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Planning for success

Read this short piece about how to succeed in your studies
Young woman jumping with excitement
© Pixabay

Everyone begins university with a variety of existing study skills, and at a range of different levels – these can all be built on as you progress through your studies, and your own department will, of course, help you recognise which are especially valuable within your particular discipline.


Preparation is often half the battle, and that can be helped by adopting a positive attitude to nurturing those key skills of effective planning, self-discipline and setting clear goals.

Managing your time is likely to be something you already do effectively – juggling work, hobbies and social activities with a whole host of other commitments. Taking study seriously involves fitting in classes of course, but also taking time to obtain reading materials, reading and taking notes, digesting information, and preparing assignments… all without giving yourself a serious headache.

Students in the arts and humanities and social sciences may find that they have fewer timetabled hours than science students undertaking laboratory time, and as a result, there is an even greater emphasis on being organised and setting yourself clear study hours.

It might be useful to break all of that down early on, and think about how much time you have available in your week, what essential study tasks will need to be finished (and by when), and at what time of the day you feel most able to concentrate on your studies.

Why not have a read of this article from The Guardian for some further guidance on how to plan? As you can see, the issues of self-care we covered in Week 1 play a vital role in your study success too.

Fear of failure?

It’s a well-worn idiom, but ‘to fail to plan is to plan to fail’.

To that end, make sure you make full use of the tools that are freely available to you such as using a paper-based or electronic planner or calendar, the Assignment planning calculator which can help give you the best opportunity for study success, or seek out guidance from around the web for how others have succeeded.

We’ve also asked some of our current students to share their thoughts on getting prepared for study on our Padlet, and the things that work for them – does anything resonate for you?

We all do things differently, so the answer is never the same for everyone – but learning from others is just as important in adapting your approach to study as it is in your particular discipline.

However, you should never see failure (if and when it does arise) as an end in itself. There is much to be learned from those occasions where things don’t quite go as planned, and indeed, there is often more to be gained from taking risks in pursuit of furthering your knowledge and understanding, Not convinced? Speaking at a Harvard graduation ceremony, JK Rowling spoke about failures:

You might never fail on the scale I did. But it is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.
This is a sentiment echoed by Eloise Ristad:
When we give ourselves permission to fail, we, at the same time, give ourselves permission to excel.

So, plan to succeed… but also take chances when showing what you have learned – those risks might just be how you take your learning further.

© University of York
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