• Question: what common ideas and fears about universities should we not believe?

    Asked by calvinjohnson2 to Shobhana, Patrick, Nina, Deepak on 7 Jun 2019.
    • Photo: Shobhana Nagraj

      Shobhana Nagraj answered on 7 Jun 2019:

      I know when I went to University, I thought I would not want to come home very much and be really independent and that it would be constantly fun and exciting. When I got to Uni, I realised I missed being at home at times, and so did others around me – so my advice would be that there are times when you are at Uni that you will miss your school friends, your parents and family and home, and it is completely ok to feel that way. It is a big transition moving to Uni. You suddenly have to do all your cooking, cleaning, washing, studying everything and the way of working at Uni is different – you need to be a lot more independent in your work than you are at school. Also I found that during freshers week at the beginning, everyone felt really pressured to make new friends and go out all the time, but the friends I made – who have become life-long friends now – I didn’t meet until a few months into my first year at Uni and met some really good friends even after that. So I would say – try and relax and enjoy those first few weeks and don’t feel too much pressure to do everything all at once, and to find out from others in the years above you on your course what is expected of you in terms of your studies.

    • Photo: Nina Rzechorzek

      Nina Rzechorzek answered on 7 Jun 2019:

      Common fears that you should ignore:
      (1) ‘I’m not good enough to be there’ – everyone finds parts of their course difficult at times, but you deserve to be there just as much as anyone else. If you are struggling, ask for help early on and never be afraid to ask questions about things you don’t understand – uni is a great place to test and challenge established ideas – that’s how discoveries are made!
      (2) ‘I will lose all of my friends from home’ – true friends are there for life, certainly you will make lots of new ones and you are likely to make strong bonds with people you have shared major experiences with (such as a uni course, or a flat share!) but I am still in touch with friends I had a school – and actually, it was great fun meeting up with them in the holidays because we had so much tell each other about our different experiences at uni
      (3)’I can’t afford to go’ – definitely tuition fees represent a major worry for many students, but most universities have bursaries available for students from low income households and in some cases, the fees are reduced to reflect this. It’s also fine to get a part-time job at uni to help with costs (I worked in cafe throughout my first degree and did paid teaching throughout my second – both opportunities taught me important life skills and were a great stress release from hard study!)
      (4) ‘The exams will be too hard’ – to be honest, in most cases, because people are generally studying what they are most interested in at uni, they find revision that bit more interesting and easier. In many courses, your results are not just based on exams anyway, but universities recognise how stressed students get about this and they offer lots of support to help you through it (and it’s ok to resit if needed – life can throw us challenges at the most inconvenient moments – no one expects you to be a robot).
      (5) ‘I will be in debt for life’ – generally going to university improves job prospects and income (even if you don’t end up working in the specific area you studied; for some vocations e.g. veterinary medicine, a degree is essential). I am still paying off 2 student loans, but how quickly you have to pay them off depends on your income, and you won’t start paying back the loan until you can afford to.
      (6) ‘my degree won’t count unless it’s at a high ranking uni or unless I get top grades’ – absolutely not true; it helps to get good grades, but most employers are more interested in what you learnt (inside and outside of lectures) and how you can apply it. Some of the universities with lower overall rankings in league tables are actually the best place to study certain courses – so do your homework about the kind of course you want to do and where is the best place to study it.
      (7) ‘there won’t be any other people like me’ – correct, we are all individuals with individual talents and weaknesses, embrace your ‘uniqueness’, share it with others..after all, they will all be worried about this too. You are bound to meet some people that you share opinions/ideas with and others that you don’t; uni is a fantastic place to challenge your perspectives on the world and learn about how others view it – grab the opportunity to open your mind, broaden your horizons, and get involved with debates and discussions on topics that are important to you.
      (8) ‘I can’t get involved in science without going to university and/or doing a science degree’ – so wrong! Science needs all kinds of talents – people who can communicate and teach, artists who can turn science stories into something everyone can understand, writers who can explain science to a general audience. For example, I know an excellent graphics designer who makes incredible illustrations for scientific journals and they never did any science training! Some technical jobs require some training but not necessarily a science degree – so have a look around and try to get some work experience in the area you are keen on.

    • Photo: Deepak Chandrasekharan

      Deepak Chandrasekharan answered on 11 Jun 2019:

      Great answer from Nina!

      I would add don’t worry if you don’t know exactly what job you want to do when older. There’s a lot of pressure to pick the right GCSEs and then A-levels and to know you want to be X.

      Get a breadth of experience and just follow what interests you and enjoy studying it for 3/4 years at uni – there’s a lot of flexibility in the system and in science especially a lot of mixing of fields now.

      Going to open days helps a lot as you can chat to students there, but if you can’t get to an open day don’t worry either – every uni has someone responsible to help applicants and put them in touch with students if they want so e-mail or ring them and ask about your questions.