How is uni different to school or college? Akua explains

02 Jul 2018
By Akua B., Student at De Montfort University

University is unlike anything that comes before it. For some, you’re moving across the country, away from your family and friends to be in a place you don’t know. You’ll probably be living with strangers. It’s an exciting but unknown journey.

I moved from London to Leicester, about 90 miles, and I was lucky that many of my friends were going to the same university as me. But I still found the transition huge.

No one is going to tell you what to do, where to go and when to go home.

Here’s how university differs from school or college, and how you can start preparing yourself now for the changes to come.

Independence: You’re in charge now

No one is going to tell you what to do, where to go and when to go home.

One minute, you’re a 17-year-old child living by somebody else’s rules. The next, you’re an adult paying rent and making every decision for yourself. And yet, at first, you probably won’t feel any different.

When you get to university, you’ll find heaps of independence. No one is going to tell you what to do, where to go and when to go home. Nobody is going to ask if you’ve done your homework - at least not unless you’ve missed a deadline.

Be aware of and enjoy the freedom you have, but don’t abuse it. Be wise with the decisions you make. It’s probably best not to go out when you know you have a 9am lecture the next day.

Read more: Budget: 3 Ways to make your student loan last

Workload: Be prepared for a big step up

I’m doing English and Drama Studies as a joint honours and I have to read a new book every two weeks - sometimes more. But in sixth form, it was a book a term at most.

The shift from school to university in terms of workload is drastic. In my first term, I was in the library every week working on five assignments that were all due before Christmas.

Every course is different when it comes to assignments and required reading, perhaps you’ll have more group presentations and practical lessons.

The workload is nothing to be afraid of, but come prepared to study independently much more often than you did at school or college.

Read more: Essays: How I split the task to hit the deadline

Responsibility: Money, cleaning, and other fun adult things

People have the idea that uni is a time for fun, especially your first year. They’re right, of course, but that’s not all it is.

Responsibility is a key theme at uni, from hygiene to money to work. If you’re living with other people, you have to make sure you’re keeping tidy and cleaning after yourself when using the communal areas.

You’re going to be paying your own rent, probably for the first time, so it’s your responsibility to pay on time and not spend your student loan on other things!

Take it upon yourself to keep on top of your work and go to all your lectures, and catch up if you miss one. You’re not paying £9,250 a year to stay at home and watch Netflix, so make sure you get the most out of all the facilities available to you.

Read more: Cleaning: Pro tips from our housekeeping team

Friends: They’ll make uni feel just like home

In school, we could get away with not really interacting with people. You could go to class, keep your head down, and know you were going home to your family.

It’s different if you move away to university, where it can feel lonely coming home alone at the end of the day. That’s why it’s important to do as much as you can to make new friends - and there are loads of opportunities to do it.

Get to know your flatmates, your neighbours, your coursemates. Join societies that interest you. And don’t worry if it takes time, just keep pushing yourself to join in and it will happen.

Having positive people around who make you happy and laugh when you’re feeling homesick or down will really help.

Read more: Making friends: How I found my 5 types of uni mate

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Akua is a Drama Studies and English student in Leicester.