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Going to university? Top 10 online courses to get ready

Getting excited to start university in September? Check out our top 10 online courses to feel more prepared.

University students prepare to watch lecture in a lecture theatre

By Kaylee Randall

The transition into university can be an exciting yet overwhelming chapter in your life. Moving away from your family for the first time and learning at a university level can present many changes and challenges to overcome. 

It’s best to prepare yourself for these important changes. Through FutureLearn, you can take all types of courses that will help you conquer different aspects of this transition.

How to prepare for university

The biggest change when becoming a university student can often be living away from home. It’s an incredibly exciting and momentous step in your young adult life. However, you will be taking on much more responsibility than you ever have before. To top it off, you won’t have your support system living under the same roof to help you.

Many first-year students get distracted by the environment that surrounds them. Complete independence, parties, relationships and more can sometimes overshadow your studies. And if the classes become overwhelming, you may fall into a habit of not putting your best foot forward.

One of the best ways to become prepared for university classes is to create strong foundational skills that will serve you in this new setting. University classes can feel very different from the classes you took in high school. Many professors leave it up to the student to be able to extract the important information that is needed for each module. 

Having this strong foundation of skills will prevent the overwhelming feeling you might get in this new way of learning.

Knowing what to study at university

Deciding what to study at university may feel like one of the most important decisions that you will ever make. The good news is that you can always change your mind. You aren’t married to your chosen subject.

Some people have known what they want to do with their lives since they were young children. For them, they barely have to think about what their major will be. If this isn’t you, that’s OK! Most year 12 students don’t even have an idea of what they want to pursue – and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

There are two things to consider when choosing a career path and degree subject:

  1. What am I interested in and good at?
  2. What will support me financially?

Let’s start with finding things that you’re interested in. 

Make yourself a list of 5-10 potential careers that would excite you. 

  • Could you see yourself immersed in any of these industries daily? 
  • Would learning more about a specific field motivate you? 
  • Would pursuing one of these careers make you feel satisfied and proud?

Kay Yeoman, Faculty of Science from the University of East Anglia, says, “I really value enthusiasm. I think you can teach a student anything [if they’re an] enthusiastic learner of their subject.”

In short, if you feel enthusiastically about the subject you’re preparing to study, there’s more of a likelihood that you’ll do well in that area of study.

After you have your list, research jobs that are available within these careers. Considering the employability of graduates in specific majors is incredibly important for you to understand whether this specific career would be a good financial decision to pursue.

Learning how to study at university

As discussed earlier, the skills needed to be successful at university are much different than the ones you used in high school. Many first-year university students become overwhelmed when studying for their first tests – and most of the time it’s because they don’t know how to study efficiently.

You can easily improve your study techniques. The goal is to be able to absorb as much information in as little time as possible. You’ll be juggling many different courses at one time, and you won’t necessarily have enough time to spend hours studying each subject daily.

There are many techniques that you can keep in your back pocket. For example, in our Improving Your Study Techniques course, from the University of Groningen, educators teach a three-step model for studying. This model will assist you in extracting the important parts of the text, enabling you to understand and absorb the information efficiently.

Participating in student life

One of the most exciting parts about living on campus is the ability to connect and build a community with new people with different perspectives. Many university students find that their mind expands immensely in their first year, not only due to their classes but also by learning from those around them.

You will find ample opportunities to join clubs, organisations or sports on campus that pique your interest. Now is the time to try new things and expand your horizons.

If you’re living in dorms on campus, that’s a great way to get involved as well. There will most likely be events held in your halls of residence to get to know the people that you’re living with. Take advantage of these opportunities. Now isn’t the time to be shy!

Budgeting and living away from home

Now that you’re living on your own, you’ll notice that spending money is an incredibly easy thing to do. Going out for drinks, getting food that isn’t on your meal plan, spending money on forms of entertainment and more can truly add up.

You can prepare for this big change just as you did with the others. Before you leave, make yourself a weekly budget to follow. Some categories that you can separate your money into are:

  • Food
  • Entertainment
  • Necessities
  • Transportation
  • Health

Once you choose your categories, figure out how much money to allow yourself each week. After a trial period of putting this into practice, you can reassess to make the budget more realistic.

Another thing to adapt to is not having the support of your family close by. You may feel a bit homesick or overwhelmed at this newfound responsibility. Speak with your family beforehand to figure out ways to make you still feel connected while you’re away.

Top 10 online courses to prepare you for university

Here are 10 courses, handpicked by us, to help you conquer your first year at university.

1. Preparing For University, University of East Anglia

This course will help you build the foundational skills that are needed for a successful first year at university. By the end of the course, you will have a clear understanding of the skills that are needed to do well in a higher education setting.

These skills range from writing, textual analysis, reading and much more. During this course, you’ll also be given the opportunity to practice these skills to help you feel confident and prepared.

2. Getting Ready for Success at University, University of Hull

This three-week course focuses on the difference between lower-level education vs. higher-level education. It’s essential to be prepared for the change between the two mediums, and this course will do just that.

From the way you are taught information, to how exams run, to what is expected of you on a daily basis, university can be very different to school. When you’ve completed this course, you’ll have a strong understanding of how you need to shift your learning strategies to fit this new environment.

3. Preparing To Learn Online At University, University of Leeds

Taking any classes online next term? This three-week course is the one for you. You’ll gain practical skills to get the most out of your online learning experience.

You’ll focus on topics like independent study techniques, collaborating with others through online tools, doing internet research and communicating online. Complete this course, and you’ll feel ready to thrive in your online learning.

4. University and Your Future: Career Planning and Making the Most of Your Degree by the University of Surrey

Want to ensure you make the most out of your time at university? This two-week course will help you to identify how university can help you reach your career goals. You’ll explore career planning, the value of professional experience, and employability activities that will help you maximise your experience. 

There’s a lot of pressure on your shoulders as a student, but you’ll leave the course feeling more confident about how to make decisions for your future and build a foundation for success.

5. Essential Guide to Living at University, University of Reading

It’s natural to feel overwhelmed and uncertain about everything that comes with university life. In this course, you’ll gain a better understanding of what to expect when transitioning into the university experience, and how to cope with the challenges it’ll bring.

The course covers topics like budgeting, on-campus accommodation, resources you’ll find on campus and self-care guides. You’ll develop skills and tools that will prove to be essential in your everyday university life.

6. Skills to Succeed at University, University of Leeds

This two-week course will dive into more specific skills that are beneficial to you as a university student. Created with the help of current students, you’ll learn the top skills and tips that have helped these students thrive.

With a focus on time management, effective note-taking and academic writing, you’ll be given the opportunity to develop strategies that work for you and your style of learning.

7. Next Steps to University: From Choosing A Course to Your First Assessment, University of York

If you’re feeling stuck with what course to take, perhaps this will give you a helpful steer. In two weeks, you’ll cover topics ranging from budgeting at university, picking a subject, what to expect when you arrive and learning techniques for higher education.

Designed for anyone who will be entering a UK university, this course is a good one-stop-shop to cover all of the information and skills you need to feel prepared before your first semester.

8. Supporting You with Your University Interview, University of York

In the process of applying to university? This course will help gain control of one of the most daunting aspects of university applications, and prepare yourself for that all-important interview.

Interview formats can vary from college to college. In this course, you’ll delve into different possible formats, ensuring that you’re prepared for whatever comes your way. You’ll learn strategies and techniques that will help you adapt to each scenario in the interview process.

9. Improving Your Study Techniques, University of Groningen

Having effective study techniques is pertinent for getting good marks in university. How you studied at school may not translate well once you’re at university – a much more independent and self-starting environment.

Covering every aspect – from stress, motivation, study planning, and lecture attendance to exam techniques – this four-week course will provide you with every possible tool to add to your studying toolkit.

10) Critical Thinking at University, University of Leeds

One of the most vital skills used in university is critical thinking. As you’re constantly being introduced to new concepts and ways of thinking, thinking critically about new information will help you grow and learn at a quicker pace at university.

Michelle Schneider, Learning Developer and ALDinHE Certified Practitioner at Skills@Library at the University of Leeds says: 

“Students often tell us that the feedback they receive from tutors is that their assessed work can be too descriptive and lack critical engagement. And knowing how to tackle this can be quite confusing and quite challenging for students.”

In this course, you’ll learn what critical thinking skills are needed at a university level. You’ll be able to apply these skills to different situations and will gain a repertoire of practical strategies to use, building a foundation for a successful academic career.


Take this quiz to see how prepared you are for university. This can help you decide which courses at FutureLearn would be best for you to take, helping you be as prepared as possible for your first year. And good luck!

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