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Kevin B Bucknall

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Going to University: the Secrets of Success Second Revised & Expanded edit.
by Kevin B Bucknall   

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Publisher:  Kewei Press, UK ISBN-10:  1846856604 Type: 


Copyright:  Aug 2009 ISBN-13:  9780956182319

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Economics for Students
Kewei Press

The book is designed to help students get to university. It encourages them to develop good study habits, write decent essays, get good exam results, give excellent oral presentations and the like. It also helps when they first go to university. It covers living away from home for the first time, dealing with issues such as choosing where to live, cheap and simple cooking, and how not to waste money. It also covers uni and workplace issues like making great presentations and working successfully in teams.

Now with a 5-Star Amazon review!

“It is jam-packed with useful hints and tips to make not just study easier and more enjoyable, but the whole uni experience. It is simply written and also quite funny which aids readability... It covers pretty much everything a person new to uni would want to know - from finances and transport, through to what to expect in the way of lectures, seminars, tutorials, lab work and oral presentations, as well as providing advice on how to write essays and prepare for exams…. I think it's invaluable for anyone thinking about going to uni, enrolling in uni, or already at uni. I highly recommend it.” (Student review, Amazon)

Other reviews:
“As a succinct guide it can easily be read from cover to cover. Bucknall’s engaging writing style and genuine belief that ‘life is beautiful’ shine through and will offer some reassurance to those fearful few who worry about what university life will hold for them.” (Student review, Durham University







Well done! You have made it to a Uni or college and this is the start of a really great time, now you are out of your school daze. If you have been told that these were the happiest days of your life, you were probably being lied to. University is far better in almost every way: you have freedom, little responsibility, and an interesting set of new friends. I confess I rather envy you your good fortune – still, been there, done that, bought the T-shirt; now it’s your turn.
One of the main things you will almost certainly have to do is learn how to learn. You probably assume that you know how to do this but many students have mostly been taught by others and have not really had to learn much on their own. From now on you will be doing a lot of learning so you might as well do it efficiently. Think about it! If you study efficiently it leaves you with a lot more time for doing stuff that you really enjoy! Three elements seem to be common to those who do well at university. Firstly, they go to all set lectures, tutorials, seminars, workshops or laboratory sessions, where they pay attention, and take notes. Secondly, they work for long hours on their own, outside the formal class time. Thirdly, they use their time effectively. What makes them work hard is strong motivation. With a determined will to succeed you can achieve almost anything you want in life. Such determination is crucial if you want to do well – think how much you already know about a particular sport or hobby that really interests you. Try to increase your motivation by following the advice below and regularly doing the things suggested.
A good way to start your adjustment to university life is to think about why you are going and make your own list of reasons. Keep this and read it regularly – reminding yourself of your original reasons can help strengthen your determination to succeed.


* My parents and family expect me to go.
* My friends are all going so I’m off too.
* I wish to enjoy the life of a student, which sounds (and is) attractive.
* I’m postponing decisions about what to do with my life.
* I am unable to find a job.
* I want qualifications for a particular career I have in mind.
* I wish to learn about something that really interests me.
* I want a job with real power (though power is like a steep cliff: only reptiles and eagles tend to get to the top easily).
* It would be nice to broaden my mind and improve my quality as a human being (OK, it’s rare!).
* I’d like to find intellectual stimulation and enjoyment.
* I may be returning to study after some years in the work force because I need a challenge, or can now afford to get an education.
* Like Aristotle, I believe that education is the best provision for old age.
* I was unable to get into Hogwarts College.
* I want to earn decent money once qualified – yes!!!

Going to university gives you the opportunity to think creatively, to learn how to organise your thoughts, and then to express them clearly. You can derive three major benefits: knowledge, skills and personal development.

* In its broadest sense, knowledge consists of facts and theories; it helps you break out of your ignobubble.
* But knowledge gets out of date quickly – it matters in the short term for when you are doing exams, but is probably the least important benefit in the long run. Even in practical subjects like medicine and law, facts and theories are subject to change but the other skills remain of value to you for ever.

Learning transferable skills for your whole working life – a prime gain
These are portable skills that go with you, and if you want a good well-paid job you definitely need them. People now tend to switch direction several times during their working life: to climb the ladder of success you need to be lord of the rungs; and onward and upward is the way to go.

The skills you can get include the ability to do the following both quickly and competently:

* Communicate (orally and in writing) effortlessly.
* Manage your time effectively.
* Work in a team successfully.
* Organise information properly.
* Tackle questions and problems sensibly.
* Win people over to your view as you argue persuasively.
* Analyse issues logically and convincingly.
* Prioritise your tasks quickly.

* Make and keep a wide circle of personal friends.
* Develop a network of business contacts.

Developing as a human being – another real gain
* Expanding your mind, engaging in self-discovery and furthering your personal development.
* Building self-discipline and self-confidence.
* Growing up – well, it has to be done sometime.

University is different from school or working in a job.

Compared with going to school – it’s a lot better!
* There are no teachers to control or bug you.
* There is usually no check-up on whether you attend classes or not.
* There are no parents to force you out of bed in a morning – high noon is possible!
* The freedom is genuine and really great.
* To an extent this can all be alarming as you are now on your own.
* But you will learn below how to cope with and enjoy the new freedom without losing track of your main goal: getting that degree.

Compared with working in a job – it’s fantastic!
* There are no set hours.
* There is no boss.
* There is no profit and loss to worry about.
* There are no dress standards.
* There are no office or factory politics to keep you on your defensive toes.
* The freedom can be exhilarating and you now have the time to do stuff you really want.
* But you have no regular pay packet – bummer!


We all grow up as individuals with our own unique set of experiences. Growing up involves uncertainty and worry about the physical and emotional changes which occur; concern about who we are turning into; coping with mood-swings and feelings of insecurity; concern about dealing with relationships; and maybe developing critical views of your parents and the feeling that they do not understand you.

Self-development involves

Taking responsibility for your actions
No longer can you blame others (parents, teachers, or friends) for what you do – you are now responsible for your own behaviour.

Gaining experience
Gaining experience means trying new things, but if any of these involve losing control of rational decision-taking ability, you should either avoid it or be very careful indeed. Experimenting with drugs, for example, can be addictive, cause personality change, or lead to behaviour you might not normally contemplate. Experience is a good teacher but at the price she charges she certainly ought to be.

Facing challenges and tackling them
If you tackle challenges successfully it is excellent, but even a failure can provide a valuable learning experience – you can think about what went wrong, what you might have done to avoid it, and what you can do next time around.

Hard work and persistence
In life, nothing important comes without effort, and you will have to strive hard for what you want. A sensible motto is: “Work, don’t shirk!”

Learning about the big world out there

Increasing your experiences
Going to university is a major change in your life and will provide many new experiences, many interesting, some valuable, and a few wonderful.

Learning from others
There is little point in reinventing the wheel. You should take the chance to study and learn from those who have gone before.

Making your own mind up about that knowledge
Not everything you read or are told by others is true, or perhaps not the whole truth. You must think about what you learn and whilst remembering it, question and criticise it. All is not what it appears – True Lies was not just the name of a movie.

Shaping up to the new life
Your life at university will consist largely of three elements: studying in a variety of different ways; being involved in clubs or societies; and socialising.

This is your main aim – you need that degree – so you do not get much benefit from dropping out early or failing. You are about to learn how to learn. Lectures, tutorials, workshops, lab time, sitting around discussing issues until late at night ... there’s a lot to do so let’s try to enjoy it.

Social life and partying
This is an important and enjoyable area. You need to relax and enjoy your university experience – it is the best time of life for many people. Get in there! But be careful not to overdo it... except maybe in Fresher Week.
Even mathematicians are not sure of
the shortest distance between two pints.
You may still have to learn how much you can drink safely without suffering. If you throw up, suffer the whirling pit when you close your eyes, or cannot remember all of the previous evening, you really drank too much. In fact, you were probably pewted as a niss.

If you’re on the beer, try to avoid quaffing it – that’s similar to drinking it but you spill more. Be warned! Over-indulgence in alcohol is a particular danger in the first-year and causes many students to do badly. You might choose to stay away from binge drinking and all games that involve knocking back booze as a penalty – if you’re present and a session starts up around you, try to keep it a personal spectator sport.

Clubs and societies
You will suddenly be faced with the opportunity to join lots of clubs. Go on! Join a few! Maybe a sports one for your health's sake (you don’t have to be a rugger-bugger, soccer-rocker, or have a cricket-ticket); a social one for fun; and an intellectual or political one for interest and personal development. In the first week there will probably be something like a “Student Fair”, with lots of stalls staffed by second or third-year students trying to get you to join their clubs. It’s best to walk round and see them all before signing up. Try this as early in the week as possible because that’s when people are making new friends and forming their initial social groups.

It is normal to feel uncertain, insecure or just plain scared when you arrive at university. You do not know what it’s about or what will be expected of you. Fear of the unknown can be powerful. You will probably also feel excited and exhilarated by the new opportunities. It can take a few weeks to settle down but most students manage to adapt. If this is your first time living away from home, expect to feel homesick, especially in the first few weeks. If you make some new friends quickly in Fresher Week it will help to reduce the problem. If you should feel a bit low in the first few days, call a close friend or two – it will improve your morale. You almost certainly have a mobile already, and you might be able to persuade your parents to pick up the bill or at least put some money in for the term “so I can call you more often”.


Choosing study rather than full-time fun
Freedom is a heady drug if you have come straight from school, particularly if it was a boarding school where the environment is carefully controlled. At university, all restrictions are removed and the choice of how you spend your time is entirely yours. You will rarely have compulsory lectures (although this depends on your university), and you can stay in bed all day if you wish. Be particularly careful not to spend the bulk of the first term drinking in the union bar, playing pool, and neglecting your studies. I know I’m repeating this but it’s tempting and I’ve seen it happen so often.

How can you tackle this new seductive freedom?


Professional Reviews - Going to University: the Secrets of Succes
***** "Although I wish I had read this book before starting uni, I am still finding it very useful and relevant as I prepare for second year. It is jam-packed with useful hints and tips to make not just study easier and more enjoyable, but the whole uni experience. It is simply written and also quite funny which aids readability.

This book is very comprehensive. It covers pretty much everything a person new to uni would want to know - from finances and transport, through to what to expect in the way of lectures, seminars, tutorials, lab work and oral presentations, as well as providing advice on how to write essays and prepare for exams. There's only one thing I would have liked to have seen included which wasn't - tips on editing and proof reading assignments.

I found the stuff on developing team skills and processes very useful. (The research components of my course have a lot of team-based assessment.)It is well laid out and can be picked up and put down as needed.

The personality of the author comes through in his comments. It's kind of quirky which I like and the book is dotted with jokes which reinforce key points. A couple I particularly enjoyed were: `Art students: does your heart belong to Dada?', `There are three kinds of mathematicians: those who can count and those who can't', and `Dyslexics of the world untie' (no offence to people with dyslexia intended).

Its useful tips for staying motivated are already helping me to get organised/excited about the new uni year. I will make sure I get myself a `study buddy' next semester to help me mid-semester when the work piles up and it's hard to know where to start.
I think it's invaluable for anyone thinking about going to uni, enrolling in uni, or already at uni. I highly recommend it."

Michael Bower

This is the end, beautiful friend
"There comes a time in the life of each student when they realise that the end is nigh. It is now necessary to resist the temptation to do a second masters in procrastination and to accept that the next decade or two will require total submission to the corporate whorehouse. In a futile attempt to escape the inevitable passing of time and in the hope of returning to a place where the university experience was in the future rather than the past, books such as Kevin B. Bucknall’s ‘Going to University: The Secrets of Success’ have become a suitable source of solace.

Bucknall’s book, written with the aim of offering a brief guide to those about to arrive at university (including the often ignored mature student), explains the fundamental issues each student is likely to face at university - be it when searching for suitable accommodation or when delivering the inevitable end of term essay(s). For the nervous pre-university student, it can become a reassuring hand on the shoulder. As a succinct guide it can easily be read from cover to cover. Bucknall’s engaging writing style and genuine belief that ‘life is beautiful’ shine through and will offer some reassurance to those fearful few who worry about what university life will hold for them. A second use for the book will become clearer upon arrival at university. As a well-constructed and concise offering, you can dip into the chapters on oral presentations and end of year exams, for example, at the appropriate times of the year. You can either re-read the advice on, say, preparation and delivery or just quickly recap the main bullet points summarised at the conclusion of each chapter.

Help! I need somebody
Of course, this type of quasi self-help book is going to appeal to a certain audience. Those with innate confidence in their ability to settle down in a new environment will not need to be spoon-fed advice on completing work in time or be told about the advantages of an effective filing system. There are those, though, who do need this, who have been shielded from the realities of life to such an extent that the simplest of tasks requires a step-by-step explanation. Bucknall makes good points about not sitting like a pudding in tutorials and about re-reading lecture notes throughout the year. In turn, this aim is reflected in how Bucknall expresses himself. In the preface he hopes that he will not come across as an ‘academic bore’. Naturally any attempt to be down with the kids is difficult for a 22 year old durham21 writer, let alone a 60-something year old who describes himself as an ‘ancient academic’ on his own website. Bucknall tries hard and given that his market isn’t the sort who snorts gak off any available surface he is more Aiyegbeni Yakubu than Darius Henderson i.e. he hits the target more often than he misses. The light-hearted comments scattered around each chapter (which are accompanied by a smiley face icon), are evidence of him relating to the reader. In many instances he plays on the meanings of words (‘testing animals is bad – besides they always get the answers wrong’ and ‘does my asp look big in this?’).

As a curmudgeonly swine who is less familiar with the joys of laughter than Gordon Brown, the throwaway comments didn't really do anything for me. Bucknall’s own view in the preface that they are not intended to distract and that ‘it’s easy to ignore them’ suggests that he too had second thoughts about their inclusion. Again, though, and without wishing to labour the point with all the nuance of Jeremy Clarkson, it is all about the target audience that will, most likely, be amused by these little jokes and also be familiar with the ideas of a ‘study buddy’ and working hard.

A 2:1, a 2:1, my Kingdom for a 2:1
With soon-to-be students heading off to different courses at different universities across the country the nature of the beast is such that Bucknall’s general observations will have limited applicability depending on who you are and what you are doing. The familiar details on managing finances are universally relevant (it is true that ready-made meals are expensive and that bottled water is a waste of money) but then the outline of a typical marking system does not ring true for a History and Politics student at Durham. When a 2:1 (and 60%) is the name of the game, his suggestion that this is the equivalent to somewhere between a C- and a C++ is both somewhat worrying and also inaccurate. I would also dispute some of the other advice offered. Yes, it helps to do some work in your first year but every percent above the pass rate is a wasted mark. If you don’t revel in your own idleness in the first year then you will regret it in the more strenuous years that follow. Also, people who make notes in the margins of academic books (irrespective of whether it is their own property or if it belongs to the library) have always annoyed me. You have your own paper to use so why graffiti the work of others with your inane scrabbling?

But then my obvious inability to adhere to many of Bucknall’s key points is perhaps the reason why my success at university is questionable and may explain why I won’t be receiving a First come June.

You can read an excerpt from 3 chapters of this book at: "

Richard Benstead

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