Author Corner: Amanda Kirby’s top tips for starting at university

Read more posts in our Author Corner

Professor Amanda Kirby’s new book, How to Succeed with Specific Learning Difficulties at College and University is published next month as part of the Souvenir Press Human Horizons series, and is the ultimate resource for new students with learning difficulties. It offers advice on tailoring your study methods to suit you, links to loads of helpful online resources and apps, and contains tips for living independently, covering everything from cooking to meeting new people.

In short: your one-stop guide to starting at college and university.

But for now you can have a read of her guest blog, new in our Author Corner, giving you ten (OK, eleven) top tips for starting college and university.

Read on for Amanda Kirby’s guest blog, or click here to read a sample of her new book How to Succeed with Specific Learning Difficulties at College and University.

Amanda Kirby’s 10 top tips for starting at college or university with Specific Learning Difficulties

  1. Be prepared.
    This can seem too easy to say and quite hard to do. The more you know about your college or university before you start there then the easier it will be to settle down, make friends and get the most from your course, and the experience of studying where you have chosen. This means finding out what support is available if you recognise you have had some difficulties with learning, or with communicating.
  2. Contact student services- ask what help is available.
    You usually need some documentation to say what your learning difficulties are. If you don’t have this then they should be able to organise an assessment for you, but you may have to pay something for this. They can offer help with assignments, study skills , exam provision etc.
  3. Be as organised as you can be.
    Find out what you need to do in the first few days of your arrival. Read any information sent to you. It has been usually designed to be as helpful as possible. If you are not sure contact the college and ask what is expected of you and what do you need to bring with you.
  4. Sort out your finances.
    You will probably need a bank account in university. Make an initial plan of your spending for the term. If you are not sure how to do this then ask your parents or someone who can help you with budgeting. Planning ahead can minimise large overdrafts and years of debts.
  5. Get your kit together.
    If you are moving to university, then you will need some basic kit to take with you such as stuff for work e.g. laptop, paper for printer, notebook and stuff for your room and kitchen. However different halls of residences will have different rules e.g. bedding (not all universities require this), pots and pans, kettle etc. Use colour coding to help you find things easily e.g. different folders for different topics.
  6. Be prepared to talk (and listen) to new people- the first few days is a crucial time to make friends.
    Everyone is new and nearly everyone will be nervous. Try to smile. Ask people about themselves at the same time giving something away about yourself e.g. “ Hi, I am John from Cardiff, and am studying medicine, where do you come from?”
  7. Don’t stay in your room if you are in a hall of residence.
    Have your door open, have some tea, coffee, biscuits and some beer/wine (if you drink alcohol) that you can offer others.
  8. Get to know the area.
    Find out where and when the buses run; where the local ATM is; the pub and sports facilities.
  9. Go to any sessions on using the library and study skills that are offered
    These can be of enormous help and often will give you a big advantage when having to write a first assignment.
  10. Ask for help- don’t wait till things go wrong.
    If you are struggling emotionally or with work, discuss this with parents, or go to see student services.

And one extra tip for you:

Most of all have fun! But remember: while college and university is a great opportunity to learn all sorts of things about yourself it is also about getting a qualification.


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