Being a direct entry student Q&A

I thought as UCAS time came around again it was only fitting to publish a university related post, specifically on my experiences as a third-year direct entry student. I could have written ‘till the cows came home about the things I’ve learned this year but instead, I drafted in the help of a future direct entry student Jamie to ask me all the important questions. Note: This is a long (slightly rambly) one - grab a cuppa!

“Are there other direct entry students
and is it awkward going in when the others have known each other for two years?”

This was one of my biggest worries when starting university. Although I’m a rather confident person, I had a total fear of joining university ‘late’ and being somewhat of a loner or oddball because of that. I was always concerned that I’d be viewed as stupid for coming in later or not be accepted by other students who had been there from first year. Oh silly me. That's not been the case at all.

Although places to university through direct entry are much fewer, there is still a lot of direct entry students so you're not alone. T I found that especially at the start of the year, the direct entry students tend to pack together. Because lets face it - everyone is in the same boat! But like everything,  as the months passed and you were split from who you were comfortable with (normally through module choices) you’re somewhat forced to speak to other students and therefore make a more diverse group of friends. It’s not hard to make friends at university, as long as you're willing.

“How will I know where to go on my first day and I've heard that the timetabling is a lot different than is college, is this true?”

Can you not say the T word please? Ever. Thanks.

On a serious note, I found the timetables in my first semester of university hell. Long gone are the college days were everyone timetable was in the same classes and you could ask a mate where you should be, Oh and the days were you were given a timetable already made up for you. University likes to make things hard, but once your head is around it, you’re sorted.

Here's an example of my trimester two timetable, as provided by my Uni:

Here is the timetable as provided by the Univeristy. It includes every possible module choice and is super confusing to read.
To sum it up quickly, When you choose your modules (depending on what course you take you might get them chosen for you) you need to ensure they don’t clash and then you look at a massive sheet of module times and class locations and then choose which ones you’re doing and create a timetable for yourself out of the information you give you. Simple.

Here is the makeshift personal timetable I made:
As you can see I've only added in the subjects I take and the classes I attend. Much easier!

It gets tricky with labs and seminars – as you’re divided into much smaller groups there are multiple labs for each subject and most of the time only one of the groups will fit your timetabling, so therefore you have to sign up online to these classes as soon as you can, or you’ll end up with a clashing timetable and trying to swap classes with someone last minute. Note: This isn’t fun.

Due to this, you’ll often end up being in university for an hour some days, and others you’ll be in for nine. There’s nothing you can do about it. It can make getting a job challenging and it’s also a pain when you’re paying for travel, but it’s just something you come to accept.

And on your first day, you’ll just turn up wherever your timetable says your to be – Get a campus map it will make your life so much easier. I promise.

What are the main differences between college and university,
and is all the coursework online like in college?
I could list the differences all day long, but for the purpose of this post (and both our sanity) I think it’s important only to mention the two with the most impact on the university experience, for me these were the methods of teaching and assessments and the levels of support.

The methods of both teaching and assessment vary so much from what I was used to in college. University demands so much more independence in terms of taking notes and ensuring you pick up on what information you truly need. I found it so hard st the start of the year to listen and take notes - which sounds so simple but in a large hall full of people nattering and shuffling it can be quite a task at times, especially if it's not a subject you're wildly interested in. 

I also found it hard to deal with the new dynamic of sitting for two hours straight and listening to someone speak without the opportunity to ask questions or request clarification and then having to go out of your way to get answers you need. I understand all of this sounds so juvenile and lazy, but it's odd how some of the small differences can prove the most shocking. 

Labs and seminars are also more methods of teaching which I had to adapt to but I'll admit I definitely liked seminars more than lectures - i found the class was a lot more simular to the teaching style which I was used to previously in college. All in all the methods are good, and throughout the year I learned to really appreciate the variety and how much you can learn through an hour long lecture - I just wish this was something I'd been prepared for beforehand. 

Top tip: Bring your laptop and type your notes - you won't lose them, they're easily organised in folders and searched through, it's faster and you can add to/edit already available notes which are provided online if you're really prepared.

In terms of assessment there is also a lot of differences in the methods - Exams, essays, annotated bibliographies and presentations. The list goes on. As always this is totally course dependent, but I've found there's definitely more variation in how you are assessed at university - which can only be a positive thing right!

I found the support system really hard to get my head around when I first started University. I wasn't quite sure who to go to for what and when I should do so and this is something I've still not 100% got my head around. It's not been like college where I saw my guidance lecturer daily and could easily just chat through my issues within class time, and you definitely need to go seek your support if you need it. But, I have found if you go to your course leader they'll always point you in the right direction. 

 Am I able to do a semester abroad if I join University in third-year?

This question is purely specific to my University and may vary, But in short, yes you can do a semester abroad, if you’re prepared;

I personally didn’t do a semester abroad, as much as I would have loved to it wasn’t financially feasible and it would have meant that I missed out on a dissertation preparation class which in all honesty I was too scared to miss out on. If you do intend on studying abroad it’s worth saving up beforehand as it is really quite expensive, and also worth noting that depending on where you go and how the abroad university is valued it can impact your grades.For example, if your home university thinks the abroad university isn’t as demanding as it, they can deduct 10% of all your grades. Ouch!

Most importantly, is it acceptable for us to do fresher’s week and how do you join clubs and societies?

YES It is! I didn’t go out much in terms of clubbing on fresher’s week purely because I wasn’t very excited by the events put on but I did attend the fresher’s fair and an overnight gaming marathon at my Uni! 

I think the freshers fare is an important one to attend because it's where you sign up to clubs and societies and find out about everything that's going on. There's something for everyone - I promise!

Are you going in to university this year? What are you studying?
Anything else you'd like to know? Drop me a comment or a tweet and I'll get back to you as soon as. 


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