Transitions To University

In 12C today, we were fortunate to have a visit from Matt, a former student of mine from Eggbuckland who went on to do a Psychology degree at Plymouth University. It gave us an opportunity to think about how the experience of school, and in particular working on our own research, links to the experience of being a student. I learnt loads from this session. Specifically,

a) University is about motivation, resilience and independence. You will find yourself with a deadline and some awkward problems to solve. You need really to want to succeed. As a reference writer, I need to isolate those times when you have done something for yourself and shown genuine interest and desire to succeed. They will show that you have what it takes. As a personal statement writer, you need to do the same.

b) We think of university as one experience but really it is three separate experiences. The first year is often a rerun of A Level with extra bits thrown in. The second year is a real transition. In Psychology, that means reading research papers and becoming more of a specialist. In the third year, you’re on your own with a research project. Inevitably, your focus when you apply will be on the earlier bit of the course but it is as well to think about how you will cope with the later bits.

c) So much depends on the circumstances surrounding study: where you live, who you live with, how much you have to do paid work, where you will buy food and wash your clothes. Your development of independence of study goes with the development of a more independent lifestyle. Open days are useful only up to a point. Visit the town or city where you might want to study and have a good look round.

d) As has always been the way, your experience as a student will vary depending on the quality of tutor support. Some are very good, some aren’t: it depends on how busy they are. Think of ways in which you can get a picture of how good guidance, support and facilities will be before you apply.

e) Set your own deadlines before the actual deadlines. Be prepared to organise yourself. Think now about the times when you have done this for yourself and include them in your personal statement.

f) We tried to make the session generically about degree courses rather than specifically about Psychology. Some points apply to all courses but we need to be aware of differences too. It is different being one of thirty people on a course and being one of 320.

g) University costs you money and can be really tough. It also gives you amazing opportunities and experiences. You have to follow your passion.


Thank you to everyone in 12C (plus Georgia) for your attention, interest and questions. Thank you to Matt for an outstanding session.


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