The independent skills needed before university

Students in secondary school already face the challenges of pursuing their interests, applying for universities, and thinking about future careers. What some parents may not know is students can benefit from gaining independence before they head off to university.

Boarding schools like ours provide students with valuable life skills. In this article, we’ll talk about some attributes that are important for students to gain to become independent before they attend university or leave high school.

 928-img1-The-independent-skills-needed-before-university The independent skills needed before university

Time management

If students take on a full university schedule, they’ll need to manage their study and social time. Using agendas or electronic calendars is a great way for students to learn time management. To-do lists for the following day also help.

Students in boarding school learn to manage their time as there are no caretakers to tell them what to do. They take responsibility for their school time and extracurricular commitments, which helps them in life beyond high school. While it may feel redundant to tell them to exercise, eat healthy, and take care of themselves, these nudges may help them when there are no adults around to remind them.

Presentation and speaking skills

Students will naturally meet new people in university, and if they relocate to a completely different place, making friends is especially important. Having good conversational skills and being able to make “small talk” with others quickly is helpful. Encourage students to ask questions and learn about people to show interest in others and take the pressure off themselves. Also remind them that they can approach professors in a more casual way than their current teachers.

Giving presentations is part of both university curricula and the workplace. Furthermore, public speaking skills can help to nail not only job interviews but also internships and volunteer positions. If students start developing these skills in secondary school, they’ll be even more equipped to succeed in college and beyond.

SISD’s International Baccalaureate (IB) programme helps students to develop 10 learner attributes, which includes becoming a good communicator. Good communicators understand and express their ideas confidently and creatively (in more than one language!) and in a variety of ways, including working with others. Communication becomes even more valued in the workplace and, and after that, when adults start families.

 928-img2-The-independent-skills-needed-before-university The independent skills needed before university

Independent learning and research

Most of the time students spend at university is unstructured. They must motivate themselves to make the best use of their time. Students may not have the same set of friends when they enter university. This means that they should know how to research, study, and learn on their own. Teaching assistants and professors can always provide some help. But to keep calm for deadlines and exams, being productive in a library and the ability to research well are essential.

Research skills are also crucial in the workplace, where employees may be expected to take on projects and deadlines without much help from other co-workers or managers.

Inquiry—or the development of natural curiosity—is one attribute we teach at SISD. Inquirers have the necessary skills to conduct inquiry and research and enjoy learning independently throughout life.

Although there is always a host of academic boarding staff on site, there is an expectation that boarding students manage their learning, their homework, their deadlines and their research. These skills are well-honed in a boarding school environment, and students who have experience of boarding are often seen to transition easier to university life.

Written skills

You don’t have to look too far on social media to see how well people write. Students in university are expected to write essays, exams, and dissertations and form arguments persuasively. Compared to secondary school papers, these are generally more complicated. They are longer and require more research with a higher standard of academic exploration and referencing. Spelling and grammar errors aren’t looked at favourably.

Writing (and reading) helps students expand their vocabulary and take good notes to summarise information into easily memorable chunks. As writing by hand can take longer than typing, they should also know whether they prefer to take notes with a laptop, or learn using audio recordings.

While independence does not mean students must navigate life alone, it’s an aspect of life they can gain from the university experience. Because they develop a sense of awareness of what it means to be an adult in the real world and have the chance to figure out who they are, away from family or society. They will inevitably face problems, but independence teaches them how to overcome problems and take charge of their own lives.

You can learn more about the benefits of boarding school, and for more information contact our Admissions team at

Written by

Swiss International School Dubai

Swiss International School Dubai

The Swiss International Scientific School in Dubai (SISD) is a leading international day and boarding school where future generations are inspired to become confident and enthusiastic lifelong learners, ready to embrace the opportunities and challenges of a global world.

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