The Student Room Group

What actually happens in university?

I will be in sixth form next year and am curious as to whether or not I should plan to go to university so I decided to research, however everything i read and everyone I ask seems to expect me to already have a base understanding which i don't have and i don't know how to get one.
Please tell me everything that you'd think i'd already know. I only recently found out that lectures aren't everybody in the class being told off for not working hard enough. Please I am begging you I know absolutely nothing about university aside from student debt
Hi,

It is really good that you are doing your research! So your University experience will differ based on what degree you do. There are a number of different Undergraduate Degrees programs in all different subjects

BA Degree - Subjects like Art, History, Geography the list is endless you could look on UCAS this should give you a bit more information
BSC Degree - A Bachelor of Science so subjects like Nursing, Physiotherapy, Biomed again the list is endless.

I study Education, SEN and Mental Health at York St John University, so I can share with you a bit of my experience.

Lectures are usually where you would sit in a lecture hall the lecturer would deliver a taught session and you would take notes. My lectures are an hour and a half long in duration. Then seminars are usually more practical and often delivered in much smaller groups again my seminars last an hour and a half. I take three modules and have a mixture of lectures and seminars

In my personal experience, lecturers don't tell students off for not working hard enough you are choosing to be there. So it doesn't matter to them if you work hard or not. But I would say the more effort you put in the better the outcome.

Then outside of University, there's always lots to do. Events to get in involved in sports and societies clubs you can join. University really can be a great experience I hope this helps a bit but any other questions ask away happy to help :smile:

Rebecca YSJ rep
(edited 1 year ago)
Original post by eightocho
I will be in sixth form next year and am curious as to whether or not I should plan to go to university so I decided to research, however everything i read and everyone I ask seems to expect me to already have a base understanding which i don't have and i don't know how to get one.
Please tell me everything that you'd think i'd already know. I only recently found out that lectures aren't everybody in the class being told off for not working hard enough. Please I am begging you I know absolutely nothing about university aside from student debt

Hi there,

Don’t worry about not knowing! This is a new situation for everyone, and you shouldn’t be expected to become an expert instantly. Ill try to go through any and everything I can think of.

Firstly, you may want to know about differences between school and university. As you said lectures aren’t people getting told off or monitored. In fact, they probably won’t even take attendance. University is incredibly independent, and they expect you to do work of your own volition. While in school you might be given a task to complete while the teacher talks which they check, a lecture in university is more like a professor standing and giving you information whether through presentation, demonstrations, talking and explaining- and you taking notes in whatever way you find good, on laptop or pen and paper (I recommend buying a laptop for university, if you cannot afford one you may be able to borrow one from the university you apply to for certain things but this isn’t guaranteed). Furthermore, your schedule will differ from course to course, uni to uni and semester to semester. You may end up only have three days of lectures, you may end up with five. You might spend the whole day in lectures or just have one. It will all depend on what work is required of you, if you have more coursework, you’ll probably have less in person lecture time so that you can balance this with the work. Again, this work is all independent. If you need help you need to seek it out yourself, there won’t be teachers constantly checking in on your progress both a blessing and a curse.

Secondly there’s the financial side. What usually happens is that you’ll apply for student loans hence the student debt. However, student debt is paid off in a nice system so that you wont even notice it leaving. After you graduate, you won’t have to pay it back unless you earn over 22 grand a year. From there the money will automatically be taxed from your pay check. After 30 years if its not paid back then its all written off. Honestly its so easy you wont even register it happening. When applying for student loans you’ll apply to two. To apply when the time comes (you should apply in the summer before your course starts as it can take 6-8 weeks before approval if you google gov student loans, all the information about how to apply and information needed is there. Here is the link: https://www.gov.uk/apply-for-student-finance/when. You’ll receive tuition loan which goes straight to the university without you needing to touch it and a maintenance loan which goes towards your living such as rent and food. Tuition loan is a standard amount for everyone however, maintenance loan is dependent on your home situation. Essentially, the more your parents earn, the lower your maintenance loan as it is assumed you will be able to receive some help. The loan will be paid into your account and then you can use it for your living expenses. Lots of students also pick up part times jobs while at university, whether that’s during term time or holidays is up to them and their needs. Its good to have some extra money if you need it as the loan is purely for bare expenses and may not be enough to live super comfortably.

Thirdly, accommodation. Since you’re moving away for the first time this is usually a big worry point for students. Depending on your university will determine what kind of accommodation you receive. Most universities will offer accommodation for you during your first year. Each has its own system of applying the way bath works is by letting you apply for 10 different accommodations and then giving you your first available choice. There will be information on the different accommodations available on each university website and you may be able to visit some on open days. There will probably be a mix of en-suite rooms and mixed/sharing and price will vary on such. The size of the flats will also differ from maybe 5 people all the way to 20. Don’t be alarmed by this! There will be enough space in the kitchens and bathrooms to accommodate everyone I lived in a flat of 22 last year and honestly had no problems will space, plus it was really fun getting to know so many people. You can also request certain accommodations such as quiet flats or all gendered flats. The prices of all of this are dependent on the university, the town, and the type of flat you receive. Overall accommodation is very varying but first year tends to be easier to get into it and you will probably go through your university in terms of applying. However, for second year, you will most likely find a group of friends and together you yourselves look for student accommodation separate from the university. I wouldn’t worry about this just yet as there are usually talks to help with this after you get to university.

Finally, some general points. There are campus and non-campus unis for a start. Campus universities have everything in one place which may or may not include the accommodation you’ll stay in. non-campus or city universities have their buildings spread out throughout the town. Both have their merits, one being simpler to go to lectures or the other having more facilities near by. The culture of university is also talked about. You can make university your own. The stereotype is that university is a huge party fest, with socials and drinking etc. If this is something, you like then this can absolutely be a part of your time but there’s no obligation to conform to this. There are lots of other activities or societies that universities offer where you can meet new people in more chill environments. Societies are also a big part of uni I would recommend attending fresher week activities or groups fairs to find out what’s available to you to join. I also recommend trying something, I met so many of my friends through my societies and I never would have if I didn’t go out of my comfort zone to do so.

There is definitely more to say so please feel free to ask any and more questions! Hope this helped
- Sophie (uni of Bath)
It depends on your course but a lecture is a bit like a lesson the lecturer will stand at the front and give you a load of information about a topic or subject in that module like maths or something. You will also have seminars those are discussions about the subject of the lecture you might watch a video or something and it’s your opportunity to ask questions in a smaller group. You might gets some work sheets or have an assignment to do if you don’t go you miss it and will have to catch up missing 1 or 2 sessions isn’t problem but missing a lot can be you won’t be chased but you could be withdrawn from the course if they feel you are too far behind to catch up.you will probably have labs too they oftentimes will form part of your grade so make sure you go to them does that clear anything up.
Original post by eightocho
I will be in sixth form next year and am curious as to whether or not I should plan to go to university so I decided to research, however everything i read and everyone I ask seems to expect me to already have a base understanding which i don't have and i don't know how to get one.
Please tell me everything that you'd think i'd already know. I only recently found out that lectures aren't everybody in the class being told off for not working hard enough. Please I am begging you I know absolutely nothing about university aside from student debt

Hey there @eightocho !
First off, there's no expectation about how much you're supposed to know about university before you go. Everyone is discovering everything in their own time and I wouldn't worry about being behind the rest because you learn mostly by experiencing it.

Obviously you say you know about student debt so you know that finance comes with it. Student finance is based on the top earner in your household's income. You get a tuition fee which is the same for everyone that you never see, student finance pays it straight to your university. You can also apply for a maintenance loan, that can be less or more based on your household income. In over half of the accommodation's across the UK, depending on how much maintenance loan you get, your student finance may not cover your weekly rent. Your maintenance loan is paid into your bank account three times during the year and these usually fall somewhere in September, January and April although this can differ from year to year. You only have to start paying it back once you go over the wage threshold that the government has set. This changes all the time and I believe the government have just lowered it. I think it's something like as soon as you start earning over £22 grand a year you start paying monthly student loan payments but don't quote me on that as they have just changed it.

In terms of university itself, depending on your course it may be assessed differently to someone elses. My course is assessed on 100% coursework whereas some courses have exams to take at the end of each module. Your course will have modules, there will usually be three a semester (semesters being September-December and January-May sort of thing) but this may differ from course to course. Each module you will have a lecture and a seminar a week. A lecture is everyone on your course attending it and the lecturer just stands and talks at you, there's no time for asking questions and you can choose whether to take notes or not. The seminar that week will be discussing the topic that the lecture was based on and it'll be in a much smaller group of your coursemates. You can ask questions and your lecturer will go more in-depth about the things discussed in the lecture. They will also encourage a task to take place or start a discussion about it within the group. You're encouraged to be more independent at university and they don't explicitly tell you 'you have homework this week'. You're expected to go out and find extra reading that may help you for the upcoming assessments or to revise for any exams you have in the future. You're expected to do more hours of work outside of the university sessions than in them as they're usually only around 6 hours of contact time a week (depending on the course, courses like nursing and medicine have way more). University doesn't tell you off for not doing enough work as you're the one paying to be there and all they have to do is provide the information to help you do well. No one is going to chase you for not doing the extra work. That's your decision, however it does put you at a better chance of getting a higher grade.

At university there are things called societies. They're like clubs that you can join and it's a great way to meet people. They usually have meet-ups once a week, games at the weekend if it's a sports society and then one sports social night-out a week. It is the best way to meet people at university and to form a team dynamic. Some societies do require you to pay for things like uniform and coach trips to away games but some of them are free. Another way to make friends is by moving into student halls. You get your first experience of living away from home and living with other new people. Rent will be a weekly cost that you have to pay monthly and most of the time your bills are included in this. That isn't always the case though and it will usually tell you on the university's website. Student halls aren't really a lap of luxury unless you're willing to pay more for a better place but they're quite social and there's always parties and things going on if that's your sort of thing.

Your course will have entry requirements and once you apply to it through UCAS they will send you an offer, an unconditional offer or a rejection. An offer is subject to whether you come out with the listed grades in your A Levels, an unconditional means you have a place at the university no matter what grades you get and a rejection means you've lost one of your five choices but you can reapply next year. If by results day you haven't got into any of your choice universities, you can apply through 'clearing'. Clearing is basically the week after results day and universities will offer places to people that didn't necessarily apply for that particular course but because they have extra places left on the course. The way to let a university know you're interested in them during clearing week is by giving them a call.

The grading system at university is different to how it is at A Levels and GCSE's and once you understand it, it's really easy to pick up. Your lowest grade is just a zero or a fail. These are handed out to people who plagiarised their work or didn't hand in anything at all. It can also be called an 'insufficient'. Then a step up from that you have a 2.2, this is your basic level pass. They usually say a 2.2 is when you've done the work but it's very basic level thinking and you've just taken what's in the lecture and put it onto paper, to get higher than a 2.2 it's got to be clear you've done your own research. Then up from that you have a 2.1. A 2.1 is where it's clear you've gone away and done your own research, but you haven't fully expanded on it or come to any fully-realised conclusions. Then at the top of the range is a 1st. A 1st is unfortunately quite hard to get unless you're really putting the work in and done the extra. That's not to say it's impossible but it is really difficult. A 1st is a fully-realised essay where everything has been drawn to a conclusion and you've included relevant references (quotes and ideas from literature and famous figures in history) that prove you've gone away and done your own research. In university, every year of your study counts towards your final degree grade apart from first year. You have to pass first year to be able to move onto second year but it doesn't count towards your final grade. That's why you might perhaps hear that some people don't take first year as seriously but you do still have to pass it in order to progress.

Hope this helped! Please let me know if you have any more questions...
Lucy - Digital Student Ambassador SHU

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