What is your definition of success?

It is easy to assume that a successful student is the one that achieves high grades and is popular not only with their peers but also lecturers and professors. In many cultures, a successful student is defined by their IQ ratio or a number of publications if we talk about PhD candidates. As a result, starting a university is proceeded by long hours spent on excelling in specific subjects and by improving reading and writing and speaking skills. However, many international students who come to study in the UK, or other English-speaking countries do not often realize that in order to become successful at university, they need to be equipped with an additional set of skills. In this week’s blog post, I would like to encourage you to reflect on the definition of a successful student and consider what you can do or what steps you need to take in order to become a student of your dreams.

Download the Guide

Click here

The definition of success at university

Contrary to a popular belief, success at university is not limited to academic attainment only. Many students and their parents can become quite obsessed about the idea of achieving a merit or distinction on the final diploma. Despite scoring 60 or 70% overall for all the effort put into 3 or 4 years of study, there might be other aspects of studying at university that can presumably make you feel accomplished. In order to understand what success means to you, I suggest you think about your university experience in four categories. Category 1) Career and job prospects, Category 2) University and academic attainment, Category 3) Transformational experience, Category 4) Personal satisfaction. It is often forgotten that university experience goes beyond grades and scores, and that for different students it will mean different things. However, to be able to make most out of your uni days, you have to understand what success means to you and how you can achieve it. In order to help you coin your own definition of success, I have created a guide that will help you realize your desires and consequently, identify what matters most to you.  Click here to access the guide.

How important academic skills are?

It would be difficult to envisage academic success without an ability to read or write academic papers or present research results to a wider community during a (semi-)formal conference. It would also be extremely difficult to find time to cherish student life if most of this time was to be spent on catching up on study materials. It is clear that a university student is expected to work independently and in groups to complete academic assignments, which require a great deal of reading academic textbooks and journal articles, conducting research and writing up the research results. In other words, university students are expected to possess those skills before starting a degree course. Hence, focusing on and excelling at academic reading and writing, note-taking and research skills is what can differentiate between a very good student and an average one. However, there is a range of skills that not too many lecturers or professors talk about, but which are equally important for university students.

Skills that help students become successful at university 

One of the skills or abilities that will determine your success at university is resilience. According to Roberts (2022), resilience is ‘a tool that can not only help to reduce stress in the moment but can buffer against future stress’. The question is about the sources of stress for university student. What can contribute to an increased level of stress at university? Many students will point out at looming deadlines that tend to approach all at once. Some other students tend to fear public speaking, which takes a form of individual or group presentations. When it comes to mature students, self-organisation and time management are the two main reasons for concern. Having to work and study at the same time in addition to rising children can definitely add to increased levels of stress. Other students claim that a lack of direction or clear goals is what holds them back from enjoying their student life and making most of it. Having once been a student and now observing my own students from a lecturer’s perspective, I can argue that non-academic skills play an important role in becoming a successful and satisfied individual, not only a student.

How can you tap into your resources?

As one of personal development coaches says, ‘It is lack of resourcefulness rather than a lack of resources that holds you back from taking action and becoming successful’, it becomes clear that you already have some skills that can help you thrive at university. While some skills might not be fully developed, it does not mean that you are a lost cause. It can, however, mean that you will need to challenge yourself and step out of your comfort zone to start the transformation that will lead to your dream life. So how can you do it?

1)First of all, look for opportunities. As some motivational speakers say, ‘Opportunities find those who are looking for them’. If you feel that you lack confidence, think what you could do to boost your confidence. Determine the area that needs most improvement. If it is speaking, start recording yourself and work on your voice. If it is writing, start journalling to get into the habit of writing.
2) Second, get a journal or download a task management application. Research shows that personal accountability breeds confidence and success. In other words, if you set yourself a goal of e.g., exercising every other day for about 20 mins and you stick with it for about a month, you start to trust yourself more and you will become convinced that you can reach your own goals. I suggest buying a simple paper journal (if you’re anything like me – an old schoolgirl) or download a phone application such as Notion 2.0, Asana or Trello, where you’ll be able to track your goals.
3) Next, don’t forget to use positive language when talking or thinking about yourself. Because you have missed one day of training or because you did not score 65% for you last assignment, it does not mean that you cannot reward yourself for all the effort you put into action. As long as you stay disciplined, you will see the results coming. So, be kind to yourself.


Roberts, G., L. (2022) Mindset Matters. London: Kogan Page.