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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Sheldrake

Submitting your own work DOES NOT mean that you have to do university on your own

Updated: Jan 26, 2021

I too often see a prevailing belief amongst students that ‘I have to do university on my own’.

When clients call me experiencing a sense of isolation, feeling highly stressed, worried about not getting an assignment in on time or failing a test, unsure of what kind of support is OK to access, or struggling to get in touch with a lecturer or tutor, I have heard:

‘I thought I had to do this on my own’

‘I didn’t know I could get support to do this’

‘I wish I’d asked for help sooner’

‘Is it really OK to get you to help me with my assignment?’

Where does this idea come from that you have to do university on your own?

I have observed over the years that the university requirement to ‘submit your own work’ is often misinterpreted by students as ‘I must work on my own’ or in other words, ‘I have to do university on my own’ and from here university easily turns into a very isolating and stressful experience. There are a few factors at play here.

1. The fear of inadvertently plagiarizing someone else’s work or idea(s). This means any form of collaboration is avoided, even something as simple as a discussion over the assignment topic or sharing references found via a literature search. Efforts to prevent plagiarism, not just by students but also academic professionals, are not new and have always been a key part of the standards of academic integrity. So yes, the published and/or intellectual work of others is to be clearly acknowledged and appropriately referenced in your assignment or project, but this does not mean you cannot seek support during the research or writing process.

2. Competition. The competition for high grades can be fierce if needed for entry to the next level of study, or to a particular course, and so the likelihood of peer support diminishes. Competition pervades academia and scholarly pursuits with intense pressure to secure competitive research grants and scholarships. Both fear and competition can reinforce the idea that you have to do university on your own.

3. The increasing popularity of online or distance study. This means that many students are not part of campus life but are learning and working on assignments in a home office, which can increase the sense that you are on your own. In the online learning environment, engagement with peers can be challenging despite the best efforts of universities to provide interactive online platforms.

How to not do university on your own – reach out for support

There is no denying that undertaking a course of study at university, be it on campus or online, full-time or part-time, is demanding both academically and personally. It is essential that you don’t let anyone or anything make you think you have to do it on your own.

If you start to feel like you’re on your own remember that support is available from a variety of places both through your university and beyond:

  • Find out about the range of services provided by the university or your Department which may include peer mentoring, tutoring, academic writing support (each university will be different).

  • Get to know the librarians and the range of services they offer. They are an amazing resource whether you are studying on campus or online and very willing to support you.

  • Access a private tutor to support with specific subject related challenges.

  • Access a private study coach or mentor for support with research skills, writing, proofreading and more.

  • Talk to family, friends and work colleagues about your study, your course, your assignment, your frustrations, your wins. Sometimes we can think others who are not studying won’t understand or won’t be interested in what we’re doing but I’ve come to know that what we need to hear can come from the most unexpected places if we’re open to sharing with others.

  • Ask family and friends for support with the practical stuff if needed like the housework or child minding.

  • Book a session with Study Made Simple

As one of my clients shared with me “Michelle makes doing Uni OK and that’s 10/10 with me.”

Find your someone or someone’s who make doing university OK and make it a group effort. They say it takes a village to raise a child, well I would suggest that the wisest university student is one who builds a village to come along with them through the university experience, it is an opportunity for immense learning for all.

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