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How To Be Successful At University: Making The Most Of This Academic Year

Updated: Sep 13, 2019

Your student experience is a very short one (if you haven’t noticed already!) so maximising both the quality of your student life (your experience of life as a student) and the quantity of your experiences (how much you add to your memory bank at uni) is key.

Below are five things that you can start doing today to make this year the best of your student life not just inside the lecture hall/class, but outside of it too – enjoy!!

1: Set Your Intentions Early

It’s super important that you have a clear idea of what exactly it is that you want to achieve from this year in terms of your studies.

Do you want to just pass or do you want to finish the year with amazing results?

Why do you want to do this?

How are you going to do this?

Setting these intentions early enables you to lock in exactly what your goals are for the year and how you are going to achieve them.

On paper it could look something like this:

My intentions for this year

Goal One: Attend all lectures/classes

What goal this supplements –achieving 60% and above in all my modules.

Goal 2: Submit Coursework Early

What goal this supplements –achieving 60% and above in all my modules

Goal 3: Not go into my overdraft – SPEND SENSIBLY!!

What goal this supplements – my goal of not having to eat ice cubes and imagination for dinner four nights in a row (We’ve all been there, don’t worry!).

Being aware of what your intentions are and what they represent is the key to having a successful year not just academically, but personally too. One of my favourite quotes is ‘Clarity of vision comes from extensive planning’ – solidify your intentions early and you’re on to a winner!

2: Explore Your Town/City

Students have a tendency to congregate in specific areas. You will usually find the student in their natural habitat of 2 for 1 cocktails and Pryzm.

Of course I’m joking... the natural habitat of the student is in the library and lecture hall... right?


Seriously though, you are probably living away from home and totally independent – explore your city! Not just the centre, venture deep into your living space, connect with people, try new things – ENJOY YOUR FREEDOM.

If you’re still living at home, then this still applies to you! There is lots to explore within your town/city so make it a thing to try and explore one new place per month ... if anything, make the most of your student discount on public transport! The full ticket price is not a life you want to live. Trust me.

3: Understand Your Purchases

I can’t tell you how much this tip changed my life (and bank balance).

I get it, students are the primary target for most stores out there.

20% discount plus an extra 15% at checkout PLUS my NUS card discount?! *faints into pool of capitalism*.

It is easy to buy lots of cool stuff that make you stand out on campus – or so you think. I once saw a student wearing flashing soled trainers... absolutely

There are so many shops to choose from though and if you’re not careful, you’ll be eating ice cubes and imagination (again).

I came across an idea in a book I was reading about managing money (Yes, it got THAT bad) and it really fascinated me.

The book spoke of six basic human needs that transfer effectively into money management. I am going to talk about one need now, but I will link the book here if you are interested in reading further.

I’m going to talk about the human need of significance, probably the most important need in relation to spending behaviours.

Purchasing stuff makes us feel good! When we get something in the mail, its like Christmas because we didn’t technically pay for anything, Student Finance did (thanks, guys!). When you recieve your loan, it is easy to feel like your money is up and you can splash a little bit. There's certainly nothing wrong with treating yourself from time to time, but the problem is when purchasing things impacts your ability to afford basics like food or essential toiletries. I do understand how easy it is to get carried away with spending though.Purchasing things like clothes or products help us to identify to ourselves and others how we wish to be seen and this process of identification allows us to validate who we are, which allows us to attach significance to ourselves.

Shops and online stores know this too, so they give you 20% + off because they know that you care about feeling good and they also know you don’t really feel attached enough to your loan to try and save as much as possible, so by lowering the price of that shirt or that dress, they know there’s a probability you’ll purchase their product.

How cheeky.

I would like to emphasis to you that significance can be derived from anything – it’s important to try not to equate personal worth with the items you spend money on. I have noticed that students almost enjoy sharing stories of how broke they are - this identification provides them with a burst of significance and similarity amongst their peers.

Let me put it to you like this, if you spend on average £20-30 per week on items that you don’t really wear and/or use too often, by spending only half of that you are saving yourself £40-60 per month. That’s around £180 per term. Imagine how much you could save if you spent only 25% of what you usually do or spend nothing for a couple of weeks! Forbes 30 under 30...? Who knows!

So next time you purchase something besides the necessities, think to yourself, 'why am I buying this'? and 'what could I save in the long run if I don't buy this right now?' Yes it might be a little conservative, but you may think of this article next time you look at your bank and shreek with a surprised "shiiiii...".

4: Get stressed about a deadline

Note how I said stress and not straight up have a meltdown about a coursework.

Stress is a necessary prerequisite to performance. Being stressed is a good thing (sometimes). With courseworks, it’s good to be a little bit cautious and stressed about a deadline. I stressed about my coursework and having enough time ALL the time so I simply started them early - I controlled my stress.

If you’re not stressing about deadlines a little, then you don’t care about your work enough. This doesn’t mean I'm justifying starting your coursework the night before deadline and staying up until 3am when your deadline is at 9am the same morning though – that’s just silly.

Control your stress by either starting your coursework earlier and/or balancing your social life with academia so you don’t fall behind in any of those areas. There’s no reason that once your coursework and deadlines are set, you can’t start doing small chunks per week to decrease the overall work and stress associated with deadlines. You can work AND play! Trust me.

5: Enjoy Your Course

I think as students we all have a tendency to separate our university experience from our actual course. When you ask anyone about their uni experience eight times out of ten they will tell you how ‘lit’ their club scene is.


Without sounding like a sesh scrooge, assign your university experience to both the social and the academic. Would you ignore 50% of your life if you had the chance? (On second thoughts...)

Attend lectures, engage with your content as well as your friends. You probably won’t get the opportunity to study like this again, so enjoy it ALL while it lasts.


We got through quite a lot there! Now you should be feeling ready and motivated to absolutely make this year your best. The quality of your year and life is a result of the choices you make every day. So my question to you is... How are you going to change your year, and your life, TODAY?

To recap this post, the five things students (you!!) must do this year are:

  1. Set your intentions early 

  2. Explore your town/city 

  3. Understand your purchasing behaviour 

  4. Stress about a deadline 

  5. Enjoy your course

Thank you so much for reading and best of luck for this year!

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