Maths at York: a student perspective

Originally, York wasn’t one of my university choices. Living in East Yorkshire means that my parents are a mere 45 minute drive away, and at the time, that didn’t seem far enough! I came to the summer Open Day at the end of Year 12, simply because it was so close. I figured that it would be good to have something to compare other universities to, and let me tell you, I am SO glad I went!
When I arrived at the Open Day, there was such a welcoming atmosphere. The students were friendly, people in the department were informative and interested in me as a person. I could imagine living there for 3 years and I felt like I fitted in which, for me, was the most important thing. It was only once I’d experienced the atmosphere at York that I seriously considered applying there, and I started researching the Department of Maths in more detail.

The first year at York is compulsory, and gives you a taste of all the different areas of mathematics. It’s compulsory for a very good reason; it fills any gaps in your A Level knowledge, increases the size of your “mathematical toolbox”, and it gives you the chance to work out what you do and don’t like!
Statistics modules were certainly not my favourite when studying maths at A Level, and initially I was annoyed at having to do a statistics module in first year. However, the way you’re taught at university is completely different to anything experienced at school. You’re taught by experts in their fields, people who do maths for a living. They’re enthusiastic, and they love what they do, and it makes learning so much more enjoyable. So despite the fact that I’m still not the biggest fan of statistics, I can appreciate the techniques used, and that it’s directly applicable to everyday life. And that’s all due to my statistics lecturer, who became a hero within our year group, and has been a hero to first year students ever since.
The second year then gives you the opportunity to choose some modules and focus more specifically on a particular branch of mathematics, such as pure mathematics. There are still some compulsory modules, but again, they teach you the skills you need to study maths at the next level.

Third year maths friends out for a Christmas meal
Third year maths friends out for a Christmas meal

Third years get a free choice of modules. There are over 60 to choose from, and it’s super hard to only choose 8 modules from that list! They’re helpfully organised into ‘streams’ to help you chose modules that compliment each other; pure maths, applied maths, mathematical finance and statistics. By this point in your degree, you’re often interested in one of those four areas and most people choose modules from the same stream. Personally, I’m a pure maths kind of gal. The rest of third year is taken up by a large research project, which I mentioned in my last blog post.

Me choosing 3rd year modules, assisted by a good cup of tea at my favourite cupcake shop.
Me choosing 3rd year modules, assisted by a good cup of tea at my favourite cupcake shop.

Now I’m in third year, I appreciate the wide choice of modules even more. The workload is much higher than it was in first year, but I’m more motivated to work in my free time. I usually do at least 40 hours of academic work a week, including 12 hours of lectures and seminars. Studying for 40+ hours a week sounds like a lot, but it still leaves plenty of time to try out sports and societies, experience York’s excellent nightlife or go to one of York’s many cafes for a refreshing cup of Yorkshire tea.

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A 3rd and final year maths student at the University of York with an unhealthy obsession with swing dance. Also a keen baker, a tea drinker, headscarf enthusiast and someone with a ridiculously loud laugh.