What you need to know as a direct entrant
According to the Scottish Funding Council 4,000 students starting university courses came directly from college. It’s extremely rewarding when you realise that those two strenuous years of college paid off once the university of your choice has accepted you. However, it’s not all smooth sailing and there are definitely things that you need to know if you are a direct entrant entering third year. I’m Nadia Saleem, and I’d like to highlight what you should know…
While you are studying at college, many universities will hold open days during October. If you have the time then these kinds of events are definitely worth attending. It gives you the chance to talk to course leaders about the different topics that will be covered throughout the two years. The main goal of these days is to see whether or not university is the right fit for you. You may realise that maybe university isn’t for you and get a job instead, which is totally fine. University is a lot of hard work and commitment so be sure that it’s something you want to pursue.
Attend the full induction days
Induction usually last around three days and it is very tempting to skip some of them, especially if they are not specifically about your course. However, staying for the duration of induction means that you have more time to not only explore the campus but also talk to students from other colleges. It will also give you a head start on aspects, such as referencing for essays. It may not sound appealing to do this during your holidays but at least it’s during fresher’s week, so it’s not all academic work.
Arguably the most annoying part about university is Harvard referencing – it’s a constant battle. You won’t gain marks for doing it correctly but you will lose marks if so much as a comma is misplaced. Not a lot of college courses use referencing so the best solution is to see the referencing guide on your university website or ask a friend for help. You can also use websites like ‘Cite this for me’ which will automatically take a web link and put it into your chosen referencing style. Once you get into the habit it becomes second nature.
Join groups on Facebook related to your course
One of the best resources at your disposal is Facebook. It is the best way to understand what the course is like from a student perspective and you can talk to other students. Joining public groups and adding people who study the course means that you can ask them any questions and also relieve any tension about joining a new class. It’s useful to do this on courses that involve a lot of team work, as it means that you can get any awkwardness out of the way.
Join in on group activities
If you are asked by any of your classmates to join them for a drink or lunch then say yes. It’s important that you are able to get along with each other and hopefully build friendships. You will feel much happier once you become more familiar with them and may even remain friends once university is finished. Communication is the key to a good university experience.
De-clutter your laptop
Once you’ve left college you may think that because you are studying a similar course you will need your previous study material. You couldn’t be more wrong. Nine times out of ten you probably won’t even need your old documents from college because the university will provide you with completely new coursework. It takes up too much storage space and makes your life a lot harder. Transfer it to a USB stick (don’t delete or destroy as you never know…) and clean up your main work device. It will be easier to manage your university work. De-cluttering your space is like de-cluttering your life.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
No one ever wants to feel like a burden but don’t let that mentality deter you from seeking help when you need it. You’ve spent the last two years in another institution where the teaching methods and technology are different. It is totally acceptable to ask for help if you are confused about something. You can ask your classmates if it’s something small or arrange a session with a learning development officer, who will help you improve your performance academically. If you are having personal issues then speak to your assigned tutor, who will be more than happy to sit down and have a chat with you. Don’t sit and struggle in silence.
Make a work schedule
It’s important as a direct entrant to prepare a schedule as the workload is very different to college. College lecturers will usually offer you more leeway if you have a valid reason for missing a deadline but in university if you miss a deadline then that it is an automatic fail. You then have to speak to your lecturer and re-sit it – something you want to avoid as it will just hold you back. The way to get ahead is by making a schedule and trying to start your assignments as early as possible, this will leave you with plenty of time to seek help and also keep you on top of your deadlines. Preparation is key.
Take on a leadership role
When you enter directly into 3rd year, it is intimidating to be in a class full of strangers but you should always strive to speak out if you are knowledgeable about a certain subject. It shows that you are outgoing and deserve to be in that class. It also shows people that you are capable of doing the work. If you are doing a group project then take the initiative and try to lead. Don’t shy away into the corner, engage with others in the group and assign roles. It’s easier said than done but you want to be heard and not just seen.
Make the most of your two years
Unlike others in your course you will only have two years of university student life, so you may as well make the most of it. Join different clubs, take part in university events, make new friends and don’t beat yourself up over small things. If you don’t get the grade you wanted first time around then work on improving it rather than bringing yourself down. Remember that you joined university late and may need help on how to tackle certain things. Take time out for yourself and do activities that aren’t just university related.
by Nadia Saleem (journalism student at Glasgow Caledonian University)