Independence is asking other people

As we’ve seen in the previous section, you bring many skills, qualities and experiences that have helped you to be successful. It is likely you also had help from other people along the way.  

Research shows that one of the most valuable strategies for achieving success at university is the ability to ask for support and help from others (Wong and Chiu, 2019).

One of the students interviewed in Wong and Chiu’s (2019) study explains how his childhood and upbringing meant that he was uncomfortable asking for help, but at university, he reflected that to be successful he should make the most of the help on offer, even though it was uncomfortable to ask at first. Now his advice to new students is:

‘I’ll tell them to swallow their pride, you’re gonna need help, even if you have a system in place, it can be improved on. Don’t get too stuck in your own way. Take your shield down, just open yourself up … Go to the student support service if you have issues with your writing. Go and bother your lecturers and ask them to see drafts, go to every tutorial and make sure you are there for every session because you will learn something.’ 


Billy Wong & Yuan-Li Tiffany Chiu (2019): ‘Swallow your pride and fear’: the educational strategies of high-achieving non-traditional university students, British Journal of Sociology of Education,  40 (7). pp. 868-882. DOI: 10.1080/01425692.2019.1604209

Independent doesn’t mean alone

Although university is based on the principle of learning independently,  this doesn’t mean you are on your own. We learn best when we are making connections and benefiting from the perspectives and experiences of others. However, sometimes we all have doubts and concerns about approaching other people – it can take bravery to make that first step.

Look at some of the reasons why people might feel reluctant to ask others and click on the blue button for possible ways and helpful ideas to overcome the doubts. Use the blue arrows below each card to navigate to the next/previous one.

My connections

Click on the plus icons in each of the sections of the diagram to find out more about the connections you can make:


As we have seen in this section, there are a range of people and services to support you during your studies.  However, it is up to you to whether or not you access this support. It won’t come to you! Being successful in your academic studies also requires independence. In the next section we will discuss what independent learning at university is really like.

Course content


This section introduces the importance of reflection in helping you reach your potential and explores what it is like to start at university.


In this section, you have a chance to reflect on what you bring to university (which is probably a lot more than you realise!) and how you can build on this during your studies.


Being independent does not mean doing everything yourself. This section explores the importance of using development and support opportunities. 


The final section looks at how you can take charge of your learning. It offers strategies for making your learning active and effective to set you up for success.