The move from school, sixth form or college to university is one that brings so many changes, and a lot of the time they can be quite scary. From living by yourself to making friends, it can all feel a bit daunting. One of the things I was most concerned about was how studying was going to change when I got to university. I’d heard a lot about independent study and writing academic essays. But didn’t fully understand what it all meant for me, and what the change would be like from my current qualifications.
If you’re in that position too, keep reading! I’m going to explain a little bit about what studying is like for me (though it is worth mentioning that I study History and that we have a lot more independent study, essay writing, and reading than some other courses can have, so you might experience something different!) and hopefully, give you a few tips and tricks along the way.
How is university different from school?
Personally, the biggest change that I experienced was definitely the independence. I don’t have many classes each week, but I’m expected to do a lot of reading outside of those classes, instead. It’s very different from school and college where most of your education is based in classes! You’re not just expected to plan your time a lot more, but you’re often expected to come up with your own ideas about the material you’ve read, too- especially if you’re studying a subject like History.
Another big change I experienced at university was the way we were asked to provide our own opinions or feedback about the ideas discussed in lectures or the reading. At school we had a teacher telling us the things we needed to know, whereas at university it’s much more of a discussion between the class and the tutor. It was very strange for a start and I think we all felt a bit out of our depth, but now by third year it feels so much more natural!
So how do you study at university?
The truest answer is that everyone studies a little differently! There’s no ‘right’ way to study, and you might have to try a few different things before you find what works for you. I’m going to tell you a bit about how I like to study, but there are plenty of people who do it completely differently.
I tend to leave myself a few days before my classes to do the set reading, which is usually given by tutors as a good starting point for our class discussion or to let us know about some of the themes we’ll be looking at. We often get given questions to think about as we read, which helps!
I try to keep a note of which book or article I’m reading in case I want to use it in an essay later, and then make notes about the key points or things I’ve found interesting within the reading. When I’ve not got classes or something else on, I try to break up my studying into half an hour blocks, so I remind myself to take breaks. I also set myself a time in the evening where I’ll stop studying and watch TV, play something with my housemates, or do some artwork- something to wind down after the day!
How can I prepare myself?
The most important thing is to be aware of what you’re going to be doing and how you’re going to be expected to study, which this blog has hopefully helped you with! I’d also suggest thinking about the way you work best- I handwrite all of my notes, but a lot of people prefer to use a laptop- it’s whatever works best for you!
If you’re going to be studying an essay-heavy subject like me, you might want to read up on your department’s essay citation system and get a head start- I still get stuck with citations and I’ve been doing them for three years!
Lastly, try not to stress! It might seem like university will be a huge move from school or college but everyone is in the same boat and there’s loads of support at university if you’re struggling with essays or other academic writing. You can go and have a look at the university’s study skills page to see what’s on offer.
I hope that this has been useful and that you’re feeling a little more informed about what studying at university is like! Best of luck with your current studies and I hope you’ll soon join us here at York!
- Read more student blogs about studying at uni