The Step Up from A-Levels to University and How You Can Prepare
When I was studying my A-Levels I was absolutely terrified to start university for the fear that it would be too hard. I would get mixed messages from my teachers with some arguing that A-levels were the hardest qualification, whilst some argued that in fact in was university. As someone who has experience both I am here to provide you with the facts.
The workload ultimately depends on the course, but from my personal experience university has been more manageable. At A-levels you are juggling at least three a-levels or btecs and ultimately this includes homework and a lot more contact hours than at university. You are also covering tons more content at a quicker pace during a-levels making it even harder to manage. However, from flatmates I am aware that courses differ in their contact hours and the amount of work set. As an Art-History Student I have a significant amount of reading and 10 hours of contact time whilst other courses have 15+ hours of contact. Ultimately however, personally I find that university is less demanding than A-levels.
One thing to take into consideration is that at university you dedicate yourself to one subject. At A-levels when you got tired of one subject you could move onto the next and come back to it later. Doing multiple subjects also meant you had more time to understand what you enjoyed and what you didn’t. At university you are ultimately studying the same thing for three or more years. Whilst this might be the case, there are so many modules within the courses that can make your subject more interesting. The biggest thing to realise coming to university is knowing that what you are doing as a degree could pave the way to your career. Because of this, doing what you love is so important in the step up from A-levels to University.
The teaching at university is super different from A-levels. At university there are seminars and lectures and both are different from classroom teaching. Rather than being taught, lectures are information prepared by a lecturer and presented to a class. You have to proactively make notes during these lectures and they form the basis of knowledge for each of the modules. Seminars require preparation and are often used for discussion with course mates to share ideas. To prepare for this new method of teaching, attending lectures and talks from different universities is super beneficial. That way you are able to get used to the process of taking notes and listening to someone talking at the same time. Furthermore, discussion groups are useful , for example debate club where you can challenge other peoples ideas. This also can help to boost your confidence in discussing your own ideas before heading off to uni.
Independence is such a massive step that you have to take at university. At school when you had assignments the teacher would go through the work with you. It seemed easier at school to keep up with work as we spent most of our days at school and the time at home was used for leisure. However, at university since we have only a specific amount of contact hours, the rest of the time is used for independent work. Being proactive is so key at university, as you have to reach out to talk to your lecturers if you need help. To prepare for this set timetables, or learn to reduce procrastination. To help me I downloaded the app forest which was really beneficial and has helped me to focus when I’ve been falling behind.
It’s super normal to feel scared before coming to university but everyone is in the same boat. As you make friends in your flat and in your course you will develop confidence in your ability at university and start to feel more comfortable in the environment. Whilst the step up can be big there are so many people there to support you including the university so don’t hesitate to reach out for help when you need it.