5 Things You Should Know About Going to University in the UK
Amy studied at the University of Bristol and is our revision blog guru. She only graduated recently so understands the pressures of being a student better than most, and is here to share her wisdom so that you revise effectively, smash your exams, succeed at school and write cracking university and job applications.
Whether you’re an international student looking to study at a UK university, or are an EU or UK resident just starting out on your university application journey, it’s important to know what you’re getting yourself in for before you begin. Every university is different, but they do all have a few things in common.
So while you may have plenty of revision on at the moment, set aside your A-Level past papers for a moment to review a few things you should know about studying in the UK, so that you’re ready and prepared to hit the ground running when you arrive!
1. You’ll probably be staying in Halls of Residence, so be prepared to mingle
‘Halls’ (as they’re known for short) are basically big complexes of rooms and flats where you’ll live with fellow First Year students during your opening year at university. You can choose whether you want things such as an ensuite or shared bathroom, meals provided by a team of caterers or a self-catered flat, and a single or mixed sex flat or dorm.
All Halls of Residence within a university are different, so before you go you should do some research to work out which one you think would suit you best. One thing that can be said for them all, though, is that it’s a good idea to make an effort with your flatmates and try to get to know them. You don’t all have to be the best of friends, but it’s nice to feel like you live with people that you know, trust and can speak to. In the long run, getting along with your flatmates will make you far happier!
2. Societies allow you to take up hobbies and meet like-minded people, so seek them out
Clubs or ‘societies’ are an amazing way of making friends at uni, as well as exploring interests and hobbies that you might not have tried before. Whether you want to join an orchestra, play a certain sport, eat a particular cuisine or meet up with other students from your country, there’ll be a society to accommodate your wishes. And if there isn’t, you can set one up!
Most UK universities have hundreds of societies which you can join in order to do some fun extracurricular activities and make new friends, so be sure to find out about them and get involved with any that take your fancy early on. It’s always nice to have something productive to do that doesn’t involve studying!
3. Freshers’ Week can be nuts, but it doesn’t have to be
You may or may not have heard rumours about the infamous ‘Freshers’ Week’ festivities that take place up and down the country every September, when all of the fresh-faced First Year students party excessively in a bid to make friends and celebrate moving away from home for the first time.
Some universities and Halls of Residence are more notorious than others on the party front, and if this is your scene then you’ll be in your element.
But it’s vital to add that clubbing during Freshers’ Week isn’t essential, especially if it’s just not your thing! Plenty of other activities go on that week, such as fairs to help you find out more about the societies available, initial meetings with tutors, and other fun daytime events designed to help you meet people and settle in. So make the most of them!
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4. The grades you get in First Year often don’t count
At most UK universities, you need to pass your first year in order to be allowed into second year, but the grade you get in first year doesn’t actually count towards your final degree mark; only your second and third year grades count.
It goes without saying that you should work hard in first year in order to set yourself up to succeed in the following years, but don’t beat yourself up if you’re finding it hard. Degree-level study is much harder than A-Levels, and it’s important to use your first year to settle in, make friends and enjoy your new home, as well as lay the academic groundwork for future success.
Going to university often means getting used to no longer getting top marks in everything like you might have done at school, but this is okay. You’ll get the hang of it, learn from mistakes and do better further down the line when it really matters!
5. There are lots of people around to support you, even if it doesn’t always feel like it
In comparison to school, university expects you to be far more independent. This can mean that the sort of one-on-one attention and pastoral support you might have had during GCSEs and A-Levels is lacking – unless you ask for it.
All UK universities have extensive teams and support networks designed specifically with the students in mind, so that you have somewhere to go if you’re feeling worried, sad or lonely. So even if you’re not being reminded of this all the time, we can guarantee you that there are people you can talk to about any of your worries at any point during your time at university. Don’t forget it about this, as there might be a time when you just need to offload some of your concerns to somebody whose job it is to listen and help.
There’s no need for you to ever feel like you’re totally alone at uni!