing time. Some students feel that they will struggle with these when arriving at university. However, with a little preparation (and a little self-assessment and/or self-evaluation), these issues are easily tackled. The final section of this Skill guides you through these topics.

A picture shows a group of students throwing graduation caps in the air standing on a landscape of the sunset.

Source: Photo by Baim Hanif on Unsplash.

Many people believe that their university days are the best days of their lives. They look back at their achievements, their personal development, and the friendships made. This Skill will help you to prepare to study so that you, too, will have fond memories of university life and will be able to look back at your experiences with warmth and affection.

Suggested Readings
O’Connor, C., & Thomas, L. (2021). Surviving your first year at university: A student toolkit. Open University Press.
McMillan, K., & Weyers, J. (2021). Student planner and university diary 2021–2022. Pearson.
Cottrell, S. (2019). 50 ways to manage time effectively. Red Globe Press.
Burns, T., & Sinfield, S. (2016). Essential study skills: The complete guide to success at university (
4th ed.
). Sage.
Cottrell, S. (2021). The Macmillan student planner 2021–2022: Academic diary. Bloomsbury.
Coleman, H. (2020). Your super quick guide to university. SAGE.