The difference between school/college and universityWatch
1. Most of your learning is independent. University study is a lot more independent than learning at college/school. Students are expected to be in charge of their own learning and to develop their knowledge on their chosen field, supported by their lecturers. You will be expected to carry out tasks by yourself, such as further reading or research. Therefore, it is key that you develop your time management skills to study effectively.
2. You will also be living independently too. On top of independent study, for many students, university is also the first time they have lived independently. Juggling cleaning, cooking, your social life, and your studies can be tricky for some university students. It’s important to strike a good balance early, to take responsibility for how your time is spent, and to ask for help if you’re struggling.
3. You are assessed in lots of different ways. Whilst most colleges/schools assess students via exams and coursework, university gives students the chance to be assessed in a number of ways. Many courses assess students via placements, practical work, group work, presentations, as well as via traditional exams and coursework. This is designed to allow students to do the best they can, as different students might succeed better in different types of assessments.
4. Lectures, seminars and tutorials. At university, there are three main types of lessons, which create varying learning opportunities, styles and class sizes.
Lectures usually involve your entire class cohort, and often involve your lecturer giving a presentation to the class. You are usually expected to listen, take notes, and respond to questions. Lectures mostly revolve around receiving information from lecturers, to develop understanding of a topic.
Seminars often have smaller class sizes, and exist within a classroom setting, similar to lessons you might have experienced at school/college. As your group is smaller, seminars often revolve more around group discussion and practical work. Many courses use seminars as a chance to consolidate knowledge gained during lectures. Other courses may use seminars as a chance to incorporate practical work.
Tutorials are similar to seminars but often involve even smaller class sizes. Like seminars, they are designed to allow students to actively engage with course content, and to be used as a space for discussion and debate. Tutorials may often be used as a chance to discuss upcoming assessments, such as exams and essays and to receive support from your tutor and your peers.
5. You get the choice to direct your own study. Many courses offer students the choice to choose what topics they want to study, depending on your course and year group. Most courses also offer students with the chance to complete a dissertation/research project in their final year, where students get to choose their area of study. Having the chance to choose what you study means that you are able to become specialised within a certain area in your field.
6. Critical thinking is key. In university, emphasis is placed on your ability to think critically. This doesn’t simply mean being negative. It means assessing the usefulness of sources, considering relationships between facts and viewpoints, and developing your own point of view. For resources on critical thinking/writing at university, click here.
There is no set way to prepare for the jump from school/college to university. In preparation, you may want to begin reading around the topic, or do some research on time management, note-taking and essay writing skills. However, it is important to remember that everyone is in the same situation when you start university. Everyone is experiencing a similar learning curve and developing their skills as they go along. It is also important to remember that help is on hand if you need it, from your tutors, peers, and other staff.
Most importantly - have fun! University is a fantastic life experience, so make the most of it!
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