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Succeeding in University: Liking Yourself as a Student and Why That Matters

Succeeding in University Part 5: Liking Yourself as a Student and Why That Matters

Of all the factors that affect how well one does in university, attitude is probably the single most important. A positive attitude leads to motivation, and someone who is strongly motivated to succeed can overcome obstacles that may occur.

In other articles, we’ll discuss things you can do to keep a positive attitude about school and stay motivated in your studies. But your attitude toward yourself as a student matters just as much. Now that you are in university, you are a new person, not just the same person who happens now to be a university student. What do you think of this new person?

If you’re feeling excited, enthusiastic, capable, and confident in your new life—great! Move on to another article! But if you’re less sure how well you’ll do in your new role, take comfort in knowing that you’re not alone.

A lot of new university students, once they begin experiencing the differences from secondary school, start having doubts. Some may start to feel “I’m not a good enough student” or “I can’t keep up with all this.” Some may become fearful or apathetic.

These feelings, while a perfectly natural response to a big change in one’s life, can hinder one’s motivation and ability to succeed. If you think you can’t make it, that might become true. If you’re sure you’ll make it, you will.

Again, we’ll ask you to think honestly about this. If you have these thoughts sometimes, why is that? Are you just reacting to a low grade on your first test? Are you just feeling this way because you see other students who look like they know what they’re doing and you’re feeling out of place? Most likely, if you have doubts about being able to do well, this is just a reaction to university being more difficult than what you’re used to. It’s mostly a matter of having the right skills for succeeding in university. This series will help you learn them—everything from how to study effectively, how to do better on tests, even how to read your textbooks more effectively.

Why is it that some students need to work on strengthening their skills after beginning university while others seem to waltz right in and do well from the start?

The answer sounds simple but is actually rather complex. There simply are many differences among people. There are differences among secondary schools as well as one’s past teachers, one’s peer group, one’s family, one’s cultural background, and many other factors. As a result of many different things, some students just need a little more help to succeed in university. No student is better or automatically more capable than another, however, and everyone can learn the skills to succeed.


To succeed in school, you need to take control of your life. Gone are the days when you could just “cruise” through school, or life, or let others motivate you or establish schedules to manage your time. This change presents an exciting opportunity. It’s your first step in your new life and the key to your future. Here are a few thoughts to get you started in the right direction:

  • Accept responsibility for your life. You are on equal footing with everyone else and have the same opportunities to succeed.
  • Decide what you want to do. Don’t let things just happen—make them happen by deciding that they should happen.
  • Realize you can change. You can change your habits to become a better student. You can change your attitudes and become a more positive, motivated student.
  • Develop a personal ethical code. Do what is right for you and for others. The university world demands ethical standards and rewards responsible, ethical behavior. Be proud of who you are and your good decisions.
  • Enjoy your life! Going to university might seem overwhelming at times, but no one is asking you to “give up your life” to succeed in school. Enjoy meeting new people, learning new things, and experiencing the diversity of the university experience. Most university graduates look back on their university years as one of the best periods in their whole lives!

Key Takeaway

Because the university is a new and different life experience for most students, taking responsibility for new freedoms and managing time well is critical.


College success. (2015). Retrieved from http://open.lib.umn.edu/collegesuccess/ or download the PDF. (License: CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

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