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College to uni: seven key differences to look out for

The move from college or sixth form to uni may seem like a big change, but don't let yourself be overwhelmed. Here are some of the key differences you'll be facing…

You can also see what our video reporter uncovered when he went on to university campuses to ask students what to expect in your freshers' term

1. Freedom

Freedom is your new best friend  more than half of freshers* we spoke to told us they found living away from home easier than expected. But all that independence could easily become your nemesis.

You have the opportunity to mould the way you live and study. Just make sure that you leave room for a degree in the midst of everything university offers, try to find a balance between work and play  and keep on top of your student budget! 


2. Coping with information overload

Having spent the past couple of years working towards AS, A-levels or Highers, you may feel you deserve a rest. However, you'll soon find that uni moves at speed, rapidly covering vast subject areas.
In history [at college] you might spend a year studying a narrow time period or set of events. In your first year in university, you might study hundreds of years in a single semester. This provides groundwork for further study at higher levels, but the pace and scope can feel uncomfortable. Dr Karin Bowie | Lecturer - University Of Glasgow

3. Staying self-motivated 

Despite what you might have heard, lectures aren't a waste of time  44% told us they found lectures more interesting that they thought they would!

However, no-one is going to make sure you're slumped in a seat at 9am on a Monday morning. You don't have to answer to anyone but yourself. Take responsibility early on for keeping yourself motivated and on track.

Using your free time wisely is key. The Head of Sixth or college tutors won’t be on hand to push you towards the library, so you will have to organise your time yourself.  This will include making a note of any deadlines and exams. Schedule in plenty of personal reading time so you can be prepared for seminar discussions and essay writing. Karen Kimura | Learning And Development Manager - Girls Day School Trust


4. Managing your workload

You might be surprised at how little contact time you have at first. Perhaps there's just a weekly tutorial on top of a few lectures. But don't be fooled.

Lecturers expect you to be doing a lot of the legwork yourself and reading throughout the semester, instead of cramming just before exams. 

Watch now: How university changed me (for better and worse)

5. Domesticity

If you want clean clothes, food on the table or a room you're not ashamed to entertain in, you'll have to brush up on your domestic skills.

Alana, a law student from Glasgow, recommends knowing exactly what washing powder looks like as her flatmate discovered she'd been washing her clothes purely in fabric softener for the first month of living in halls...


6. Endless opportunities

Most universities boast that if you can't find an activity on offer, you can start it yourself. You will be inundated with clubs, societies and sports teams angling for your presence. 

You might be the only one in your flat who wants to try something, but don't let a lack of company stop you. This is the time to take up fencing or join the Jane Austen book club - or a really unusual society like the Assassins' Guild (intrigued?).

Getting stuck into extracurricular activities could be great for enhancing your CV, too. Having said that, don't join loads of societies and clubs for that factor alone.
Lots of people will tell you extra-curricular activities will boost your CV, which is true. But it would be wrong to get involved in sports, music or debating, for example, simply for that reason. Instead, do something you enjoy. Try something new. Then when you come to talk about it at interview, recruiters will see that you genuinely like it, and will be interested in the skills you might have developed along the way. Karen Kimura | Learning And Development Manager - Girls Day School Trust


7. 24/7 socialising

University offers you the chance to meet people from all over the world; those who share your passions and even those who are like nobody you've ever encountered before. It can feel like a constant social whirlwind and often takes time for you to feel settled.
The most important skill at university, without any doubt, is to be able to socialise with anyone at any time in any situation. You have to go out and find the good people, find the good places, and be proactive in enjoying yourself. Simon | Student - Aberystwyth University

Watch now: How I met my best mate at uni

* Data source: Which? University Student Survey 2012

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