Starting your Surrey learning journey

To start your university journey, it is helpful to reflect on what inspired you to come to university and what you would now like to achieve – your aspirations. 

Becoming a more independent, confident learner

Many students often focus narrowly on ‘getting the grades’ to gain a good degree. While grades are important, it should be understood that your time at university offers broader opportunities to develop yourself, which should include learning from feedback on assignments and applying this to future work (which of course can also benefit grades). 

It can also include developing personal attributes, such as resourcefulness, decision-making abilities and self-awareness. These will be beneficial during your time at Surrey and in your life beyond.

Owning your learning

Related to this is that you recognise that significant aspects of your learning experience are things that you can, and should, personally manage, allowing you to choose your learning direction to best suit your aspirations. Sometimes this is referred to as ‘owning your learning’.

As you progress in your studies, you will realise there are various aspects to owning your learning, many of which will be based on your own informed decisions and actions. However, a key aspect is the importance of continuously learning from feedback and identifying, at different stages of your journey, when you need to seek advice and support:

  • Reflect on your progress
  • Identify learning areas you wish to develop
  • Use available feedback, support and resources
  • Apply your learning to other assignments
  • Recognise your achievements.

So, once you start university, take advantage of feedback and advice from your lecturers as this will help your development and allow you to progress on your journey.

You can also form support networks with your fellow students and/or seek advice and support for your learning from our University services such as the Library’s Academic Skills and Development and Maths and Statistics Advice teams; if English is not your native language, you may wish to connect with the University’s English Language Support Programme.

If you are new to studying in the UK, you may notice differences in the educational culture and expectations of you as a learner. Adapting to these will take a little time, but you will quickly find that the University is an international environment where diversity is valued. Finding out about the cultural expectations of your new learning context is important, so be sure to attend induction events on your course, consult module guidance, and always ask if you are unsure.

Focus on what you want to achieve

Whatever your prior learning experiences, to help you to take control of your learning, start thinking about what you wish to develop and learn. Studying at university will allow you to shape and evolve your identity as a learner, so focussing on what you wish to achieve will help you identify traits and habits you would like to develop during your studies. These could include:

  • Building confidence in working with and speaking to groups of people
  • Enhancing your academic writing style
  • Independent learning and decision-making.

Use the information in this guide to start exploring ideas that you may wish to develop once you commence your studies.

How will university be different?

You will already have knowledge and experiences of learning from school, college or the workplace. The main difference at university is that you will be expected to develop as an independent learner and a critical thinker (explored below). This will be an ongoing process, as you will need to develop and refine these skills throughout the duration of your course.

As your course will be made up of component modules, it is always worth looking beyond each individual module experience to perceive the ‘bigger picture’, that is, your course programme overall. By doing so, your progress on your learning journey will be clearer, as you will be able to see connections between all the individual modules you have taken. This doesn’t just include gradually expanding your subject knowledge, but reflecting on the skills, techniques and experiences you are gaining, for application in future modules.

Your unique learning journey

Recognising that your learning journey is unique to you will help you to adapt to new learning environments, enabling you to study more effectively, learn more about your subject and develop transferable skills for your future career.

To shape your journey you will need to reflect on all your learning experiences, for example: how you managed your assignment, whether you could improve your planning and time management, or ways in which you could contribute more effectively when working on team projects.

In developing your unique journey, learning from feedback, as suggested above, is a valuable asset: whilst some aspects of feedback you receive will be specific to the individual assignment in question, there will always be advice on areas to develop for the future. How you respond to the feedback will impact on how you progress on your learning journey.

Developing as a learner on your learning journey

To help you make a positive start on your journey, this section explores four key personal and learning attributes you can seek to evolve. While there are other areas you will need to be thinking about in terms of your development as a learner, these are cornerstones on which you can build other skills, attributes and capabilities as appropriate. You will need to think about and revisit them periodically to review your progress, to help you stay motivated during your course. 

This begins with the importance of being a self-aware learner (such as, how you respond to feedback), as this will allow you to identify ways to develop as a critical (independent) thinker. This in turn will enable you to become an effective problem-solver. All of these considerations will help you to evolve as a self-assured, independent learner who is able to meaningfully progress along your unique learning journey.

What next?

You have made the first step on your university learning journey!

Your learning journey will progress by making the most of, and engaging in, the different learning settings you will experience at University. To become familiar with University learning expectations, see guide 2. What will learning at Surrey be like?

Remember, your learning journey will be unique to you; you will develop not only your subject knowledge but also yourself, as a learner and as an individual. To do this, keep reflecting on your decisions, be confident and considered when solving problems, don’t hesitate to seek advice, and always reflect on how far you have travelled on your journey: what you have learned and how you might be able to apply this in the future.

And good luck!