School Vs. University
At school, especially during Sixth Form/College, I’m sure your teachers went on about how University is so different to school and how you need to start preparing blah blah blah… I didn’t really listen to teachers when they would nag on about this, if I’m honest, but now as I reflect back on my first year of Uni I would say that they have a fair point. This isn’t meant to be a blog post to scare you if you’re starting Uni in September/October, because I promise you that Uni isn’t a scary thing, I just want you all to be more prepared than I was!
The big difference between school and University is that there is no set textbook to follow, oh the horror. However, don’t worry – it all ties in with the fact that studying at Uni is meant to be independent and essentially down to you. Lecturers emphasise that there is no set way to achieve a 1st, it is purely down to what you study and how you tailor it. Throughout school, we have been used to the fact that if you learn the entire textbook from the exam board for your subject, you can be sure that you’ll get an A or A*. At Uni, you will have your lecture content, but many lecturers have said that if you use only the lecture content in your assignments/exams then you can only achieve a 2:2. Of course, this will all depend on your course and what year you are in! In first year, I would imagine that extra reading isn’t that essential, especially since most first year’s don’t count towards your final degree. For me doing Psychology, our essay assignments definitely required extra reading as there wasn’t enough lecture content to write a whole essay on the topic. However, my exams were mostly based on lecture content.
Don’t be scared about the thought of extra reading – I definitely was, I still am scared to do more of it in my second year. You can do extra reading on whatever you like (besides required reading set by your lecturers), and in our first year of Psychology we had PhD students show us how to find online journals that were best to reference as our sources in essays. This was a huge help as I had no idea how to find Psychology journals! They also showed us how to search for books online for the Warwick library, so that way we could take out textbooks that were recommended by our lecturers. That is another thing that will help you with extra reading – your lecturers will recommend certain journal articles and textbooks for you that you can choose to read. The best thing to do is to read and explore what interests you, because you’re likely to then perform better in your assignments and exams as you’ll enjoy studying it and will remember it better. One tip that I have in regards to required reading is to keep on top of it during the year! I did fairly well at doing this in my first year, however when it came to revising for my exams I realised that I had not done any of the required reading for one of my modules for the first term – super scary! So I kind of had to cram that in, and that is something that you don’t want to do during revision since you want to revise, not be learning new things. Plus, reading takes me AGES alongside making notes, so yeah just try to do it as you go along during the year to make things easier in the long run.
Another difference between school and Uni is that you’re not obliged to go to your lectures?! It’s become the norm for me to see people just walk out of a lecture when they want, or to walk in late, or to simply not turn up. Whereas in school, that was completely unheard of. So you can probably tell that lecturers aren’t strict like teachers – like I said before, your studying is down to you, so that’s why lecturers will let you do what you want as it is up to you to get stuff done and work independently. This can be a good thing and a bad thing, my advice is to not get too crazy with missing lectures because then you’ll have a lot to catch up on in your free time instead of completing assignments or having fun.
Overall, University is very independent and at first it might feel weird and something out of your comfort zone in comparison to school, but I’m sure you’ll soon grow to love it. Feel free to speak to your personal tutor, your lecturers, or anyone in your department if you feel at all uncomfortable or overwhelmed with the independent learning – it’s normal to feel that way in the beginning. However, I’m sure you will all be fine and have the best time at Uni!