• Abbie Tibbott

Why Should You Apply to University?

I’ve finished two degrees in four years, and I’ll soon be going back to university for my final degree, so you could say that I’m a big advocate for university. I’m all for higher education, specifically that I believe that everyone should be able to access higher education if they want to, regardless of financial situation. I’ve been writing about my experience at university for close to a year, and I still haven’t answered the question of why you should apply to university. Personal bias aside, I’m going to answer this question, so if you’re thinking about applying for 2022 (or you’re still not sure about heading there this September) read on for my take on the issue.

 

Experience of independence


University is the ultimate ride to freedom, and as soon as your parents have left you in your new room, you’re on your own! Making friends, cooking your own meals and setting your own schedule starts immediately, and it’s a fast way to learn how to be an adult. Managing money is something you’ll have to get to grips with quickly, as well as actually studying and doing well on your course. It’s definitely a steep learning curb, but students usually adapt quickly, and any failures along the way are usually able to be laughed about soon after.


It’s true that not everyone assimilates quickly, so if you’re someone that isn’t sure about the positive aspect of freedom, rest assured that there will be plenty of people like you, and you may even be able to be housed alongside them. My university offers “quieter lifestyle” areas, aimed at students who don’t want to be involved with the nightlife scene, so it’s worth investigating whether your university offers similar provision. Independence can be scary, especially if you like having a routine, but the positive is that you’ll be able to reinvent yourself if you need to, or simply live your life without worrying about what everyone else thinks.

 

Travel


Although you’ll be spending a lot of time studying, living at university offers the chance to do a bit of travelling, either locally or abroad. I visited my friends at their universities at the weekend, sleeping on their floor and exploring their local area. I went to Guilford, Stevenage, London and Cambridge over the course of my degree, as well as going on a road trip to Newquay just before we all graduated. Since I graduated from my BA, I’ve also been able to visit my friends in their new locations, and I’m excited to do some more travelling once Covid restrictions ease. Forming friendships with people who live all over the world is a definite bonus of university life, and lots of students go travelling during the summer, either for work or pleasure.


Getting out of my small town was an important step in feeling like a proper adult, and now I look forward to heading to new places when I can. Train travel is made a lot cheaper with a Student Railcard, and cities are full of free things to do. Exploring your university location is great fun, and it’s something I’d suggest doing with your flatmates when you first arrive.

 

Study what you love


Whether you’re a single or joint-honours student, you’ll have narrowed down all of your interests in order to study topics that you actually care about, in preparation for your future career. My A levels weren’t fantastic, mainly because I took subjects that my teachers told me would look good on my UCAS application, rather than because I actually had a burning desire to learn about them. It's a common mistake that students make, but thankfully university offers the chance to dedicate your energy to topics that you are actually driven to study.


There will be compulsory things to study, but there will also be some element of choice, which will allow you to specialise if you want to, which may help to guide you towards a future career. I studied all sorts of history-related themes before gradually specialising in women’s political history, and the compulsory modules built important foundations in academic research and writing. Programmes are structured to ensure that you develop as a student and a researcher, so whatever field you decide to pursue, dive in and try things that you’ve never had the opportunity to study before!


The other great thing about university is that the people on your course have actively chosen to study there, meaning that they are more likely to be engaged with the work, and may even be more helpful in dreaded group work. It’s easy to find friends on your course in my experience, and you may find yourself living with them in subsequent years. I always think that it’s nice to have a few different friendship groups, so your course mates will probably be one of them. Being able to talk about your course and sit in solidarity during late nights in the library is an easy way to form lifelong friendships, and it’s been a highlight of the university experience for me personally.


Universities will have specialist facilities for you to use, simulating real-life work environments and offering you the chance to use expensive equipment. My university has several museums and a great library, and I found that some coursework pieces were in direct collaboration with museums and archives which gave me some great work experience. Being so close to London also made it possible for me to make use of the archives there, which was my first go at being a “real” researcher. The experiences were invaluable to my development as a historian, and you’ll have lots of opportunity to prepare for your future career path.

 

There’s lots of help


Support centre is a common phrase at university, and institutions pride themselves in supporting their student’s needs. Value for money is important, and it’s important to realise that university isn’t always about the course or the parties, but is also focused into developing you as a person. Things go wrong, life happens, and thankfully universities have prepared themselves to help you in the best way possible.


Here are some examples of support you can access:


· Course support – office hours run by lecturers and postgraduates, drop-in exam revision, administration support, and help with extenuating circumstances.

· School support – help with switching or choosing modules, support for accessing materials and gaining entrance to archives, setting up placements and organising work experience opportunities.

· Accommodation support – help with finding housing and flatmates, solving issues with halls of residences, finding ways to support students in financial difficulty.

· Financial support – helping students to apply for bursaries or scholarships, technology hardship funding, advice on budgeting and funded programmes.

· Disability support – extra time for assignments, special provisions for assessment, help for organising accommodation and a dedicated centre to access specialised support.

· Mental health support – counselling services, mentor services and mental health workshops.

· Career support – interview practices, CV workshops, careers advice sessions, networking with industry professionals, study abroad and placement organisation.

· Job support – finding employment on campus, payroll support, reading contracts and helping students find work experience or volunteering related to their subject.


I’m sure that I’ve missed a few, but you get the general idea! My university has a dedicated building for it’s support centres, but you should be advised of where to find the support that you need when you first arrive. It can be daunting when you need to ask for help, but I’ve experienced nothing but friendly, welcoming people who genuinely want to make your requests happen and will be accommodating as they can. I’ve also discovered that there is some room to negotiate on certain things, and not everything is clear cut like secondary school. If you’re having any problems at all, there will be someone who can help you, you’ve just got to seek them out.

 

To actually answer my own question, you should apply to university because it will offer you career opportunities and personal development in an environment where you feel supported and are surrounded by others who are motivated to learn. Financial help is available to make university affordable, you just need to find the avenues of funding that you’re eligible to apply to, which can usually be found on a university’s website. Heading off to university is a transformative experience, and I’d recommend it to anyone who isn’t finished pursuing an education, and who wants to start out their adulthood in an environment that is built for success.


Choosing a university is a whole other discussion, but I posted a blog last month where I reviewed the places I applied to, so head on over there for some hints for choosing an idea campus for your needs.


Happy studying!