The page you are visiting was formerly part of the Which? University website, but is now being provided by The Uni Guide — part of The Student Room. For more information please click here.

Cookies help us deliver our services. By using our services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn more

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 when you make the exciting leap to uni. 

You can get really on top of things by also reading our guide to everything you need to do before you go to university


1. Freedom

Freedom is your new best friend when you move away to university  but all that independence could also become your nemesis if you're not careful.

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! 

Read our guide to choosing a student bank account in 2021 on our sister site The Student Room

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 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 

When it comes to lectures and seminars, 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. 
 

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. Here are eight student cooking and food mistakes you should try to avoid

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 say 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.

Students share their tips for Freshers Week, including how to make friends, over on our sister site The Student Room
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
 

Search The Uni Guide

Find further advice or search for information on a course or university