Access to HE and then to Uni - well prepared?Watch this thread
Firstly, I know this question has been asked but all the previous ones I could find are from 2013 to 2015 and before all of the reforms and changes to the Access courses to make them more uniform.
My question is for those who have completed Access to HE and are now studying at university, how well prepared do you feel you were? Did you receive the right amount of subject knowledge? Have you developed the skills needed to complete your degree work? Do you feel on a par with those who did foundation years or those with A-levels or do you feel lacking?
Basically, did you have the huge culture shock when at uni that everybody seems to swear by?
I know that there's still a lot of variation between courses and colleges but what's the collective opinion
Myself and my cohort kept in contact after we moved to university and we all feel pretty similarly, that we were well beyond prepared for university, even more so than A Level students. The reason being is that A Levels are very much "here's a lot of content with a big exam at the end", at least for STEM subjects. Compared to the Access course which is constant deadlines, one every week or two, that keep you on top of your work/revision/timetabling and is very much like a "University Lite" session in your life.
For almost every degree I know of, the first year is designed to bring a group of people together from across the world with disparate qualifications and get them up to a common standard of knowledge required for further study in that field. There may be some people that know a bit more Biology than you, but you may know more Chemistry than them. It facilitates a group learning experience and ensures everyone ends up on the same page at the end of the first year, regardless of where they came from.
Given that you are considering Access to HE, you are likely a mature student. That is almost certainly going to stand you in good stead for the perceived "culture shock" of university. Yes, there's drinking, there's parties, there's lots of new people, events, sports, a whole culture surrounding your individual university and so much more. But as a mature student you are likely to be able to pick-and-choose what you what to get involved with and experience. You've got more life experience, a richer view of what life is and that usually helps a lot, with mature students usually doing very well across the board. You will almost certainly be just fine.
Concluding a bit, you will be just fine. Access to HE is just that, designed to prepare you not only academically but also mentally for the world that is university. Throw yourself into the programme, study hard (my Access to HE was harder than first year uni, without a doubt) and you will absolutely love your time at university.
I studied my Access to Science course in 2011 (so a little before the reforms). I studied Chemistry, Biology, Physics, and Maths - I believe the Physics and Maths were half weighted, so together made a whole subject. While the Access course definitely prepared me for the workload of university more so than my A-level counterparts, the content of the course was much more difficult, and I was far behind my counterparts in terms of having the foundations of knowledge to tackle my subject.
So you know, I studied Chemistry at UCL. I also received grades of Distinction across all units for all subjects for my Access course - I don't say this to brag, only to demonstrate that it wasn't for a lack of academic ability that I under-performed at UCL. Personally, I felt I was woefully under-prepared for the course at UCL. However, I actually put that down to the quality of the Access course (which I presume will have increased now they've been standardised) and the particular difficulty of UCL being a top university. Without sounding too snooty, not all degree courses are created equal, for example, a Chemistry degree at Oxford or Cambridge will be far more academically challenging than, just picking one at random, say, Kent.
I also have personal experience of this because I eventually dropped out of UCL and actually transferred to The Open University so I could get my degree and work concurrently. So, I was able to skip part of the OU course, as I had already completed two-years at UCL, and studied BSc Natural Sciences (Chemistry) graduating with a First in October. I was predicted a 2:2 at UCL. I have to admit, the course at The OU was FAR easier than the one at UCL. I'm not complaining though, because I've been accepted to do my Masters at Imperial this September.
So, in summation, things have probably changed as the Access course has been standardised. However, in my experience, the Access course more than prepares you for the workload of university, yet, didn't prepare me for the academic rigor of the course - this may be because it was a Chemistry degree at UCL. I stayed in contact with friends from the Access course, one for example studied Philosophy at King's, and they had no problems at all.
I hope this was at least somewhat helpful.