For me, it didn’t really sink in that I was at university until I was lying in my bed on the first night with my brain screaming at me: you are now fully responsible for yourself! You have to go food shopping! You have to wash your own underwear!
I think that’s how it is for a lot of people. At school, everyone makes such a big deal of university, that once you’ve actually made it, the whole scenario seems unreal. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying university is not a big deal – it’s probably one of the most exhilarating and life-changing experiences you will have in your life, but when people build something up in their minds, it leads to a lot of misconceptions being formed.
University is wrapped up in a lot of myths – everything from what lectures will be like, to what friends you will make. So I’m writing this post to address some of these myths and to reassure you that, if you’re panicking right now, things really aren’t as scary as they seem.
You have to drink to have fun
This is probably one of the most common misconceptions about university and one that is the least true. For example, the events during Welcome Week, which include bowling trips, quiz nights, club nights, treasure hunts and movie and pizza nights, offer students the opportunity to get involved in a variety of activities. Each university hall of residence has a student-elected Junior Common Room (JCR) who work together to enhance student life in halls. The JCRs are well-aware that there is a good proportion of students who don’t drink alcohol and therefore make it their aim to have all-inclusive icebreaker events that everyone can get involved with. Manchester is such a diverse city with so much going on, that you won’t be stuck for choice of what to do!
I’m going to be too homesick to enjoy Welcome Week
This is another worry that a lot of first year students have, but there is so much support at hand that it should not worry you at all. I thought I was going to be really homesick, but I was so busy during Welcome Week that there really wasn’t time to think about what’s going on at home! A few of my friends were homesick, but we all had each other to talk to about it, so it didn’t last for long.
You will be surprised how quickly first term goes – before you know it, you will be back home for Christmas!
I have to change who I am to fit in
No! There are thousands of students in Manchester, all as unique and different as you can imagine! With all the different subjects, societies and communities within the University, you will find your people. What makes us different is why we make such a great University!
I will find my best friends in Welcome Week
Apart from those I met in halls, who are still my best friends today, it’s highly unlikely you will complete your circle of friends by the end of day one. Welcome Week is a great opportunity to meet as many people as possible and try things you’ve never done before – like joining crazy societies and taking impromptu trips! However, don’t panic if you don’t find your ‘best friends’ during the first week. A large majority of the friends I have now are a mix from my subject and halls, but a lot of them I only met after Welcome Week.
I don’t need to work hard in first year, it doesn’t count!
I wish this one was true, but alas, it is not. Although my first year didn’t count, I still felt it was important to work as hard as you can. It is important to build up a good reputation among tutors and try to improve as much as possible to set yourself
in good stead for second year.
Your first year is a really good opportunity to get to grips with university level of study and you’re not going to get any better if you don’t put any effort in. Also, it feels good when you get grades back and you can see how much you’ve improved from the start of the year! However, it’s also a good idea to keep a balance between working hard and having fun – first year is about making great friends and trying out lots of new things to start your university career off with a bang!]]>
My name is Safiya, I’m a University of Manchester undergraduate student! Ever wondered what university is like? Want to have access to a student perspective? Well, this is perfect! I’m going to be answering some of the most common questions people have about university and I will also be writing from my own personal experiences so you can get to really know what to do if you choose to go to university!
First and foremost a little about me: I study Medicine with European Studies (in Spanish). I chose to study Medicine because I feel like it’s my passion and I hope one day to give back to others using my skills and expertise. The University of Manchester is the only medical school in the UK to offer a language as part of the course and since I did a language in school I really didn’t want to forget it so I took up it at university.
I think that picking the right course for you is key. A lot of people decide to do degrees for reasons other than out of their own desire and passion for the subject. This can often make the work tedious and the experience a gloomy one! So, my first suggestion is to pick something you’re passionate about. Doing something you enjoy is far more fun and it will feel just way, way easier. But don’t stress, there’s always room for change: if you feel like the course you’ve picked isn’t for you, you can seek help from your tutors and academic advisors, they are there to guide you.
Now you might be asking why I chose Manchester? When I initially applied through UCAS I was torn between two cities. I wasn’t sure which city to choose so I consulted my peers and the staff at the two universities, I found that in terms of research opportunities, which is something I’m very passionate about, The University of Manchester outranked many other universities. I also found out that it’s considered a Russell Group university. Follow this link to find out more about research here at the university.
I am originally from Manchester and therefore I know the area well, which is another reason why I chose Manchester. Now, do not fear a city because you don’t know it very well – many of my friends say the best thing they did was move to a completely new and unfamiliar city; this gave them independence and an opportunity to grow and develop as individuals. I would say that the best way to decide whether a city is for you is to visit each university on their open days. These are very useful ways to see the university, the campus, the faculty buildings and staff, and get a feel for the city. The University of Manchester hosts open days in the Autumn and Summer seasons so if you want to find out about the university come visit us!
I saw that this campus had the largest student’s union in the country and has around 40,000 students in attendance each year! This blew me away! The number of societies and sport possibilities are endless and it’s all up to you what you want to get involved with! I’m currently part of several medical societies where I attend talks and events put on specifically for the society – free food is good food!
I also work part-time for the university as a student ambassador which involves me doing different types of work, from campus tours to open days, to even writing blogs for new prospective students exactly like this one! It’s great how many opportunities there are both on and off campus.
I have had many opportunities as a student in Manchester. Last summer I went to Spain for a medical placement that I found thanks to the large host of information about the Erasmus programme made available by the university. Whilst away in Spain I didn’t just go to my hospital placements, I also had the opportunity to explore Spain and I went to lots of different places included the Arc de Triomf in Barcelona – it was so beautiful and I can’t wait to go back! It was one of the best aspects of my degree and I encourage everyone to take up the opportunity to study or work abroad.
Before attending university, I was subscribed to UMASS and I received emails and newsletters about various opportunities from access programmes to personal statement tips and advice. I used the UMASS website along with other resources to help me in my application to university and four years later I thank them greatly for giving me a greater insight into university life. It’s a great tool to aid your university application if you decide to go! Follow these blogs for more information in the coming weeks and if you have any questions or ideas please let us know. I’ve attached some useful links to resources I’ve mentioned in this blog so check those out below,
Thanks for reading and all the best,
Applying to university, choosing the right course and more:
Open day information:
Learn Exactly the Way You Learn
Once you know how best you learn, stick to it. In Sixth Form, I enjoyed making colourful mind maps and posters and because I was studying English Literature, I had been used to annotating texts. When I arrived at university to study something new, I mistakenly discarded some of my most effective learning styles. I’m not saying watching one too many episodes of Suits had anything to do with it, but somewhere down the line I thought I could thrive on a photographic memory – a skill that only works for me when doing last minute revision on the morning of an exam. I realised this wasn’t good for me. I realised you should abandon a method when it is not appropriate for the task, or it does not work for you. In saying that, be careful not to make excuses for yourself. Many a time I have heard a student say that they work best under pressure, which is often simply an excuse for procrastination and poor time management.
Another part of knowing yourself is not just identifying how you learn, but also identifying obstacles to your learning. What are your barriers to effective studying? Social media? Food? Netflix? Socialising? Whatever the distraction, it is important to either set apart time for them, keep them to a minimum, or eliminate them altogether. Doing well in your studies will always require some measure of sacrifice because you only get out what you put in. So get rid of distractions and prepare the folders, binders, notes, and all the materials you need to put your best foot forward. Knowing yourself is about creating the conditions under which you flourish.
Learn Patience in Learning
Just as important as being able to identify the ways in which you learn, and sticking to it, is the time it takes to learn. As a student with a specific learning difficulty, namely dyspraxia, this has been a recurring lesson for me. Learning takes time for everyone, but I especially have had to learn to be patient with myself, and take things one at a time.
Once you know what work needs completing and when, it’s time to work out what learning style works best for you. Depending on your course you may have 100% assessed work, 100% exams or a mix of both for your assessment. Studying Politics and Philosophy, my assessment is a mix of both essays and exams. Of course, preparing for both takes slightly different techniques. Studying for an essay tends to involve a lot of reading, allowing time to formulate your ideas and argument, and then getting on with writing it. They traditionally take a bit longer to do, however they are often due half way through the module, before you are swamped with exam dates at the end. I know it’s a cliché, but it’s a cliché for a reason – start working towards deadlines early! At the beginning of a module, there tends to be a bit more free time before the deadlines start rolling it. My advice is to use that time to get a head start on some of the readings because before you know it, you have deadlines in other modules taking up your time.
Exam revision takes a different technique than preparing for assessed work. A good first step is to make sure you know exactly what content is going to be covered in the exam. In order to do this, make use of lecture slides and notes, and don’t be afraid about asking any questions about the exam format to your lecturer or tutor. Once you know what to focus on, it’s time to develop confidence with your knowledge. Some people revise best by condensing notes into snappy revision cards, or by highlighting their notes, it’s simply about finding out what works best for you. I find it particularly useful to create mind maps for past exam questions with everything relevant that I can remember from my revision, this helps me to formulate and remember plans to replicate in the exam. Whether your exams are essay based, multiple choice or short questions, practising exam papers is great for revision as it gets you comfortable with the structure the exam will take.
I hope these top tips have been useful during your study periods, but always remember, if the workload gets too much – ask for help! There’s tons of support there for you from your Academic Advisor, Course Tutors, to Peer Support. Or if you prefer, chat to other people on your course – it can be a great way to calm nerves to know other people are having the same worries!
If you have a concrete idea of what you want to do after university, all you need to do is find out what the requirements are for your desired career path. The legal, medical, and teaching professions, for example, have structured paths to qualification with specific requirements. However, some are more flexible than others which allow for people from different educational backgrounds to qualify through postgraduate courses. So, if you already know what you wish to go into, you can just research what it takes to qualify in that profession. Asking people you know who work in the fields you are interested, and getting work experience in them, will help you decide whether that career is suitable for you. If you are interested in a career that requires no specific degree, consider doing research on or contacting people who work or have worked in those roles, and ask them what they studied and how it benefited their role. That’s not to say that you must stick to the career you had in mind at the start of your studies.
If you have been following my posts, you will already know I am in my second year of a Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE) degree. You will also know that I came across it quite accidentally during a conversation with a girl who was also applying to study it elsewhere. I had known it was possible to study any two out of the three, but it was not until after this conversation that I was made aware that I could study all three together. This was perfect for me because I did not know exactly what I wanted to do for a career, but I did know that I was curious about the world and the way it worked. PPE provided just that – a way of understanding society and the things we take for granted in everyday life, but from the lens of social sciences rather than hard sciences. I also knew that studying PPE would not limit my career choices. So, I chose my degree because I had an academic goal that would be nonetheless valuable whatever my eventual career choice. I also attended subject talks at open days to gain some insight into the content and structure of the course, which helped me gauge which modules I might enjoy. It is important to note that no two courses are the same, and their exact structure will usually vary by institution. So, PPE at Manchester will look different to PPE elsewhere, which is why you sure ensure you properly look at the course descriptions and the modules available to you, so you can identify your areas of interest. Speak to lecturers and other academic staff at university open days, and do not hesitate to share any concerns you have. There is no such thing as a stupid question, but even if there was, it is far better to ask it before you have made a decision.
Another way of choosing a course if you are not sure what you want to do for a career, or are not sure what it is you are interested in, is to choose based on what you are good at. This can be the riskiest of ways to choose a course because sometimes what we are good at and what we enjoy do not overlap. However, if you do find yourself good at something and you enjoy it, then it can be a good way to approach course choices. You can either choose a course based on what you do well in already or you can choose a course in an area that you would like to strengthen your skills in. The latter option can be tricky at times because it may require extra effort. For example, I chose PPE because I was curious about politics, philosophy was a pastime of mine, and I wanted to become more numerate and understand economics. My A Levels (English Literature, Religious Studies, Psychology and AS Sociology) were only marginally related to my degree. So, I was mostly taking on a new way of looking at things. Thankfully, all first year Economics courses at Manchester have compulsory maths and statistics modules to bring you up to scratch. The point is that if you are considering throwing yourself into something new, do as much research and preparation as you can to ease yourself into it all. Whatever you do, it is vital to ensure you are qualified to study what you want to study at the particular institutions that you are interested in. If you want to try something new, check the course requirements in the university prospectus or on the website to see if your post-16 qualifications are appropriate preparation for your university ambitions.
In summary, do your research and consider what’s important to you; career, curiosity or competence.
Do you require an en-suite or would you be happy to share a bathroom? Would you prefer to prepare your own meals in self-catered halls, or have breakfast and dinner provided in catered halls?
The price of halls of residence vary depending on what is included in the accommodation, so it is really about deciding which is best for you and your budget. I went for the cheap and cheerful option – shared bathroom and self-catered! My halls were relatively basic but we had everything we needed and I enjoyed cooking my own meals. My flatmates and I shared cooking skills and tips with each other, and those who were less confident in the kitchen at the start of the year were pros by the end!
The University of Manchester also guarantees a place in university accommodation for all first year students, as long as you have applied before the deadline at the end of august. There is no need to panic about whether or not you will be offered a place! For international students, the guarantee is also extended over the full duration of your degree.
Before moving into my halls of residence, I remember being pretty nervous about who I was going to be living with and whether we would get on. When moving day arrived, my fears were suitably calmed. Everyone is in the same boat, experiencing the same nerves about not knowing anybody, and all eager to make friends. By the time winter approached, we were all well settled into life in Manchester.
In my second year, I moved into a private rented house together with my flatmates from halls. We wanted to carry on living in Fallowfield where our halls had been. It is just a short bus or cycle ride away from the university and a popular area for students in Manchester to live. There are plenty of student houses to cater for the vast number of students in Manchester, but it is good to get looking early in order to secure a place that suits your budget and is in the area you want to live in. Moving out of halls and into a rented house is a really exciting time, but with more independence of course comes more responsibility! Although it may seem daunting looking to rent your first house, the University provides a lot of support to make this process as stress free as possible. We used the Manchester Student Homes website to find a house to rent. Run by a partnership of Manchester-based universities; it’s a great resource to help with your search. They only list accredited landlords, so you can be sure you are getting a decent home and a fair contract. The Student Union Advice Service can also answer any queries you may have regarding accommodation, but also regarding any financial or personal issues.