Studying at Uni: A Breakdown (Part 1) – OurWarwick

Studying at Uni: A Breakdown (Part 1)

Having just finished my degree, I’ve been thinking about what I would have liked to know during the summer before my first year, when I was trying to be prepared without really knowing what was coming. So, in this 2 part blog, I’m going to try to explain a bit about what you might expect at Uni and give my tips for starting university on the right foot.

Please note that this is based on my experience doing a Computer Science degree and some aspects may not be relevant for other subjects.

First things first, what are the building blocks of a degree?

My degree was split between lectures (about 12 hours a week), labs/seminars (about 4 hours a week) and independent learning (very varied).


I think that lectures are a bit weird – they generally consist of lecturers standing at the front and delivering content, usually with the help of a powerpoint or writing on whiteboards. Lectures vary massively from lecturer to lecturer and therefore how you engage with them also changes. For this reason, it’s quite difficult to prepare until you’ve actually started going to them for each module.

One thing that stays consistent with all lectures is that you’ll probably need to take notes. If you want to practice this before starting Uni then there are loads of mini lectures online you could use. But don’t worry too much, first year is a good time to really hone your notetaking technique! One of the main things to decide in regards to notetaking is whether to take notes on a laptop, a tablet or on paper – personally I prefer a laptop unless it’s a really maths-y module with lots of diagrams and notations.

Tip: try not to take notes repeating what is said/explained in the provided resources – note down the extra information provided and then combine the contents of resources with your notes at a later point in time.

Labs and seminars:

Labs and seminars are much more like classroom learning where you discuss concepts, complete exercises and do activities that will usually help you in your assessments. There’s not really anything you can do before Uni to prepare for these – just turn up and try your best. Sometimes, the exercises will take longer than the allocated time – this is fine and expected in some cases, just keep working on them as part of your independent learning time.

Independent learning:

The independent learning was the most difficult part to get used to for me. Even though it’s fairly similar to what you do at school, you’re expected to do a lot more, so it can be difficult to manage your work and keep your motivation up. I found it most useful to “go to work” between certain hours (I stuck to the traditional 9-5 but you could work out what’s best for you through trial and error). I also created a schedule of when I would work on each module although this did change as I approached various deadlines and understood what was expected from each module.

Part 2 of this blog covering assessments and revision can be found here

Cover Photo by Windows on Unsplash

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