How University Differs From School
Too many students look on Higher Education as a simple continuation of their
Sixth Form education. There are many differences between education at school
and at University, and many misconceptions about the value or purpose of
following a degree course. Before considering applications to Higher
Education in more detail, it would be as well to clear up some of these
Differences between School and University
The most obvious difference is in terms of life-style: living away from
home may have its attractions for some, but it brings with it the practical
problems of budgeting, cooking, washing clothes and generally looking after
oneself. However the number of students living at home has increased in
recent years due to the cost of living and tuition fees.
Secondly, the scale of education is very different. The sheer size of a
University may be quite daunting: it may be catering for more than ten
thousand students. Lectures, particularly in the first year, may be attended
by over a hundred students in some subjects.
Thirdly, and possibly most significant, is the style of education. The extent
to which students are left to their own initiative cannot be overstressed.
School is essentially a supportive organisation: lessons are compulsory and
take up the major part of the day; homework is set and students are chased if
they fail to hand it in on time, etc. The situation at University is quite
different. On many courses, timetabled activities may represent less than
fifteen hours a week. Students may miss lectures totally unnoticed or fail to
hand in assignments without being chased. It is assumed that students will
read widely of their own volition and organise their own studies. Students
who have been disorganised at school, have found difficulty in completing
work on time and have lacked the self-discipline and motivation to undertake
independent reading should think seriously about their suitability for Higher
Finally, some students who have found academic work boring or who have
struggled to reach the A2-level standard sometimes harbour the view that
University teaching will be so stimulating that they will find renewed
enthusiasm and be able to tap new sources of intellectual prowess. These
students are invariably disappointed. Regrettably, it can be relatively easy
to scrape into some form of Higher Education even with moderate A2-level
ABILITY TO GET IN SHOULD NEVER BE THE ONLY REASON FOR GOING.
Popular Misconceptions about Higher Education.
Firstly, a University degree is not a passport to fame and fortune: in
many cases, employers look on a graduate as someone who has the ability to
benefit from their training programme, but who must prove his worth against
employees of the same age who have the considerable advantage of three years'
working experience. In some professions, a vocational training course
subsequent to attaining a degree is necessary for entry.
Secondly, whilst a degree in some instances is a vocational qualification
(e.g. medicine, Law and some Applied Sciences) it more usually presents an
opportunity to pursue the study of an academic subject in considerable depth
and for its own sake. Particularly in the case of arts and social science
degrees, employers are looking for applicants from any discipline, who have
abilities and aptitudes to do the job.
The message is simple: do not get trapped into following a particular degree
course in order to fulfil someone else's ambitions for you, or because you
cannot think of anything better to do at the time, or because you hope that
it will help you get a job. Your decision should be carefully thought out and