As you may already know, I’m an art student about to go into my second year of university. Since university is such a huge part in my life at the moment, I wanted to try and share as much advice and tips about university life for anyone who is about to start or considering applying to university.
Although university websites will answer questions themselves, I feel as though they aren’t as honest as an actual student would be. So I wanted to put together a post about my honest opinions about university and thought there would be no better way to do this than in a Q&A.
I started by having a look online to see what the most commonly asked questions were about university and then took to Twitter to ask you guys exactly what you wanted to know. Before I start I just want to say thanks to everyone who contributed a question to this post! I really appreciate all of your support and involvement with my blog and hope this post will helpful to you!
Commonly Asked Questions
How much is the cost of living in the UK at university?
This totally depends on where about in the UK you’re studying and also the facilities at your university. For example, I go to university in the South of England and so things like student houses and university accommodation are significantly more expensive than they would be in the North of England. Although, even though I have to pay more for accommodation, my university has bars all over its campus so drinks/nights out are so much cheaper than in non-campus universities. Something that I wasn’t expecting, however, was that the price of food in the supermarkets isn’t that different in the South compared to the North. And, compared to Liverpool, transport is actually cheaper in the South. (I imagine if you’re at university in London everything will be more expensive)
What are student halls like?
SO WARM, OH MY GOD. Halls are so ridiculously warm – bring shorts guys. Anyway, student halls are slightly annoying but also the best option for a first year student. Living with 6-10 people (usually) can be really hard, especially when it comes to cooking and communal spaces. I’m someone who likes their own space so I found it difficult at times to always bump into a flatmate when I just wanted to get a snack from the kitchen (Luckily I kept some of these snacks in my room to avoid this haha). Overall though, I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else in my first year because student halls are so well located near all the main things at university; bars, sports grounds, lecture halls etc.
Will I get homework like in high school?
No, not really. The kind of “homework” that you get is usually just weekly readings of certain texts ready for discussion in your seminars/lectures as well as essays to sum up each of your modules. Your tutors will often set optional extra reading for you to do as well if you want.
What happens during freshers week?
It’s basically just a week of organised events and nights out by the university. Of course you haven’t got to attend them all but I’d recommend attending one or two. My main bit of advice would be to go to the sports and activities fair! You’ll find plenty of stalls of different societies and clubs that you can join throughout university. It’s a great way to get out of your comfort zone and meet new people.
How many hours of class a week will I have?
This varies from subject to subject but you can check the kind of contact hours each university and course has. Something like Art (which is what I study) will normally have really low contact hours (maybe two or three classes a week) because a lot of your work is expected to be done in your own time. However, more science-based courses will have two or three classes on a day and less work to be done outside of lectures/seminars.
Questions from Twitter
Is it hard having to look after yourself for the first time? Cooking, cleaning, finances, health, adulting etc? – Olivia Charlotte.
Honestly, it’s nowhere near as hard as you might think it is to look after yourself in uni. I took a year out after my A-levels to do further studying at college before university so I tried to learn a few recipes and the basics of cooking during this time which definitely helped me out. If you can learn a few quick, easy recipes then you should be fine for food!
Before you head off to uni you should set yourself a student bank account up. Student Bank Accounts are exactly like your usual bank account but will come with an overdraft (a set amount of money that you can go into if you run out of money in your account) of around £500. I set aside a certain amount of money each week to do my food shopping with so I knew what I had left to spend on things like clothes and nights out and didn’t overspend anything. If you can, try and draw out money from your account and avoid using your card so that you don’t end up spending more money than you realise. If you can see the physical money leaving your purse then you’re aware of what you’re actually spending whereas contact-less creeps up on you.
As for cleaning, you haven’t really got to do much more than you would at home anyway. Your university accommodation should have a weekly cleaner who cleans all communal areas in your flat so the only thing you really need to keep clean is your room.
“What are three things you wish you had known as a first year student?” – Nele, and “What’s the one thing you wish you knew before you started uni? – Rosaline
This was actually a super hard question for me to answer because I already knew quite a lot about what to expect at university because my older sibling had been already! That being said I still managed to think of three things:
- You have so much more time than you realise
- An NUS card is a necessity
- Your course-mates won’t actually be your best friends despite what you might think
I didn’t expect to have so much free time in uni – even with societies, classes, nights out and more I still had absolutely loads of free time! It’s this free time, however, that starts to make you feel a bit lonely and homesick so make sure to bring books, films and home comforts to help with this.
An NUS is basically a student discount card that, unfortunately for me, I put off buying for the first few months of university. I could’ve saved so much money in just those first few months that I didn’t have the card from shopping for clothes, food and even buying tickets for student nights out! If you’re heading off to university, make sure you get yourself a card before you get there as they’re only about £15 and last the entire year!
I always thought my course-mates would be the people that I would relate to the most but I actually found that I had nothing in common with them other than our choice in degree. Comment below if you found that the same thing happened to you at uni!
What are importing factors to consider when choosing a college or university? – Emily
Other than the obvious things like the course and the accommodation, it’s definitely important to consider the facilities available at the university; is there a large selection of societies and sports to get involved in? Are there shops nearby? What kind of events does the university have? e.g. nights out, freshers events etc.
The city/town itself also plays a big role in your decision (well it did for me anyway). If you’re coming from a large city to a town then something to consider is whether or not there is enough going on there for you. I found it really hard to find a university with enough going on in its town having lived in a buzzing city my entire life and this works for those of you from smaller towns moving to large cities – it might simply be too busy for you.
How do you pick an area of study when you have no idea what you want to do in the future? – Emily
Don’t rush into it! That is literally the best piece of advice I can give you. It’s totally normal to have no clue what you want to study in university, but a tip I can give you is to really focus on what you love doing in school. I think the biggest mistake students make is choosing a degree that they think will get them a career – I always loved art so I was convinced I should study Architecture at university to get a great job and have a “successful life” when in reality I would’ve hated it! Originally, I applied for architecture courses and everything but then realised that what I really wanted to study was Art. I then took my year out and applied to university for Art the next year and it was the best decision of my entire life.
It’s so important to enjoy what you’re studying at university and not just pick the first degree that’ll get you a “career”. So many people don’t enjoy their jobs (whether they went to university or not) but if you’re lucky enough to be able to go to university and have your choice of career paths then make sure you’re studying something that’ll bring you genuine happiness, because is there really anything better?
What is the best tip for doing well and staying organised in your classes? – Emily
Probably pretty obvious but get yourself a planner and note down each individual task and its due date. I always find it so satisfying to tick off tasks as I do them. It makes me feel like I’m getting somewhere with my work. As well as a planner, I’d also recommend typing up your notes after lectures. That way you have them all ready for revision/essay writing at the end of each module. Personally, I like to write out my notes by hand in my lectures. Then I type them up afterwards because the information sinks in more successfully.
Is it better to live on or off campus? – Emily
Definitely on campus! Especially in your first year. Being on campus means you can access all that your new university offers and get involved in societies/sports. It’s also a lot safer living on campus because you can get back to your accommodation without leaving the area. Plus it’s normally busy with students at all times.
When would you say it’s best to look for a job? – ItsLouLouBlog
I wish I could give a better answer to this question but I haven’t actually had a job before. Although, I have been looking for part time jobs whilst at university. It’s the perfect time to build your CV up with experience, ready for when you graduate and want to put your degree to use!
When it comes to graduate jobs, a few of my friends found themselves in a job at the end of their second year – ready for when they finish their third year so I would start thinking about applying in second year. Don’t worry about getting yourself a job directly related to your degree. At the end of the day it’s actually really hard to! Unless you’re studying something like economics or a subject with a direct link to large companies it’s going to be hard to go straight into a job from uni that relates to your degree.
My best advice is to just keep looking and applying. Eventually you’ll find something related to your degree… and good luck!