Getting ready for university: ask

PRA model

And so to the final of these 3 blogs about getting ready for university – “ask”.

I am re-posting this at a time when many students are getting ready for exams as I think it is relevant all the way through your course.

I am well aware from my personal experience that starting at university can be pretty daunting. And it can look like everyone else knows what they are doing, are confident and having a good time. Maybe some of them are, but you will find that if you feel like you don’t know what to do, you are not alone. And because it is new and strange, it can feel really hard to ask for help. But you absolutely MUST! So here are my tips:

  1. It’s not stupid to ask. We get asked all kinds of things by students and your question will almost certainly be one we have been asked before. It is best to have a thorough check of emails and online material before you ask anyone just to make sure your question hasn’t already been answered.
  2. Staff will be helpful. I know sometimes administrators in particular can find it frustrating to be asked questions when the answers are already available. So just in case you have missed an email or misunderstood something, be nice when you ask. It’s pretty normal manners anyway but no matter how confused you are or how worried, try to be calm when you ask. Oh and be careful not to expect an immediate response. Some department state how long it will take to reply by email. Sometimes it is quicker to ask in person at the office (but note the opening times).
  3. Ask the right person. As a rule of thumb, the administrators will have better information about enrolment, timetable and the operation of your degree. Academics (me included) are very likely to get this sort of thing wrong. By all means ask lecturers about module choices and the academic content of the course.
  4. Keep on asking. If you are still unsure, keep asking. Find a friendly face who might not be directly the right person but who could help you find the information you need. Students are allocated Personal Tutors – ask them about your studies.
  5. Don’t let it slide. If you don’t understand something, it is up to you to ask. It is all part of being a student at university that the onus is on you to take action. If you don’t get a reply to an email within a couple of days, check back. Keep on asking.
  6. Escalate if necessary. If you are getting no joy from your repeated asking of a question AND you have allowed sufficient time for an answer to be found, then escalate. Usually this would be the Head of Department but check to make sure. You will almost always find their email address on the website. Don’t expect them to be in the office when you call round – unless it is in Office Hours. Email is always best.

And I am pretty sure you will get the answers you need.


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