Common questions and concerns

Common questions and concerns

We talk about higher education with lots of people on our travels. Below are some of the questions and queries that we come across often.

I don’t like school. Does this mean I wouldn’t like university?

We are all different, and different people thrive in different environments.

Many people who didn’t like school absolutely flourish in higher education. It’s a completely different experience and way of learning.

So, what is school like?

The school week is based around a timetable that requires you to be there from 08.30 until around 15.30 (or thereabouts). During these times, there are fixed slots for lessons with lunch and breaks in between. This structure is the same every day and the only thing that really changes daily are the lessons.

While you’re at school, you are told where to be, what to do and what to wear. If you don’t attend a lesson, or do what you’ve been asked to do, you’ll be held accountable. It’s not like this in higher education.

University contact time

A day at university looks very different from a school day. On a weekly basis, students will have a certain amount of contact time. These are hours that are actually spent attending lectures, seminars, workshops, meetings, or tutorial sessions – sessions where you’re with a member of teaching staff in some sort of form. On average, you can expect around 12 hours of contact time per week, but this varies from course to course.

Independent studying and motivation

On top of contact time, students will spend time working independently and sometimes in groups. Independent work can again vary from course to course, but an average would be around 14 hours per week. This is what really makes higher education different from school.

Lectures

Lectures are the starting point for all students’ learning at university. They’re not the same as lessons in school. In a lecture, a subject-specialist will provide an outline of a particular topic while the students take notes of key points. This acts as a starting point from which you go off and learn more about yourself (or sometimes with a group). Lectures often cater for larger groups of students as there isn’t usually much discussion taking place; however, lecture sizes often depend on the size of the university or college.

Seminars

Usually, seminars take a topic that was introduced in a lecture and explore it further among much smaller groups. In a seminar, there is much more discussion and debate. Through discussion and debate, a lot of learning takes place as you get to hear the opinions of others.

Workshops

Again, like seminars, workshops are for smaller groups, but instead of discussion, students might learn about a tool or a technique that they will be required to know about for their course. They are generally practical in nature – in fact, they might even be called ‘practical sessions in some institutions.

Field trips

Depending on the course, you might get to go on field trips!

A field trip could be half a day visiting a local business or facility, or a month on the other side of the world, Again, it really depends on the course. Many of the images in the Student Life area of our gallery were taken on field trips – check them out here.

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There you have it! Being a student in higher education is a completely different experience from being in school. You’ll be treated like an adult and you won’t get told off for not doing your work – the way universities and colleges see it is you’re a paying customer and if you don’t attend or do your work, it’s your money you’re wasting.

What are the benefits of higher education?

There are numerous benefits to having a higher education qualification such as a degree – the most obvious being the fact that graduates generally earn more money than non-graduates and enjoy a more rewarding career with more opportunities for employment and progression. In fact, by 2022, it’s expected that half of all jobs will require a degree, or equivalent.

The benefits extend even further than this. Studying at this level develops transferable skills, such as time and workload management, and communication and leadership skills, just to name a few. These skills serve graduates well, outside the workplace as well as in it.

The way you learn in university is different from the way you learn in school. Although some of your knowledge will come from lectures, seminars and workshops, most of it comes from conducting your own research. By the time you leave university, you will have become very skilled in finding things out that you didn’t know before. This skill is valued in the workplace as you can be given projects to work on where you’ll be required to find things out.

Other benefits include increased independence and confidence, as well as a deeper knowledge of your specialised subject.

You can find out more on about the Benefits of Higher Education here.

Does it matter what A-Levels or BTECs I take?

Studying the right subjects at A-level/BTEC serves as good preparation for higher-level study. In fact, for certain courses it’s a requirement that you have studied specific A-levels, but for many courses it’s not quite so critical.

Entry requirements vary among universities and colleges, and popular locations are able to command high standards, so it’s worth checking out their websites to get an idea of what they require.

The article below by Which? contains some really useful information for anyone thinking about their A-level choices.

Six things you need to know before making your A-level choices

I want to go to university, but I don’t know which course or where to study.

Going to university is a big investment of your time and money, so you want to get the most out of it. If you have a genuine interest in the course you apply for, your time as a student is going to be much more enjoyable.

With the increase of tuition fees, more and more students are choosing courses that will allow them to progress on to specific career paths. It’s also important to see what content is taught on courses that you’re interested in as this can vary from university to university, or college to college.

Once you’ve decided what to study, you want to look at places that offer that course. You should be looking at the course content and assessment methods and see what suits you best. This information will all be available online.

Attend an open day

We can’t emphasise this enough! Attending open days gives you a chance to get a feel for a place. You also get to meet teaching staff and current students where you can ask questions about the course. You get the opportunity to see what accommodation looks like and what support is on offer, should you need it.

Click on the links below to find out more about choosing a course and university or college:

Help! I don’t know what course to choose – what do I do?

How to choose the right degree

When should I start thinking about higher education?

You can start thinking about higher education at any time. But, if you have an idea of a career you’re interested in when you’re young, you can choose options at school that will better prepare you for your future.

For lots of us, though, when we are young we have no idea what we want to do for a career – we’re not even aware of all the jobs that are out there.

If you fit into that category, try exploring our ‘Find your Career’ section and start identifying jobs that you like the sound of and see what skills and qualifications are needed. Having direction means knowing where you want to go and knowing how to get there.

How long does it take to do a university course?

Generally, most degree-level courses take three years – and this time flies by! A few universities are offering two-year degrees, although you can expect to spend an extra term in university or college per year.

If you decide to take a placement year during your studies, your course will extend for one more year – placement years can be very beneficial to your studies and your employability. You also get paid for it.

Find out more about placement years here.

Certain courses, such as Dentistry and Medicine can take up to five years.

Foundation degrees usually take two years (full-time) to complete and focus on specific professions. Foundation degrees are standalone qualifications, but also open the doors to higher study by providing a foundation on which you can build upon. Many people go on to ‘top up’ to a full degree.

If you’d like to know more about how long a university-level course takes, follow the link below:

The Length of the Course

How do people pay for university?

You don’t have to come from a wealthy family to go to university. If you’re from England you’re entitled to apply for a tuition fee loan and a maintenance loan. You apply for both of these at the same time through Student Finance England.

A tuition fee loan covers the cost of your course and it’s paid directly to your college or university. We’ll look at how they’re paid back in a moment.

Maintenance loans are for your accommodation and living costs while you’re a student. The amount you can borrow depends on your household income – the lower your household income, the more you’re entitled to.

Paying back what you have borrowed begins only when you have finished your studies and when you are earning over the £25,000 threshold (from April 2018). At that point you repay 9% of the amount that is over that threshold each year (interest applies).

For example, if you earn under £25,000, you won’t be making any repayments. However, if you earn £30,000, you would pay back 9% of £5000 which is roughly £440 a year (or £37 a month).

For a more in-depth information, check out our Guide to Student Finance

 

Will I fit in at university?

Heading off to university is an exciting time for new students, although it can be daunting at the same time. If the thought of not fitting in fills you with fear and puts you off the idea of university, just remember: going to university is not like going to school.

We all have different experiences of school life. Some people love it, but some can’t wait to see the back of it. Each day at school is the same in structure, the same faces, the same subjects, day in, day out. At uni, each day is different. As long as you go to your lectures and meet your deadlines, what you do with the rest of your time is pretty much up to you.

Universities are full of people from different places, different cultures, different backgrounds, and different interests. This diversity make university a place where everyone fits in. Everybody’s in the same boat, and everyone who’s there wants to be there.

From book club to rugby club, there are hundreds of opportunities on offer where you can meet like-minded people if that’s what you want. If for any reason you find yourself needing any support while at uni, you’re in the right place.

Usually, first year students living away from home for the first time move into what we call halls of residence. These are like apartment blocks for students and are often managed by your university. You can find out more about student accommodation via the link below:

What you need to know about student accommodation

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