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  • Dr Paul Penn

Essential advice for students starting university.

Updated: Sep 2, 2021

With a new university year upon us, now seems like an oppportune time to provide some advice on how new students can maximise their chances of success when starting their degree studies.

In this video, I provide 4 brief pieces of advice that will help students get their degree studies off to a great start and avoid the kinds of pitfalls that can de-rail their studies early on. This advice is grounded in research on student success, but also reflects my 14 years' experience of being a university lecturer.

Please share with anyone you think might benefit from this advice.

You can find time stamps for each piece of advice below.

00:00:22 Focus on integration with your institution and course from the outset and think about the balance between university and paid employment.

00:01:24 Take full advantage of your 1st year of study, do not think it matters less if your 1st year grades do not count towards your final degree classification.

00:02:25 Take advantage of university support provisions to help you deal promptly with any financial or personal issues that emerge when you start studying.

00:03:44 If you're not satisfied with the way your course is going, speak to the programme leader/director as soon as possible.


Davies, R., & Elias, P. (2003). Dropping out: A study of early leavers from higher education. DfES Publications.

Nordmann, E., Calder, C., Bishop, P., Irwin, A., & Comber, D. (2019). Turn up, tune in, don’t drop out: The relationship between lecture attendance, use of lecture recordings, and achievement at different levels of study. Higher Education, 77(6), 1065-1084.

Oldfield, J., Rodwell, J., Curry, L., & Marks, G. (2018). Psychological and demographic predictors of undergraduate non-attendance at university lectures and seminars. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 42(4), 509-523.

Ribeiro, L., Rosário, P., Núñez, J. C., Gaeta, M., & Fuentes, S. (2019). First-year students background and academic achievement: the mediating role of student engagement. Frontiers in psychology, 10, 2669.

Van Rooij, E. C., Jansen, E. P., & van de Grift, W. J. (2018). First-year university students’ academic success: the importance of academic adjustment. European Journal of Psychology of Education, 33(4), 749-767.

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