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Preparing for the academic side of university

At school or college, you may be used to having a lot of contact time with teachers, with short set homework and perhaps some essays depending on your subject. The shift to university study can be a shock for some students, as it’s quite different…

The biggest changes

The biggest change that you’ll notice is that you are totally responsible for your own learning – there is a lot more independent study at university. You will learn in several different ways:

  • Lectures – talks delivered by an academic on a particular topic, usually to a large hall of students studying the same module.
  • Seminars – smaller discussion groups to discuss lectures and reading material in more detail.
  • Independent study – you will be given reading lists to study ahead of lessons, but you will also do your own research to inform your work and understand your subject better. University gives you the opportunity to really dig into what you find interesting through optional modules, work placements and research projects.

Find out more about the differences between school and university here

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What if I studied a BTEC?

Good news – those of you who studied BTECs may find yourself more prepared for university study! BTECs often consist of more coursework-based projects, so you’ll be adept at balancing your time for deadlines and know what it’s like to work on a larger project independently. This will stand you in great stead if you choose to do a dissertation!

What you can do now to prepare

Thinking of spending some of your free time preparing for university? There’s a few things you can be doing ahead of starting your studies:

  • Reading lists - If your course has a reading list, see if your local library has copies (or if you can read it online) and start informing yourself around your subject. If you’ve not got a list, depending on your course you could look for magazines, blogs, YouTube videos and documentaries that will help get you in the right frame of mind.
  • Have a go! - If you’re really going for it, why not try some academic writing? You could write a short essay using some sources you’ve looked at over the summer, and even try doing some referencing! BCU Library offers a lot of information on referencing as well as this invaluable list of subject guides.
  • Get in touch - Feeling really keen? You could email your course leader to see if there’s anything they recommend you look at ahead of starting your course.
  • Sign up to access our content hub - Get ready for uni: the ultimate guide covers all you need to know ahead of starting uni, from video tutorials, to quizzes, podcasts and vlogs.

What BCU can do to help once you’re here

BCU offers a lot of helpful services and support to ensure your learning experience goes as smoothly as possible.

  • BCU Library
  • Academic Skills Support
  • Centre for Academic Success
  • Your tutor will always be able to advise if you have any queries about your course or your work
  • The Library and The Centre for Academic Success both run workshops to help with all manner of academia, from referencing and grammar to how to find sources and training you with presentation skills
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