September is the month for new beginnings. A new season starts to edge its way into our periphery vision, with red leaves building up in the gutters and amber hues filling shop windows.
The academic year begins – kindergarten children put on uniforms for the first time as they commence school, a new set of high-schoolers is created and ultimately, thousands of young people make the transition from compulsory to higher education. Freshers Week is upon us.
It’s almost five years to the day since I moved out, upped sticks and left the south. On the 12th September 2012 we drove to Leeds and I was the first one in my flat. I slept alone in a 5-bed flat that night, no idea what the next 4 years would be. I graduated a year ago and there are still times when I feel as clueless as I did that first morning waking up alone.
Here are 7 of the most common myths or misconceptions people have about university life – a few debunked, some with light shedded on them, and some are surprisingly true.
One. University provides you with more chance of getting a better job.
This is not strictly true, though it is relevant. You can get a ‘good’ job without a university degree. You can leave school with A Levels and do an internship or apprenticeship, and learn skills which quite frankly you can’t learn at uni.
Jobs like this are usually hands on – for example if you wanted to work in a kitchen, to work your way up to Head Chef you would have to start as a kitchen hand. These opportunities usually come through apprenticeships. Just because you didn’t go to uni for it, doesn’t mean it’s not a ‘good’ job.
However, if you know you want to develop your career in a certain field which does require further study at university, of course your degree will benefit you in the long run. We were told time and time again that often employers will take a look at your degree classification, but that they’d also be interested about everything you did alongside your degree. Not because your ability to hit a hockey puck makes you more adept in your role as a financial analyst, but because it implies your ability to have a life, to maintain relationships and friendships, alongside work commitments. Your ability to multitask.
It is an undeniable truth that some jobs require study at a higher education institution.
Two. You don’t have to go to all of your lectures.
Whether you have to go to all of your lectures varies course by course, and also on which university you go to.
Most universities have a code of conduct/student agreement, whereby you agree to adhere to expectations of you as a member of the university community. It’s not just on you though, the university also holds a stake in the agreement where they agree to standby your expectations for them. Included in this might be a clause on compulsory attendance.
However as you settle in, within the first term you’ll get a grasp of how things go in your particular school. For me, it was pretty vital that I attended all my tutorials in 1st year. We only had 4 hours of Italian each week so missing one tutorial meant missing out on a lot of content – with languages you want as much practise and support as possible.
I did Joint Honours so my other department – the School of English – was a bit different. While I attended all of my seminars (which allow more in-depth discussion), there were lectures that I would have missed over the years. Whatever your reasons are for this, whether you’re catching up on coursework or need more time in the library to work on prep for another module, it’s important to make sure you know the module structure well. For me, I knew that some of my English lecture slides would have no information on them whatsoever, and so missing that lecture would mean a gap in my notes. For others, you might be able to access a recording of the lecture online.
Ultimately though, remember to see how things go first before making your decision. There are sometimes registers taken and poor attendance can result in follow up disciplinary meetings.
Three. You get really homesick in the first few weeks.
Everyone is different – in personality and in how they’ve been brought up. I personally didn’t feel homesick at all during university until I moved to Italy.
If you’re very attached to home comforts and your hometown, then moving further afield could be difficult. However in my experience you are so busy in the first term and first few weeks especially, that it often doesn’t give you time to feel too down about being away from home.
Four. Your university years are the ‘best years of your life’.
This one isn’t a myth, years spent at university really are like nothing else you’ll have experienced so far. You are in a pocket of society which encourages creativity, positivity, speaking out for the things that matter. Your voice might be heard for what feels like the first time while you are at university. You will meet people who may change your life – not necessarily those who become your best friends but certainly those who open your eyes to other ways of life and may change your way of thinking.
It’s hard to describe but they are significant years for sure. ‘Best’ is subjective but they are definitely irreplaceable.
Five. To survive university, you need to budget.
It’s not necessary, but it definitely helps.
Your friends and housemates might be in a different money situation to you – some people’s parents pay for their rent, allowing them to spend their loans on living costs and more, and some people will have grant money too, allowing them to splurge a bit more.Other people may pay their own rent, and not take a loan.
You can’t judge what is right or wrong financially because everyone’s circumstances are different. You can however try to make the most of your money and focus on yourself, and a budget can help with this.
It doesn’t need to be extremely long and detailed, but setting targets of how much to spend each week just to ensure your loan lasts you throughout the term, will help in the long run.
Six. You should join as many societies as possible.
Not true at all. Societies are the ideal way to meet people, but there’s not much point in just joining them for the sake of it. There’s no reason to join the knitting society if you’ve no interest in picking up a pair of knitting needles… it will be a waste of your money and more importantly, you won’t share that thing in common with other society members.
It’s good to be a part of more than one society I think, for example if you’re on a sports team and also are a part of the society for your course. In essence, join the societies which are interesting to you, and as many as is feasible for you to manage your time with.
Seven. You can mess about in 1st year because it doesn’t count.
This is a tough one. It’s the general thought that as 1st year doesn’t count, it doesn’t matter at all. There are a few things to consider before slacking all year…
All of your marks from the entirety of your degree are transcribed on your degree certificate. Those 1st year marks don’t just disappear because you got a 40.
You still have to pass the year to progress. You will have to sit all your exams, submit all of your coursework, and attain a minimum mark (set by each uni) to progress into 2nd year.
If you’re intending on doing a year abroad which isn’t compulsory (i.e. not a language based, Erasmus year abroad), the application to do so normally begins in 2nd year. Hence, your 2nd year marks are not yet available, and so universities will often give places based on 1st year marks, with the most sought-after placements and university spots going to those who were successful in their 1st year results.
What myths about university have you come across?
Claire, who is starting university this September, and I collaborated on this blog post to roundup some of Claire’s ideas about what university might have in store for her, and you can read the other half on her blog here. Over on Claire’s blog we’re talking personal hygiene, the week long party that is Freshers Week, moving away from home and more.
Are you headed to university this September? Let us know in the comments if you have any questions and we will continue to debunk or at least shed some light!