Making The Transition From School To University- (2) Academically

Careers Sixth Form

Following yesterday’s discussion on how to make the social transition from school to university, today our Careers Department comments on the academic changes ahead for this year's Bablake Freshers. Once again we are indebted to our former pupils for their involvement in the discussion.

With the promise of Freshers’ Week or Fortnight uppermost in their thoughts, we are very aware that the academic transition from school to university is possibly very low on the priority list of even the most dedicated of our A Level pupils. However, we feel the following aspects should be considered:


  • You are now totally in charge!

The level of study will become far more intense and your own initiative, self-discipline and self-motivation will be crucial. It’s often said that at school, teachers and form tutors treat your grades as if they were their own. That level of personal involvement from your lecturers is less likely at university, especially on the heavily subscribed courses. If you are used to an environment like Bablake where attendance and performance are so closely monitored, university is not the same! You are in charge, which ultimately is very exciting, so take personal responsibility!

  • Get the balance right!

Since university is less regimented, you need your own self-discipline and self-motivation to ensure you get the balance right between a vibrant social life and effective academic advance. If you love what you're studying or have a professional focus to aim at, this will not be difficult. If you don't love what you're doing, it may definitely be time to try a different course?

  • Teaching Style

It is impossible to do justice to every university’s teaching style, but it is very likely that you will be learning in large lecture theatres for the majority of your first directed teaching time. The familiar school class set-up will be far less common (unless you are in a very small faculty) in Year 1 and you may have just a single seminar a week in the format you are most familiar with. 

  • Contact Time

For many, the typical university day will not be structured like school. On a number of courses, there may not actually be very much allocated lecture time and for many lecturers, especially those at the research-focused institutions, teaching may not be a first priority. Using the time left for self-study is crucial, if students are going to excel, which leads to the next key factor…

  • Time Management

You are now in charge of your life 24-7. Students need to 'eat, sleep, rave, repeat', as well as study. It may take a while to get the correct order, but using your time to the maximum is crucial. You need to study, advance your career and have time for your own personal interests. Organisation is crucial according to Sarah Brown: ‘I failed on this! Quickly get to know your library and what study materials are available. Don't dwell too much on one topic or module because the next week you will need to move onto something else.’ Now a Senior Manager at EY, we suspect Sarah is being a little harsh on herself and soon got her own organisation right, but she is right to warn people of the dangers.

  • Remember why you are there?

OK, enjoy Freshers’ activities first, but then understand that whether your focus is for career progression or simply because you love the degree topic you are studying, the next 3 or 4 years will go by in a flash. Don’t regret missing any opportunities to shine. Leaving with a 2.1 or First will offer you more chances to enter the graduate market. Gaining the marks that allow you access to semesters abroad or summer internships with leading employers keeps you very much ahead of your competitors. A 2.2 is not disastrous, so stay positive and talk to your Careers service. 

  • Does the first year matter?!

So many people say the marks from your first year do not count. Of course they do! While they may not count towards your final degree grade, acing the first year gives you a great base understanding to do well in your following years. It also gets you noticed for the right reasons by your lecturers - never a bad thing for future references - and on almost every internship or graduate application, you are asked to state every exam grade you have!


We could add far more advice but maybe that should form part of a future update. Suffice to say, in summary, for two years most Bablake Sixth Formers have been yearning to escape school and enter the adult environment of university life. Don’t expect the same nurturing you have had at school! Ultimately if you don’t hand work in, your lecturers will not be straight on your case; instead you may just not make it back for Year 2, which may not be unsurmountable, but it would be a harsh life lesson. You are ready to fly! Be proactive and you will all find university life academically invigorating.


With immense thanks to Old Wheats Rebecca Brook, Sarah Brown, Michael Douglas, Vicki Hoare, Geoff Palmer and Robin Trewinnard-Boyle, who were directly involved in the discussions that helped prepare this article.

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