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Let's Talk Higher Education

Grace's thoughts on going from A Levels to a Degree!

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The chances are University will be totally different to anything you've experienced before, but fear not, in my experience of University two familiar scenarios emerged, firstly The Wizard of Oz scenario: You come to a strange place which is pretty colourful and exiting, if not unfamiliar or emotional at times (think of the Wicked Witch of the West as your dissertation). Then, when you get back to Kansas with your degree, life goes on as it did before and while it was fun, the only goal you had was to continue the rest of your life. 

Alternatively you have the Lord of the Rings scenario: all you wanted was to get through the degree. That's all this was supposed to be, but now there's huge distractions like dwarfs piling into your house or giant talking trees, and you find yourself side tracked before you know it. Suddenly you're at the end of the story, you've disposed of the ring in the fires of Mordor and gotten your degree, but the experience has completely changed you and what you want to do after university. 

The way I see it this is a much more common ending to a University story - but that's pretty inconvenient, since we've spent our life being told we should think about what we want to do with the rest of our remaining years from age eleven. I don't know about you, but I don't trust eleven year old me not to burn pasta let alone commit to important life choices.

Here's the thing though; this isn't bad. It's totally okay to change your mind, change it back again, contemplate the meaning of life with a bottle of wine and then find yourself on a completely different path than you originally planned. It's also okay to feel like you've definitely made the right choice, or to figure out that in the end, a degree isn't your cup of tea. In this sense, there isn't a wrong way to do Higher Education, but there are definitely things to bear in mind:

1. There is a lot more independent study in university life. Get ready to make time to sit down and read a lot, write a lot, and make a coursework-shaped dent in your social life. Trust me, if you get into the habit from the beginning, it makes things easier later on. Sometimes, the most interesting things in your course are the things you find out yourself. 

2. Going from a full day of lectures to a few hours a week can be pretty disorientating. But remember, this is because you're going to be doing all of the independent study. Doing work in your now free daylight hours means less late evenings where you'll get less done from being distracted or tired. Take advantage of these hours by making your study work whichever way you want it to. 

3. It can be hard to get used to a new learning environment, and that's okay. You'll be going from smaller class sizes where you at least know everyone's names to a lecture hall of 200 people who come and go promptly for the very few hours you're in classes that week. Making a study group can help with this, no matter how big or small it is. 

4. It's important to register the difference between lecturers and teachers and being a student instead of a pupil: teachers do things like chase up late work and are trained in to impart the curriculum into their pupils. Your lecturers know that it's your responsibility to submit work on time, and as a student learn the majority of your subject outside of scheduled lectures. Your lecturers lecture because they are experts in their field. This is an advantage in lots of ways and helps you grow, never feel too shy to make an appointment to see one of your lecturers - they love their subject and will be happy to talk to you about it. 


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