Will I be good enough for the next academic level?

Gareth Hughes

Gareth Hughes is the Clinical Lead for Student Space and is a psychotherapist, researcher and writer on student wellbeing, including the book Be Well, Learn Well

Many students are worried that the disruption to their learning over the last few years may mean they are not ready for the next academic level, but you can feel confident about your ability - and there are things you can do to prepare for next year.

Believing in your academic ability

Academic self-efficacy is our belief in our own ability to succeed academically.

It is important for our future learning and achievement. Believing that you are competent at something has an impact on your confidence and your ability to do complex tasks. It’s natural if you’re worried that gaps in your learning may undermine your academic ability, confidence and future achievement.

However, it is important to remember that everyone else has had the same experience. Gaps in your learning are not gaps in your ability. With support, time and study, these gaps will be filled in.

You are good enough

Remember, there is already lots of evidence of your ability. Look at what you’ve already achieved: you managed to study, gain a place at university and continue with your education during a pandemic. To do that you must be a good student.

I had applied to an MSc at a top university to test myself: in my mind, this would be the ultimate proof of whether I was ‘good enough’ and, if I got in, would once and for all settle this gnawing feeling. I got accepted to the MSc but, needless to say, this didn’t help. Quite the contrary.

How to prepare for the next level

Of course, you can also help to build your own confidence and competence by the way in which you engage with your learning.

If you feel anxious about your ability, you may want to avoid thinking about it or engaging with studying at all. This is a normal response to things that make us feel anxious, but in this case our emotions are misreading the situation.

Spending some time preparing will help to improve your confidence and ability to succeed when the academic year starts.

Here are some ways you might start:

  • Work your way through a reading list

  • Watch some online lectures or videos about your subject (from reputable sources)

  • Familiarise yourself with key terms and concepts

  • Remind yourself what you enjoy about your subject and dedicate some time to exploring that.

Your university can help

Your university already knows that you’ve experienced disruption to your learning. Lecturers across the country worked hard to adapt their teaching for these circumstances. If you do feel that there are gaps in your knowledge, your lecturers won’t be surprised if you ask them for help.

Don’t be afraid to ask for support with your learning if you need it. Your university will have a range of support to help you improve academic skills, including personal tutors, librarians and study skills advisors. Find out what your university can offer you and use this support to help improve your learning and confidence.

I don't think we give ourselves enough credit for actually how difficult and emotionally exhausted undertaking a degree can be.

Page last reviewed: September 2022