Before we continue, just know that every experience with application and studying alike is completely different. It has to be, because we are all individuals with a variety of interests and thoughts. However, the information below applies overall to the majority of applicants to university in some way or another.
|It's time to hit the books! - Copyright CLSS 2017|
The first thing you should really think about before you even begin looking at university FAQ's and interview preparation tips is what it is you want to study. This can be much trickier than it first may seem, namely in that this is going to be a subject you learn solely on its' own for the first time in your education. It needs to be one that you can specialise in by going into great detail whilst maintaining an avid interest and desire to know more. Just because you are extremely good at a subject does not mean that it is the one which will make you happy to study for the next three years.
In my own personal experience this proved quite difficult. For the majority of my life, I was determined to become a professional classical singer. After attending a year of excellence scholarship at a conservatoire, I came to the realisation that even though I was doing well this wasn't the path for me. I had changed a great deal in that period of time and needed to find a new path. Taking that step back was difficult but it has proved the right thing as literature encompasses everything meaning I still get to keep music as a big part of my life whilst learning so many other interesting new topics. Whilst I am grateful for all of my experiences, what I want to highlight here is that it would have been useful to know in advance that I wasn't going to be as happy as I initially thought on the music degree. It would have been possible to do this by looking into all of my options and not just this one.
Additionally, whilst researching locations for your subject once you have decided on what it is you want to study, be sure to look into how it is you are going to be studying your chosen field. Will there be a lot of reading on the book list for the year? Is this something you could get ahead with over the summer? Are there are any past papers you could see for examples? These are all important questions to ask on open days so that you can begin preparation for in advance to sample daily student workload over the summer whilst there is a lot of free time available.
What you should expect
It's difficult to know exactly what you will be experiencing on a day to day basis until you get used to life at university after you have moved in and been given a schedule. However, it is important to try and get as much of an idea as possible beforehand. Despite what people might say, finding a university is an incredibly personal thing because you aren't only finding a course + subject that makes you happy you are also finding an area in which you are going to be comfortable living alone for the first time. For this reason it is important to look beyond the universtiy credentials and attend as many open days and experience days as you can.
Just becasue it is a top notch university for study doesn't always mean it is the place for you. Find out what the pressure is like for deadlines and exams, see if the schedule works well with the clubs and societies you would be interested in joining and make sure you are taking every factor into account. If you do this, you are much more likely to have a positive and accurate idea of what your own experience is going to be like once you head away to university over the next few months.
If there are any questions you have on what to expect, from managing finance to where you an eat on campus, be sure to ask the university those questions. If you don't get to ask them in person, you can always email their student enquiries address or find their page on the Student Room. The Student Room is a great one as there are real students from the degree pathways there to help answer your questions more specifically depending on what you are studying. It is a much more personal way of getting an answer + idea of what to expect.
Myths you can dismiss
Be reassured, there are all sorts of myths and rumours out there about what university life is like. Firstly, it isn't all going to be fun and games. The majority of students work incredibly hard to achieve the grades they want. Nothing can be achieved in this environment through slacking, no matter where you study, so it is important to start as you mean to go on. Whilst your first year of study is usually treated as a foundation year (it doesn't count towards the mark at the end of your degree) you do still need to pass all of your assignments and commit to them fully. If you put your best work in then the feedback will be more useful, you will improve a lot more and you will be ready to achieve the grades you desire once you reach second year.
Another rumour I'd like to address is in regards to student finance. Whilst it may look like a lot of money, you don't have to start repaying this until you are earning over £21,000 a year once you graduate. This means that you pay it back in installments, so you don't need to worry about being bankrupted as soon as you head to your new accommodation. That said, it is important to budget and to work around the large sum of money you will be given in each installment. Make sure you are putting your rent and groceries first, as well as any school supplies you might need. Saving is always important and it is no different with student finance. This money should be used responsibly and as necessary.
Tip - Make sure you check out accommodation prices fit well with the amount you have been granted. It will save stress later on!
On hopes and clearing
Making the choices for your university is a big deal. You are likely to have options you prefer over the others and maybe out of all 5 choices there are only 2 or 3 which you really want to go to. But sometimes it can be useful to not get your hopes up. When I was applying, I didn't tell anyone outside of my close family and friends where I had selected because that way I wouldn't have to talk to anyone about it if I was unsuccessful. Luckily I got into my first choice for English literature, and even if I hadn't I've always believed that there is more than one way to skin a rabbit - that meaning, even if things don't go the way we want first time we'll end up where we need to be if we work hard and keep focused.
In regards to hopes and clearing, be sure to keep an open mind. Hopefully you won't need clearing, but if you do the staff who manage university places on that day are so friendly and patient. Be sure to look into what will be available to you via clearing and to have an idea of what to do that day should you need to get in touch with anyone. Keeping calm and keeping focused, as I previously mentioned, is the best way to handle that situation. Don't focus on the worst case scenario and try not to worry about it until results day, but do have an idea of what to do and research clearing a little before then just in case.
For now, this is the final section of this post on the undergrad conversation. If you would like to hear more in this style, do let me know in the comments below. Look out for the next piece on The Undergrad Conversation.