Three things they didn’t tell you about university before you started.

1. First year isn’t just a repeat of a-levels.

That’s what you get told when you’re about to head off, that and since the first year grade doesn’t count towards your degree that you don’t need to worry about it. It’s just to get everyone to the same level, as people don’t always do the same modules in their a-levels.

But what really happens when you get there is somewhat different. You find out that you have to do reasonably well in first year to even think about doing well in the other years. That’s because they build on what was learned in first year.

And what you learn isn’t just revision. It’s new stuff, and actually quite a lot of it. The amount of content in one module is actually pretty high, too much to learn in the time given in my opinion but that’s a topic for another post.

My first year was so stressful I seriously considered leaving university and trying out another degree. They throw a lot of work at you so quickly, and as you’re still in the mindset of ‘homework’ and ‘deadlines’ that it shocks you a bit to be in complete control of what and when you do it.

2. Working till midnight is the norm during exam periods.

So when I started university I expected some sort of work spike during exam period, like in a-levels, but nothing even close to what it was actually like.

It’s hard, really hard. And a lot of work. Which should be obvious I suppose, but when you’ve just come from sixth form college, that’s been the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do. No matter how many times people will say that’s it’s ‘easy’, that’s still quite patronising and it absolutely doesn’t feel like that to you.

But when you get to uni, in hindsight, it was quite easy. It certainly didn’t keep me up at night crying as much as my degree has.

During every exam period the library is open for twenty four hours. And it’s pretty much busy all of those hours, along with any other study area on campus. If you don’t get somewhere by around midday, then you probably won’t get anywhere. And if you do find a table, you basically have to stay there well into the evening if you want it for the whole day.

This, and the amount of work, lends itself to full days spent studying into the wee hours of the morning. Then dreams of what you studied during the day.

And people say the degrees have gotten easier over the years…

3. You can’t have it all.

The stereotype of university is parties, studying, and getting drunk. And that does happen, but not all of it, and never enough of each one.

I was a ‘stay in and work’ sort of person. Partly because of the amount of work, partly because I didn’t actually like clubbing and there wasn’t much else to do in Loughborough.

But some people were the party type, going out multiple times a week and always with a hilarious drunk story. And that affected their grades.

I think there’s a danger in these stereotypes. It makes students feel like they haven’t accomplished the ‘student experience’ if they didn’t do it all. I feel guilty for not going out as much, but if I did then I might not have got the grades I did. And I bet some people wish they’d studied more.

But these unrealistic expectations of university can have a dark side.

Many students nowadays have depression, and, I don’t know for sure, but I think at least some of them are due to feeling like they aren’t reaching this ‘ultimate student’ persona. And that’s a shame.

So, I think knowing what I know now, if I could have talked to a real university student when I was in college, then I probably would have been able to go into my degree with my eyes wide open. And I might have gotten a little more out of it, not that I didn’t get a lot out already, but still.

Hopefully I’ll remember this to help any future kids I may have.

Also, shameless promotion of my sister’s blog http://endofeverypage.wordpress.com. Give it a look. If you like mine then you should like hers.

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