Image of school students getting ready for university

 by Gemma Stead
, posted On 28 Jul '22
 Schools and Colleges Liaison Officer (West Yorkshire) at the University of Huddersfield

Preparing your students for the university transition - how university is different from school

Studying in a university environment can seem like a big change for students, especially for students who have spent a long period of their studies at home in recent times.

There are many differences between school and university, the biggest being that students can expect a lot more independence both academically and socially. For many, this is a big reason for choosing to attend university, but it may also take a bit of getting used to.

Below are some of the key differences you may wish to highlight when discussing university transition with your students.

Time keeping and deadlines

University lecturers and tutors don’t chase students for drafts of their work or give regular reminders of when their work is due for submission. Similarly, although attendance is usually monitored centrally, it is the student’s responsibility to ensure that they turn up for their study commitments.

It is important that students manage their time effectively, especially when balancing what is on offer socially with succeeding in their studies.

Academic writing and research

Students are expected to do the majority of their work independently. Topics, key themes and concepts are outlined by academic staff through lectures and seminars, but students are then expected to go away and research these in detail, using their own initiative. This requires a lot of self-motivation, choosing a subject they are passionate about will help with this.

The style of writing expected of students is also different at university with an expectation to think critically when researching topics, offering balanced arguments in essays, backed up by quotes and references from their background reading. This is why referencing is so important. There is usually lots of help on hand to support students with this when they start their university course.

Student life

After spending much of the last year studying from home, student life at university will, more than ever, seem very different to what students have become used to. The opportunities available to learn new skills and meet new people are really exciting and an excellent way to build valuable skills that employers value such as confidence, resilience and willingness to try new things.

The Student’s Union organises most social activities which include the many clubs and societies on offer. Joining a society is a great way for your students to meet like-minded people and try out new activities.

Support available

Although moving to university study can seem like a big step, there is lots of support available to transition to a new way of working. Students aren’t expected to adjust to the change overnight and allowances are made, particularly for first year students when it comes to skills such as referencing. Universities may also offer a ‘buddy’ system where new students can call on support from others who have previously faced similar challenges.

Teachers, careers colleagues and support staff: request your FREE UniTasterDays Teachers' Guide to University brochure.

This brochure has been produced by in collaboration with HELOA - to support the university guidance that is provided in secondary schools and colleges.

Editorial has been provided by over 35 colleagues at universities and higher education institutions throughout the UK. On topics covering how to support students with their university decisions, university events, widening participation & fair access, UCAS applications (including writing school references) and more. It also includes the key student finance facts from Martin Lewis.

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