Let’s be honest, no one really knows what university is like before they start. You attend open days, talk to friends and family, and watch YouTube videos but, until you’re there, it’s impossible to really know how different university is from school and college. Here are a few differences to prepare yourself.

Classes aren’t compulsory

You know that one lesson at school that you just couldn’t stand and never wanted to go to? Well, now you don’t have to go. But that doesn’t mean that you actually should skip it. Not having twice-daily registers and overbearing teachers might sound great, and it mostly is. However, if you don’t have anyone to motivate you to go to that 9:00am you hate, your grades will quickly slip.

More independent learning

Okay, you’ve probably already head this one, but it’s true. Often you will just have one lecture and one seminar to base a 4000-word essay on, which means you have to do a lot of your own research. While this might sound scary, it does give you the chance to focus on what you care about. Instead of spending months studying a book you hate, you have the chance to choose something you’re interested in. You may even end up knowing more about it than your lecturer!

Fewer early starts

This will depend on your course, but most people will only have a few 9ams a week. Practical and
lab-based subjects will usually have you up earlier more often. But, unless you’re really unlucky,
most arts and humanities students will only have one or two early starts a week.

people sitting on chair in front of computer
Photo by Dom Fou on Unsplash

Lectures are recorded

Most degrees are taught through lectures, seminars, and sometimes practical sessions. You have
to show up to seminars and practical sessions at the assigned times (although these might be
online) but lectures are typically recorded. This means you can watch the class at any time, which
makes dragging yourself out of bed after a night at the pub far less appealing.

Assessments are spread out

At school, you probably have the bulk of your formal assessments for years’ worth of work over the space of a few weeks. Most universities have two assessment periods each year. So you have all the exams and coursework for a module while the content is fresh in your mind, rather than waiting almost two years, like you may be used to with GCSEs and A-Levels.

More coursework

On the topic of assessments, since the shakeup of GCSEs and A-Levels a few years ago, there has been a greater focus on exams, so you may not have completed much coursework yet. Once again, the proportion of exams to coursework will depend on your course. Typically, science subjects will have more exams, while arts and humanities will have more coursework.

It’s so easy to find distractions

Most people you ask will say they prefer university to school, and with good reason. There are so
many societies to join, events to attend, sports to try, and people to meet that uni can be a blast.
But this does mean that it’s easy to forget about your work in favour of your social life. That is not to say that you should cancel every plan in order to boost your grade by one mark. But finding the
right balance is important and, once you do that, you’ll have a great time!

See also: Top five university essentials you might forget to pack