How can you use the university experience to develop independence?

How can you use the university experience to develop independence?

There has to be no worse a nightmare, than investing heavily in doing a degree, only to leave after 3-4yrs of study with the same emotional, financial and survival dependency that you started with. The thing is, you don’t always know how to make sure that this doesn’t happen to you.

There are many different definitions and descriptions of the term ‘independent learning’. The terms ‘self-directed learning’ and ‘learning how to learn’ are sometimes used interchangeably (Field, Duffy & Huggins, 2014)

There are 2 seminal moments in the start of your university life, there is that moment a person makes the decision that they are going to apply and there is the moment when one realises that this means it’s time to grow up. Sometimes this appears to happen all at once, sometimes, there is a massive delay between the two. I have known students that decided to go to university, yet only realised halfway through that they need to change the way they approach things if they want to be successful.

Students are ‘reading for a degree’ and will only gain higher marks by demonstrating your reading beyond the lectures. With ever increasing demand for graduate jobs, the higher the final classification of your degree/course the more use it will be to you in achieving your goals. Whether or not an individual student achieves their full potential at university is dependent on the extent of their independent study. This includes learning how to read effectively, make useful notes, write essays and reports and revise effectively. The precise amount of time needed for independent study varies both with the topic being studied, with your own speed of work and your previous experience of studying at this level.

University is designed to equip you with key skills that will give you an advantage in the world of work, so that you can become even more independent than those who haven’t entered higher education. Doing an undergraduate degree is where students are meant to master the art of independent learning, which is a culture shock for people that are used to the teaching styles that tend to be experienced in primary and secondary education.

Planning, is one of the important skills that you learn when you enter into higher education. A lot of people say leaving essays and assignments until the last minute is how they prefer to do things.. what benefit is there in this behaviour? Worth thinking about….

“Knowing where to go for help, is a part of independent learning”

Independence is also about learning how to let go of the emotional attachments that you have spent many years becoming defendant on. Emotional independence doesn’t always come easy. You may have physically left behind your mother and annoying brother, but students may well enter university and meet people who remind them of people that formed a part of their life as a dependent. What this can mean, is that the student forms a toxic relationship with these people which draws the student back into the feelings that were connected with the original dependency. For this reason, negotiating adult relationships for the first time becomes extremely important in the student’s emotional development, therefore helping them along on the road to emotional freedom.

Becoming independent as a student, means letting go of the need to compare oneself with others in order to feel better or worse. Quite often, there are those who are drawn towards comparing their own achievements with the achievements of others, which is often counterproductive to a student’s self-esteem and motivation, as these become fuelled only when others are doing better or worse.

“Independent private study is an essential part of preparing for university lectures and seminars. Following up each lecture with some reading helps the independent learner to consolidate what has been done in lectures.”

For each credit of a course, there should be 10hours of student, so a 15 credit course is 150 hours of study which includes the time you spend in classes, looking for resources, reading, making and reviewing notes; studying with peers; whether that’s friends you have made at university or people that know the advantages that come from working as a group. Study time includes taking the time to think about the topics that your course has covered; practicing skills, attending workshops or additional seminars and lectures run by various institutions; planning and reviewing your learning; making time to prepare for assignments and most importantly, revising.

Field, R. M., Duffy, J., & Huggins, A. L. (2014). Independent learning skills, self-determination theory and psychological well-being: strategies for supporting the first year university experience.

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