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Freshers - how to make a good impression with your tutors not just fellow students


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By Jeremy Lewis, Head of School at ACS Egham International School 

Tips about succeeding at university tend to focus on what you can do to help yourself make friends and settle in with your peer group.

But taking steps to ensure you have a good working relationship with your tutors can be just as important.  

Making this – how you work with your tutors - as much of your focus during your first weeks and months at university as your social life can sometimes be the secret to thriving at university.

I’m not talking about being ingratiating, or starting university with a basket full of apples for the tutor.  University admission officers want your mind, preferably an inquiring one, and they want your enthusiasm and energy. They would also be delighted if you could be well organised and sort things out for yourself.

I know this based on my own experience as a teacher but also through research conducted among university admissions officer in the UK and US, commissioned by ACS International Schools, where they state, categorically that this is what they most want to see in a student:

Top three qualities looked for in a student:

·         evidence of a positive attitude towards study 98%;

·         evidence of a passion for their chosen course subject 97%;

·         evidence of an ability to think and work independently 91%.


Positive steps to impress your tutor

The more discussion there is in your seminar group, the more you will enjoy it.  The better it is for your tutor. Go to every seminar prepared with at least one opinion and one question about something from the reading list, so that you feel ready and confident to speak out. 

To have your question and opinion ready, you need to have done your reading and made notes.  You will be surrounded by people from lots of different backgrounds and schools which is a great opportunity to learn from them too. Ask how they take notes, you might discover a new technique that works better for you.

Use your initiative and join in

Universities aren’t looking for world leaders (although if you do become one you’ll be their all-time favourite alumni) but they do want people who will participate in groups and make the student experience better for you and others.

Other qualities universities look for:

·         an inquiring mind - 90%

·         good written English - 90%

·         ability to work well in groups - 73%


While demonstrating that you have a lively mind to your tutors will impress them and be good for your own self development, acting in the two other key areas of university life are also both win-wins – taking the initiative and taking part.

Independent thinking means being on top of deadlines and planning your own time, as much as it means asking questions or challenging opinions.  Again, ask other students how they plan their work, such as how much time they’re allocating to different stages of an essay, so that you are learning collaboratively. You are then so much more likely to delight your tutor, and yourself, with a well-thought out essay, delivered on time.

Starting at university is a great place to reinvent yourself. Don’t limit yourself to the activities you used to do at school. By joining a wide, new range of groups, you have amuch better chance of finding your ‘tribe’ or group of people that you ‘click’ with.

And when you’ve found a group you enjoy, take an active part in it such as volunteering as press officer, booking venues or organising fixtures. This way you’re not only contributing to the group, and to your own skills and CV, but also to the quality of wider university life.

Universities admissions officers have described the qualities of the dream student in our research – now it’s just up to students to start living the dream!

Jeremy Lewis is Head of School at ACS Egham, an international school in Surrey. The Admissions Officers Survey was commissioned by ACS International Schools and IBSCA. 

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