Think Forward | My Keys to Success

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Success in university, like success in anything, requires developing dozens of good habits and doing a hundred things well. No one strategy or tip listed here will get you an ‘A’ in all your courses, but incorporating these strategies, alongside the strategies you’ve already developed, will get you a whole lot closer.

#1 Get to know your profs and TAs

Your professors and teaching assistants are the people who designed the course and who will be grading your work. They know the course content inside and out and they know their expectations when it comes to assignments and exams. They can be a great resource for help if there’s a concept you don’t understand and great folks to chat with to get greater insight into material and subjects you do understand.

  • Introduce yourself to your professors and TAs at the beginning of the year. Let them know who you are and why you are interested in the course they are teaching.
  • Visit your professors and TAs during office hours. Go with prepared questions about course content or upcoming assignments and have a goal in mind for the meeting.
  • Read the syllabus and use Google before asking a professor questions. It’s important to demonstrate that you’ve tried to figure it out on your own before coming to them

#2 Know your resources

UVic has dozens of resources, services and supports that can help you throughout your degree—but it’s up to you to know them and seek them out.

  • Learn about resources ahead of time so that you’ll know where to go when you get in a situation where you need them. Completing this online pre-arrival program, attending New Student Welcome or January Orientation and reading through the New Student Handbook are great places to start.
  • Ask questions – to UVic staff, your peers and to Google. If you have a problem and you’re not sure where to go for a solution, just ask. The UVic Welcome Centre is a great source of information about campus resources.
  • Don’t wait until disaster strikes. Most UVic resources aren’t intended to be remedial, but can help you be proactive in building a solid foundation for success.
  • We can’t name everything here, but your academic advisor, the library, the Centre for Accessible Learning (including its Learning Assistance Program), the Centre for Academic Communication, and the Learning Commons (which includes help with math, stats and physics) are all great places to start.

#3 Develop relationships, not competitors

Work with the other students in your courses, not against them. Being friends with your classmates means you’ll have people who can answer your questions, provide varying perspectives on topics, and empathize with you when it gets tough!

  • Talk to the people in your classes, tutorials and labs. Introduce yourself and invite them to come study with you or be a part of your study group. Forming a study group with set hours not only gives you a chance to work with your classmates, but also ensures you have a dedicated study time for that course.
  • Use technology to your advantage. Find or form a Facebook study group for questions, use the course discussion boards (if available) or join with some friends to create a common Google doc for course notes.
  • A note of caution: when working with other students in your courses, always make sure you are maintaining academic integrity. Check with your professor if you have any concerns!

#4 Plan and prepare

Winging it is not exactly an effective strategy for success in university. Planning means you won’t forget important dates or deadlines, it creates dedicated space and time to do what is needed and it helps you to ensure you have the materials (notes, books, etc.) you need when you want them.

  • Use an agenda or a calendar to help keep track of deadlines, commitments and your schedule. We recommend using a digital calendar, as it makes it easy to move things around if commitments change. Map out your entire term to start and then work week-to-week.
  • Create work-back schedules for assignments, essays and tests. Break them down into smaller components and spread those components out over time. Give yourself more time than you think you’ll need.
  • Set aside designated study times for each class and identify what you want to learn in those times.

#5 Study effectively

Studying is more than what you do in the day(s) before a midterm or exam (that’s cramming). Studying is all the reading, reviewing, practice problems and more that you do in order to learn the course content.

  • Study for each course in multiple smaller time slots spread out over the week. Four one-hour study sessions over the course of a week is more effective than one four-hour study session, as being forced to review and remember the information multiple times will better ingrain it in your memory.
  • While studying for a course, change your topics up often. This will help you make connections between topics and identify links and similarities.
  • Choose appropriate study strategies. Creating flash cards, highlighting key points in the readings, and reviewing your notes can be effective if done well. But you should also spend your study sessions asking yourself questions, explaining how concepts work, creating your own examples and retrieving information by writing down everything you know. UVic has learning strategists who can help you develop your own personalized strategies.
  • Consider registering for ED-D101, a credited elective that helps you read strategically, prepare for exams and make the most of your assignments. The course is typically offered in both the fall and winter terms.

#6 Go to class and pay attention

It’s well-known that students who attend their lectures learn more and get better grades. Attending class means you will keep up with content, meet classmates, know what content has been emphasized, and you’ll be there to hear any assignment or exam hints your professor may give.

  • Show up five to ten minutes early to settle in, chat with your classmates and do a quick review of what was covered in the previous lecture.
  • Put away distractions. Your cell phone, Instagram, Netflix—none of that will help you learn during lecture. Install web blockers and app blockers if you have to.
  • Take effective notes. Don’t transcribe the professor word-for-word. Listen to what they are saying, absorb the information and then write down the most important and relevant information. Only write down new information; don’t waste your time writing things that are in your notes from last class or in that diagram in the textbook.

#7 Be successful outside the classroom

You’ll hear this throughout all the other modules too, but success outside the classroom can impact success inside the classroom. Being healthy, making friends, building a community, having a financial plan—it’s all important too.

  • Reflect on what success means for you—because it’s not the same for everyone. While some people might only feel successful if they are getting straight A’s, there are other definitions of success that are equally valid.
  • Find opportunities to engage in learning outside the classroom. Whether it’s related to your courses or not, the knowledge and skills that you’ll gain will be beneficial.


It’s likely you’ve already adopted some habits that will help you to be successful in your courses at UVic. Some of your past habits may continue to help you at UVic, while others could be detrimental. Keeping your past habits in mind, along with the strategies and tips you have just read, what are three key success strategies that you want to focus on implementing at UVic?

Poll options:

  • Get to know your instructors
  • Study in multiple small time slots
  • Vary the topics you study in a study session
  • Install distraction blockers
  • Don’t transcribe your lectures word-for-word
  • Use UVic support services proactively
  • Make friends with people in every course
  • Form study groups, in person or online
  • Use a calendar to help schedule your time
  • Use deadlines to plan your workload
  • Reflect on what success means to you
  • Learn outside the classroom

>> Return to the overview of the Academic Success topic