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New to the OU? Here’s 8 tips to set you up for study

As new students open their Open University books and start learning with us, we asked our Instagram community to share their advice for anyone beginning with the OU.  They’ve given us some top tips to help you get off on the right foot:

1. Don’t Doubt Yourself

It can feel overwhelming when you start getting your books through and planning your study schedules, but don’t let this question your ability:

“Don’t doubt yourself and think it’s impossible, you can’t do it, before you have even sat down and started a TMA. Don’t let it overwhelm you. Once you get going you realise you were over panicking & letting nerves get the better of you.” @Stephdm33

“Be more determined, don’t listen to others putting you down and apply yourself more when it matters” @singlestudyworkmum

“It might seem impossible, but it really isn’t. Break things down into small chunks , don’t be afraid to try a few different ways of studying until you find the one that works for you.Dont beat yourself up if you feel behind your fellow students,everyone learns in different ways.” @Brontobemildd

2. Tutors are there to help

Our network of tutors are there to help you succeed!  Many of our students rely on their support, advice and guidance throughout their course, so don’t be afraid to call on them.

“Use your tutors to help. If you don’t feel that’s enough contact the university early rather than half way through the course. They will do as much as they can to help you succeed.” @notenoughhoursindayxx

“Don’t be afraid to ask your tutor for extensions when you need it! You’ll be surprised how easy it is to feel guilty to ask for it or to make yourself think you can’t ask. Extensions are available if you need it and can make a big difference in the TMA score you receive.” @cake4dinner

“Remember your tutors are only ever an email or call away and can provide some help or advice if you need it. Also be sure to attend the online or face to face tutorials if and when you can as they offer a new dimension and perspective on things, it’s also good to ask questions and speak to other students to see what study methods they use too.” @helss_97

3. Feel the fear and do it anyway


Making a small start, when you feel you’ve got a mountain to climb, can get your study going and kick off your self-motivation:

“Motivation comes faster if you start doing something, even a little bit. Don’t sit and wait for it!” @Georgianna_c.t

“Resist the urge to put off starting TMAs until tomorrow, so many times I lived to regret that when burning midnight oil, and getting into stressy panics!” @lochness375

“Feel the fear and open that marked TMA as soon as you receive it! It’s always helpful, even if you feel like reading the feedback while covering your eyes (we’ve all been there).” @Georgianna_c.t

4. Manage your time

Many Open University students learn alongside working, parenting, and juggling their busy daily lives.  Many of our students suggest that planning ahead and being organised can really help:

“Setting time aside, even if some days it’s only a small amount. Time management became a skill I learnt pretty fast with open uni.” @claire86c

“Don’t be afraid to experiment with ways to schedule work, take notes, work an assignment. It’s worth knowing what doesn’t work too (and you may or may not get to indulge a love for stationery if you have one 😉).” @Georgianna

“Figure out how you study best and don’t worry about everyone else. Some of you will start your TMAs well in advance of the deadline and some of you (like me) work better closer to the deadline.” @kiriasher

“If you know you are going to be busy get ahead on the study to give yourself breathing space. “ @amandasallysam

“Plan, plan and plan some more. Schedule in study time as if it’s a meeting and don’t cancel on yourself.” @clking_writes

5. Make it visual

@Helss_97 has a good tip on how to absorb new information in a more visual way, which can work really well for many:

“Invest in some good, brightly coloured post-it notes and coloured felt tips. Sticking post it notes around the house in places you look at each day (bathroom door, mirror, kitchen etc) with terms and definitions on them can really help you to remember things without even having to try that hard; you end up absorbing them subconsciously. Another great idea if you are a visual learner is mind-maps; they are useful for seeing all the relevant information you need for a theme at once.” @helss_97

6. Lean on your fellow students

Although you’re embarking on distance learning, there’s a huge Open University student community which you’re part of.  You can get in touch with the OU Students Association, who run meet-ups, online forums and offer support, and you can try some of these suggestions:

“Try and get to know other students doing the same course whether through day schools or online tutor group forums. They are all in the same boat and you can help each other with advice, tips and most of all support!” @smileysaltpepper

“Participate more in the forums, don’t be afraid to ask questions!” @sharknosaur

7. Take it a step at a time

With the OU you’ll be studying flexibly, to suit your own life – so don’t feel pressure to rush through your studies, or compare yourself to others; everyone has different circumstances and ambitions!

“If the course is delivered online only, some people like me need to make some notes, so you’ll probably need to allow yourself additional study time, and try not to make those notes into a 1000 word document. Keep it short, simple and RELEVANT!! “@cakes4dinner

“Take it one module at a time, university isn’t a competition and, even if it takes a little longer than you initially plan, you will get there in the end.” @Katiemarieuk

“Just focus on each day, each assignment and take it as it comes. Even if you don’t think you will do very well or you’re struggling with a topic, persevere, do the best you can at that particular point in your studies, submit that assignment and you may end up pleasantly surprised with your result; which is a great confidence boost for the rest of your studies.” @helss_97

8. Enjoy it, and be proud of yourself!


Barbican degree ceremony

One day you’ll be sitting at your own degree ceremony celebrating your success

Open University students are special people – just take a look at some of our inspiring student and graduate stories!  Achieving your degree can be a lifelong dream come true, so enjoy it and be proud!

“Enjoy studying as much as possible. You clearly wish to learn and better yourself and that is something to be proud of.” @Bloughn_

“To remain proud of yourself! Throughout the degree, you will suffer from bad marks, difficult assignments and an array of other struggles. There will be times you will work hard, only to receive a low result. If that happens, it’s not a failure. No matter your scores, results or degree classification, remain proud of yourself! Being an OU student is special. We’re not just students, but parents, carers, workers etc. To do an OU degree with our unique circumstances is amazing! So, never stop being proud of yourself!” @educatrex


About Author

Kath works in the Media Relations team within the Communications Unit at The Open University. She is a skilled communicator with more than 15 years’ experience working in both the public and private sectors. She has a BA (Hons) English and American Literature from University of Warwick and specialises in stories from the Faculty of Social Science, Faculty of Education and Language Studies, BBC programmes, and student stories. In her spare time Kath enjoys touring the country in her hand-painted camper van, Trevor.

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