Tag Archives: student success

The 7-year degree: studying for a PhD in Life and Resilience

This week Tumama Tu’ulua  from the Pacific Development Team shares a student perspective on studying during the exam break.

Seven years.

That’s how long it takes for chewing gum to digest after you’ve swallowed it. It’s also how long I’ve been studying my Bachelors degree – 25 years old and still studying.

Its been a cocktail of trials, a lot of errors, and a test of will. To be fair I haven’t studied that whole time, choosing to pursue sport in little chunks throughout and studying part-time, but when I look back at it and when other people look at it that’s how its going to look.

To say it was never hard to keep going when it didn’t seem worth it anymore, would be a lie. There are many times where I felt I was over study, felt like giving up, felt like leaving, and even felt like a bachelors degree was beneath me at one stage lol.

But I stuck in there (and am still sticking in there), not because I had to, or, because of the millions of resilience cliches, but because this degree isn’t just for me – its for everyone that has helped me have the opportunity to study and has kept me here. Now to me that is the definition of success, making my family proud, and providing for them.

For you it could be something completely different and that’s awesome, but my tips in staying resilient especially during the exam period but for uni in general is to:

  1. Know why you are here
  2. Know what your defintion of success is
  3. Know how success and happiness feels

These three things have helped me stay here.

When things get tough knowing my purpose for being here gives me something to hold on to, its my light at the end of the tunnel.

Knowing what success is to me, helps me recognise whether, or, not what I’m doing is adding value, it gives me direction.

Knowing how success feels helps me differentiate between when I’m under pressure and when I’m getting stressed.

You can’t operate under stress, so truly knowing how I feel when succeeding and happy gives me a measuring stick to when I’m getting stressed and I know I need to have a break.

A degree is the one tangible thing that validates to the world what I did here at UC. The relationships that I made here are so much more important to me, but, the things I’ve learnt mean a lot less to the world without that piece of paper. Studies were always my back-up plan, but when plan B becomes A its initially a hard switch to make. But put in the work, access the help available, stay focused and get the treats! Good luck with exams, hang in there, it will get easier, it will get better. UC for Life! (Literally lol).

Tumama Tu’ulua  – Pacific Engagement Coordinator
Pacific Development Team

Worried about crap marks?

Ekant Veer 170628Associate Prof Ekant Veer deserves the title of role model –  he’s won awards for lecturer of the year, for his teaching and he’s got a great reputation when it comes to championing wellbeing. He also calls a spade a spade. Read on for his advice on any ‘crap marks’ that you’re worried about – and if you’ve still got exams on the go, this might just bring you some perspective and courage. 

So, you’ve got a crap mark.

It’s happened to everyone. I’ve received bad news and I’ve been on the other side where I have to deliver bad news. It’s part of learning to know when you haven’t done well enough. There are many things you can do when you get lower marks than you expected, but I want to take a couple of tips to help you to learn the most from a bad mark.

Put things in perspective

Firstly, it’s a bad mark. You’re not dying. Even if this was the last straw and your time at uni has come to an abrupt end, it’s NOT the end. You have your whole life ahead of you – this chapter hasn’t gone the way you expected – but there’s plenty more in this life to explore. Contrary to popular belief, having good marks doesn’t make you a good person and not having a degree certainly doesn’t make you a worse person than someone who has one. Life will go on – it’s a mark, nothing more!

Walk away

Never, never, NEVER act immediately after receiving bad news. Don’t email your lecturer, don’t update social media, don’t rant to your friends. Forget about it until you can look at the feedback more objectively. For most people this is at least 24 hours. [Editor’s note: three days for me. Feel free to share your comments on this one.]

Emailing your lecturer when you’re angry, in particular, isn’t going to help you in the long run. A few years back I received an email that read “WTF man! This isn’t ok! Email me when you’ve remarked my assignment”. Not a great way to make friends and influence people.

Reflect on the feedback

You should have some feedback from your lecturer. It may be generic feedback for the class or it may be specific feedback on your work. Either way, don’t just read the feedback and argue against your lecturer in your head about why they’re wrong. Read the feedback and see where you think you’ve made mistakes and/or could have done things better. Sometimes the main reason students don’t do as well as they expect is because they simply did not answer the question. They have told me a bunch of things that are really interesting but the central focus of the test/assignment hasn’t been completed – as such, it’s impossible to give them the marks they were hoping for. This is often where students feel most aggrieved because they may have put in a ton of effort for little reward – unfortunately, effort doesn’t equal higher marks when you’ve put your effort in the wrong direction!

Contact your lecturer PROFESSIONALLY

Let’s say you’ve calmed down and reflected on the feedback and you’re still unhappy. That’s ok, it’s time to get in touch with your lecturer. They may have office hours dedicated to giving assessment feedback – go see them. If they don’t, then craft a PROFESSIONAL email to them. Here’s how I suggest you contact your lecturer:

Microsoft Word - So you've got a crap mark.docx

Hopefully your email will be replied to quickly and you get a chance to meet with your lecturer and go over the assignment. They’ll hopefully explain in more depth where you could improve. This is not a time for your demand a re-grade, but a chance for you to learn where YOU can improve. If they offer to regrade your assignment then take them up on the offer, but don’t walk into the meeting looking for a fight – work with your lecturer to improve your work.

If you act professionally, ask for advice and debate your point carefully there is every chance that your lecturer may rethink their grade, but that’s not the aim of the meeting. The aim is for you to not make the same mistakes as last time!

Reflect on the feedback and MAKE CHANGES!

The worst thing for a lecturer is not seeing students improve when you give them time, effort and encouragement. We want to see you do well! So, once you have both written and oral feedback you need to make changes. Whatever you did last time didn’t work. Start your assignments earlier and send drafts to your lecturer to get feedback. Ask questions in class (yeah, turning up to class is important!). Make sure you’re on the right track from the start and put effort into overcoming your previous failings.

Getting a bad mark is a perfect opportunity to learn. It might be your study habits, it might be your knowledge, or it might be your understanding of the question being posed. Whatever the issue is, overcome it next time. One bad grade in one assignment is not as bad as never learning from your mistakes and repeating those mistakes for the rest of your academic and professional life. Seek feedback, take it on board and improve next time. Don’t be afraid of meeting your lecturer – a lot of us a marginally normal. Some are nice. Most want to see the best for you, so take their advice to heart and do better next time!

Ekant Veer

What do you worry about when it comes to marks? What people might think? What it means for the future? Do you have your own strategies and ideas for keeping perspective, not reacting to quickly, being kind to yourself and thinking about what you can try to do differently in future? Share your ideas and comments. Kia kaha. 

Careers – are you guilty of narrow thinking?

You might be unaware of the huge range of opportunities that are available to you, says Chris Bridgman, Manager | Kaiwhakahaere of UC’s Careers, Internships and Employment Centre | Te Rōpū Rapuara. Might be time to pay a visit?

Chris says many students think in terms of quite a prescribed pathway.

Careers 2“But the world of work is changing rapidly, so we encourage students to be alert to these changes and to seek opportunities to enhance their employability.”

He says the Careers Kit – a series of 74 brochures on all the major subjects taught at UC – helps illustrate some of the wide range of real-world career options.


The Centre also works hard on your behalf out in the ‘real world’.

“We’re continuously working with employers, so we have current information about industry developments and what employers are looking for in well-rounded employees. Skills and qualities in high
demand include communication skills, analytical and critical thinking, interpersonal and team skills, and a work ethic.”Careers 1

“We’re able to inform employers about how to attract young employees and what their expectations are.”

The Centre helps broker relationships with industry bodies and employer groups via numerous employer information sessions
and Careers Fairs throughout each year.

Are you work ready?

The Careers team also manages UC’s Co-Curricular Record (CCR) system, which is aligned to UC’s graduate attributes and formally recognises students’ extracurricular activities as evidence of their work readiness.

Although only in its second year, the CCR already features 40 different activities – ranging from Student Volunteer Army work to peer note-taking – and involves nearly 1,000 students.

Don’t wait until 3rd year to visit (but if you have, visit now!)

The Centre works hard to listen to the student voice and what they need and want.

“Increasingly we’re seeing students right throughout their studies, which is the key to making the most of their time at university in terms of career planning and development.”

The Centre also advises those returning for postgraduate study and assists recent graduates with finding jobs through the UC CareerHub, which lists job vacancies.

So contact Careers now…or a couple of days after exams.

For further information, go to: