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The Jump from A-Level to University
Just how big is it?
In short, not very, in my humble opinion, certainly not as a history student. And even in STEM subjects, I believe the first year is foundational and used to ensure everyone has a standardised level of knowledge before advancing into subsequent years.
In a way, the workload is reduced compared to a-levels, primarily because you’ll only be focusing on one or two subjects, depending on if you’re a joint or single honours student. Your work will generally focus on seminar reading (around 3 or so chapters or articles a week for each seminar), essay reading, writing essays, or exam revision.
As you progress through your degree, you’ll be expected to think more critically about the topics and questions at hand than was necessary at a-level. It’s worth noting, though, that your tutors will help you progress to this level – you won’t be expected to work to this level immediately. Oh, and a final note – don’t forget the basics of an a-level essay; it’ll come in handy throughout your degree!
Everything about university gives you so much more independence than a-levels, from everyday living to studying. Personally, I found the former harder to adjust to with my homesickness, but you settle into your own routine and rhythm in no time!
In terms of studying you have less time in timetabled lessons, or contact hours. I had around 10 in my first year. This means you need to learn to manage your own time to make sure you attend each seminar well-prepared.
You’ll also find that no one chases you for assessments.
In terms of the social side of uni, you’ll find a much greater variety than you would at school. From societies, events, and sports teams, there’s without a doubt something for everyone to get stuck into! You have the opportunity to make your university experience what you want it to be through these extra-curriculars. Be sure to be true to yourself, though, and don’t compare your socialising to that of others, not everyone wants to be partying every night, and that’s okay – take things at your own pace.*
To be totally honest, I found the jump from GCSE to a-level much harder than the one from a-level to university, as did many of my friends, so hopefully that can calm any nerves. But if you find that the transition is a struggle when you get to university, there’s an abundance of people to help you out, from members of your department and the wellbeing team to the residential life team in your halls of residence. Be sure to ask for help when you need it!
I hope this post has gone some way to providing an insight into the transition from a-level to university, both academically and socially.
Until next time
*In non-COVID circumstances, of course.