Tips for succeeding at university tend to focus on what you can do to help yourself make friends and settle in with your peer group.
But taking steps to ensure that you have a good working relationship with your tutors can be just as important.
Making how you work with your tutors as much of your focus as your social life can sometimes be the secret to thriving at university.
I’m not talking about being ingratiating, or starting university with a basket full of apples for the tutor. They want your mind, preferably an inquiring one, and they want your enthusiasm and energy. They would also be delighted if you could be well-organised and sort things out for yourself.
I know this based on my own experience as a teacher but also through research conducted among university admissions officers in the UK and US, commissioned by ACS International Schools, which reveals what they most want to see in a student:
Top three qualities looked for in a student:
- evidence of a positive attitude towards study – 98 per cent
- evidence of passion for their chosen course subject – 97 per cent
- evidence of an ability to think and work independently – 91 per cent.
Positive steps to impress your tutor
Go to every seminar prepared with at least one opinion and one question about something from the reading list, so that you feel ready and confident to speak out. The more discussion there is in your seminar group, the more you will enjoy it.
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To have your question and opinion ready, you need to have done your reading and made notes. You will be surrounded by people from lots of different backgrounds and schools, which is a great opportunity to learn from them too. Ask how they take notes – you might discover a new technique that works better for you. This is a great way to get to know someone in a non-threatening, non-drink-related way.
Other qualities universities look for:
- an inquiring mind – 90 per cent
- good written English – 90 per cent
- ability to work well in groups – 73 per cent.
While demonstrating that you have a lively mind will impress your tutors and be good for your own self-development, acting in the two other key areas of university life are also both win-wins – taking the initiative and taking part.
Independent thinking means being on top of deadlines and planning your own time, as much as it means asking questions or challenging opinions. Again, ask other students how they plan their work such as how much time they are allocating to different stages of an essay, so that you are learning collaboratively. You are more likely to impress your tutor with a well-thought out essay, delivered on time.
Starting at university is a great place to reinvent yourself. Don’t limit yourself to the activities you used to do at school. By joining a wide, new range of groups, you have a much better chance of finding your “tribe” or group of people that you click with.
When you’ve found a group that you enjoy, take an active part in it, such as booking venues or organising fixtures. This way you’re not only contributing to the group, and to your own skills and CV, but also to the quality of wider university life.
Universities want people who will participate in groups and make the student experience better for you and others.
Jeremy Lewis is head of school at ACS Egham, an international school in Surrey.