FE to HE: Bridging the Study Skills Gap

5 minute read

Female student moving into university accommodation
Female student moving into university accommodation
Female student moving into university accommodation
Female student moving into university accommodation

Moving into higher education can be a challenging time for students. Whilst they’ll be studying a more advanced level of the same subject, the structures around them change entirely. It’s no small adjustment going from a majority of time in lessons - being told where to be, what to do, and how to manage your workload - to having very little in-person teaching. It’s part of the reason over one in ten students drop out in their first term.

Much of the problem stems from a lack of study skills, which are essential when it comes to university; it stands to reason that the solution lies in developing these skills in students. We’ll be considering the reason HE requires greater study skills and some of the ways to close the skill gap to better support students.

Why is it so much harder?

One of the biggest differences between FE and HE is the nature of the timetable. There’s far more flexibility for university students, and they’re given a huge influx of autonomy over their time. In some ways, this is great: it gives the student the ability to manage their schedule how they want. It’s a double-edged sword, though. Without proper time management, it’s easy to get the balance between academic and personal commitments wrong. With so many assignments, this effect can snowball out of control - and quickly.

A solution to this is creating a personalised timetable rather than the bare-bones one provided by universities, which will just contain teaching hours. Setting goals for the day and scheduling hours to work on assignments, then sticking to them, will help keep a student on track with their work. Tools like Booost can be a big asset for this.

“Without proper time management, it’s easy to get the balance between academic and personal commitments wrong”

Less teaching, more studying

Universities are the pinnacle of education. Whatever a student is studying, they’ll be making a big step up academically. With this comes an increased workload in terms of assignments; whilst there are fewer teaching hours, there’s much more work to do around those hours. It can be overwhelming for a student moving from FE into HE seeing how much they need to complete in a term, and being given no instruction on how to go about this.

Breaking each task down into manageable steps, planning how long these steps will take, and integrating them into their timetable helps students overcome this. Tasks need to be prioritised based on importance and due date, and it’s important not to overcommit to things outside university to protect study time. Learning to effectively plan out assignments well in advance of the due date is a crucial study skill.

The emphasis in HE shifts from teacher-led learning to independent study. This requires a much greater deal of self-discipline to digest content outside the classroom, but also the development of study skills. Rather than being fed information by a teacher, the student needs to seek out academic information through the library and other databases. Most universities will provide study skills sessions focussed on using these resources.

Understanding the work-life balance

Moving to university doesn’t just change the way you study. There’s normally an increased personal responsibility, too. For lots of students, it’s the first time mum and dad aren’t taking care of the washing, cooking, and giving them an allowance on the side. Managing their time extends to taking care of these new responsibilities, as well as continuing to manage their social life and extracurricular activities.

“Social media and streaming services are often preferred to studying and chores”

Unfortunately, rather than doing this, many students use their newfound autonomy to procrastinate. Social media and streaming services are often preferred to studying and chores. It’s another case whereby students need to develop their study skills to keep on top of things. Making use of things like the Pomodoro technique can help a student stay on track. Booost also allows users to clearly differentiate between study time, wellbeing time, and free time to make sure everything gets done.

Closing the study skills gap

The greater autonomy students get as they move from FE into HE offers a new and exciting way to learn. However, getting the most out of university requires different and advanced study skills. Students are often ill-equipped to deal with this at first, and can sometimes succumb to indecision and procrastination, ultimately falling behind on their studies. The intensity of the workload coupled with the comparative lack of in-person support is a difficult transition.

In order to combat this students must learn to manage their time themselves, and learn to use the new resources available to them. Booost is specifically designed to support students with their time management, providing some of the structure that was lost between FE and HE. University resources can also be sought out to build many of these skills. Whilst it is challenging, helping students get it right sets them up for a holistic work-life balance moving forwards.

Marketing Executive

Curtis is a former student with the University of Leeds, and now hopes to help current students get the most out of their studies. Prior to Booost Curtis worked in the energy industry, where he supported disabled customers during the COVID-19 pandemic before making the move to marketing.

Marketing Executive

Curtis is a former student with the University of Leeds, and now hopes to help current students get the most out of their studies. Prior to Booost Curtis worked in the energy industry, where he supported disabled customers during the COVID-19 pandemic before making the move to marketing.

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