Is University Really Any Different To School?

As a third-year mathematics student studying an Integrated Master’s degree, I am in my second to last year now. And I can tell you that, for me, university feels worlds away from school or college.

When I came to university, the first major difference I found was that I suddenly had the freedom to try things I would never have considered before. Before coming here, I was worried that being at uni would mean spending all day in my room studying by myself – but that’s simply not the case!

Clubs and societies

There’s a whole range of societies and sports clubs you can participate in. I’ve thrived from joining HAZsoc (Humans, Assassins, Zombies Society) who, amongst other things, run campus-wide, team-based events usually with a focus on Nerf Blasters. It’s a lot of fun!


Even in your third year, you can take up something new. For example, this year I’ve started rock climbing with YUMC (York University Mountaineering Club).

And in previous years, I’ve enjoyed kayaking and visiting new places such as Malham Cove (pictured) with the Outdoor Society. From beekeeping to roller disco, regardless of what you enjoy, you’ll find a society for you – there’s over 200!


Of course, university isn’t just all fun and games. Whichever subject you choose to study, undertaking a degree will broaden your understanding far beyond the scope of A-levels. However, the way you’re taught at university will probably be different from what you’re used to at secondary school or college. Far from spending all day doing what a teacher tells you to, at university there’s a range of teaching styles and you’re given the independence to find out which suits you.

As a Maths student, I have around 16 contact hours per week. For me, this time includes lectures, seminars, problems classes and practical sessions using the computing facilities.


Different types of learning

To tell you what those are, lectures are talks led by a single person; a professional in the department who may be involved in research related to the topic you are studying. They are often held in large lecture theatres with other students from the same course.

On the other hand, seminars are much smaller classes of maybe around 15 students and are more discussion-based while tackling problems.

Problems classes are an opportunity to look at some real-world examples of problems, often using the lecture material.

In practical sessions, you may be learning computer programming or experimenting with statistical analysis software, for example.

I find that this variety of lesson format means there’s something for everyone, however you learn best.


Of course, if you find you are struggling, there’s always plenty of support on hand. This takes many forms including the lecturer, office drop-ins, or your academic supervisor to name a few. Additionally, many courses have subject-specific societies which are also a fantastic way to meet people studying the same course as you as well as being able to ask for any help you might want.


Campus life

Here at York, we are lucky to have a beautiful campus to live and work on. With the iconic Heslington Hall and two large lakes, it’s perfect for seeing ducks, geese and lots of other wildlife.

The campus is split into 9 different colleges. I’m a member of Goodricke College, and they run lots of great events from film screenings to the annual music festival ‘Goodfest.’ All colleges run fun events and getting involved is a great way to make friends and truly feel like you’re part of your college community.

On the whole, although university is very different to being at college or school, don’t let this scare you. Make the most of it. There’s plenty of ways to enjoy every opportunity York has to offer!

Read more about societies, colleges  or Goodricke College

Pictures taken from the university website and the Outdoor Society website

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I'm Claire, a third year Mathematics student and a member of Goodricke College. Outside my degree, I love climbing and walking in the outdoors as well as trying out new things with societies or relaxing around the wildlife on campus.