University is a place where students are expected to develop a set of academic skills that will help them succeed in their future careers. While it’s true that every university degree has its own unique set of requirements, there are some academic skills that are essential for success in any course. So if you’re wondering which are the most important academic skills to have at university, take a look at our list (as well as how to develop them).

1. Time management

time management important academic skills for university

Time management is arguably one of the most important academic skills that students must develop to be successful in university. Students are expected to juggle multiple courses, assignments, and extracurricular activities, not to mention completing everything on time. Meeting deadlines is critical to good grades, as you may be penalised for late assignments, such as capped grades. Therefore, if you work on time management, which includes setting priorities, creating a schedule, and breaking tasks down into smaller, manageable chunks, you’ll probably find everything a little easier.

2. Research skills

research skills

It might not seem like you need research skills unless you’re doing a science degree, but you’ll likely need them for a dissertation. From finding relevant sources to critically analysing them to synthesising information, research skills are important. Good research skills also involve knowing how to use different databases, search engines, and citation styles.

3. Writing skills

writing is important skills academic university

In addition to research, you’ll no doubt be writing up assignments at some point. So one of the most important skills for university is writing. It’s not simply putting pen to paper, or fingertips to keypad, but it’s the quality of what you write. You’ll need to write concisely, critically and with an academic tone. You’ll also need to be able to organise information into a logical and coherent structure, using evidence to support arguments.

4. Critical thinking skills

Critical thinking

To analyse and evaluate information critically, students need to develop critical thinking skills. It involves questioning assumptions, evaluating evidence, and drawing conclusions based on evidence. Developing good critical thinking skills requires recognising biases and assumptions, considering alternative perspectives, and applying logic and reasoning to solve problems. According to the University of Essex, not only is critical thinking an important skill for uni, but the workplace too.

5. Communication

communication skills

As you navigate through university, you’ll need to be able to interact with lecturers, classmates, flatmates and lots of other people. Strong communication skills involve not only the ability to express oneself clearly and concisely in both verbal and written formats but also active listening and collaboration with others. You’ll no doubt have group projects or have to work with others, so communication here is important. Here’s some tips from a Professor on how to email your lecturer the right way.

6. Study skills 

academic study skills most important for university

Knowing how to study, or revise, or cram, is a great tool to have – but it’s also individual. There might be a better time of day that suits you, or you might prefer to do bulk studying last minute. Some good tips on developing study skills involve setting goals, creating a study schedule, and using effective study strategies such as note-taking, summarising, and self-testing. Overall, finding what works for you is the best approach – just don’t avoid studying completely.

7. Digital literacy

tech skills

One of the most important academic skills for university is digital literacy. In order to succeed academically, students must be proficient in using technology to access and assess information, collaborate with peers, and complete coursework. A lot of the information for classes are also online, on platforms like Moodle, so being able to navigate these will definitely be helpful. Don’t worry if tech isn’t your thing though, there will be lots of courses at your uni to help you out.

8. Problem-solving skills

Problem-solving

Problem-solving skills are essential for university, but also for living alone for the first time. You’ll have to think for yourself a lot, which can be quite empowering. For your degree, being able to problem solve is also important as you’ll likely need to use it in assignments. They often involve identifying the problem, developing and implementing a solution, and evaluating the results.

9. Adaptability

Adaptability

Life at uni will throw all sorts of curveballs, so it’s good to demonstrate adaptability. These can be changes in courses, programmes, and the academic environment, as well as outside of uni. Being adaptable will help you navigate these, as well as being able to learn from failures, being open to new ideas and approaches, and being willing to take on new challenges.

10. Self-motivation

Self-motivation skills for university

University is totally different from school and college. It’s a lot more independent, meaning you’ll have to keep yourself on track. But it’s generally a lot more fun too, as you’ll be learning about something that interests you for your future career. So you’ll need a lot of self-motivation, another important academic skill for university. You’ll need to able to motivate yourself to complete assignments and projects, and keeping your attendance levels high – even when you’ve got a hangover. Some tips to stay motivated include setting goals, breaking tasks down into smaller, manageable chunks, and rewarding accomplishments.

11. Active listening

Active listening - academic skills for university

Active listening involves giving full attention to the speaker, asking clarifying questions, and being able to summarise and reflect on what was said. It’s very easy to spend lectures day dreaming or planning you next night out, but it’s not going to help you get that essay written. An academic paper on active listening recommended tips, such as note taking, making associations and analogies, asking questions, integrating information, making inferences, attending on time, sitting at the front and so on.

12. Critical reading

Critical reading

The ability to critically read written materials is a fundamental academic skill that university students must acquire. Critical reading requires analysing and evaluating various forms of written material, such as textbooks, research articles, and other academic sources. Developing good critical reading skills involves comprehending the author’s intentions and arguments, identifying any biases or assumptions present in the text, and evaluating the credibility and quality of the evidence presented.

13. Presentation skills

Presentation - most important academic skills for university

Not every university course requires you to do presentations, but it’s likely that at some point in your career you’ll need to ‘present’ something. It can be a great boost of confidence to be able to speak to others about your work or idea. It also allows you to think about things more deeply, so you can explain them to others.  Presentation skills require students to communicate their ideas effectively in front of an audience, which means organising ideas and delivering the message clearly and confidently.

14. Teamwork

teamwork

One of the most important academic skills for university and for life generally is working as a team. From group projects to sorting out bills in rented student houses, you’ll need to know how to work with others while at uni. Good teamwork skills involve effective communication, active listening, understanding and respecting diverse perspectives, and being able to contribute to the team’s goals.

15. Numeracy skills

numeracy skills - academic skills for university

Maths is definitely not everyone’s strong suit. But basic numeracy skills are important for students on courses that involve quantitative analysis, such as mathematics, science, and economics. But other subjects will also require a degree of numeracy skill, where you might need to use SPSS, Jamovi or other statistical software to analyse research. Usually, universities have workshops which will allow you to develop these skills with extra help, so don’t worry if numbers scare you!

16. Self-reflection

Self-reflection

Self-reflection is an important academic skill for university that allows students to assess their own learning and development. It involves reflecting on your own strengths and weaknesses, identifying areas for improvement, and setting goals for personal growth. Journalling is a popular way of doing this, but you can also find other methods.

17. Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence -academic skills for university

Having high emotional intelligence can help you deal with the ups and downs of student life. University is exciting, but it can also be an emotional or anxious time. This is where emotional intelligence can help. Knowing how to manage your own emotions and understand the emotions of others is important, especially in emotionally charged situations.

18. Cultural competence

Cultural competence

At university, you’ll likely be going to classes full of people with different backgrounds, ethnicities, cultures and perspectives. So having cultural competence is a requirement for uni. Cultural competence is a crucial academic skill that enables students to engage with people from diverse cultural backgrounds in an effective and respectful manner. It requires understanding and valuing different cultural norms, values, and beliefs, and the ability to communicate and collaborate effectively across cultural boundaries. It requires ongoing learning, self-reflection, and a commitment to challenging cultural biases and promoting diversity and inclusion.

19. Networking

networking - academic skills for university

To begin with, networking involves identifying and engaging with people who have relevant knowledge and expertise in the student’s field of study. It can help you find opportunities and really get involved in the field you want to develop a career in. You can start with talking to your tutors and attending university events, which will let you liaise with staff working in your industry.

20. Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship

If you want to make it as a millionaire, start developing your entrepreneurial skills now! Entrepreneurship is an important academic skill that can make university even more interesting. You’ll need to develop creative thinking and innovation, and think about solving problems. If you want to read about how some entrepreneurs made their huge net worth, check out our article on Steven Bartlett.