Skip main navigation

What is it really like to be an HE student?

Current and former HE students talk about their experiences and offer advice for incoming students.
0.5
What is it really like to be an HE student? We hear from some current and former students… Maddie Sara Miriam Jess Daniella and Joey Describe a typical day as an HE student. A typical day for me at university would be 9 till 5, whether that’s in a lecture or a lab or whether I’d be in the library catching up on assignments or lecture notes. or a lab or whether I’d be in the library catching up on assignments or I only have 8 contact hours a week, usually 2 per subject. This means that most of my time is spent studying independently, so my day-to-day life is quite flexible as I can schedule when I want to work throughout the week.
47.1
On busier days, I’ll have a lecture in the morning, followed by a seminar later that day. Between the two, I’ll probably be cleaning up my lecture notes or finishing my reading for the upcoming seminar. Afterwards, I’ll do my reading for the next class and any related homework. How different is it from what it was like at school? My daily life at “uni” is completely different from that of school. The main difference being independent study.
77.6
The will be really different from what you would have had at school, where you have lessons and your teachers pretty much spoon-feed you all the information, and you basically just follow a syllabus and do practice exam papers, and, yeah, this is just different from “uni” because you have to read around the topics. The lecturers give you the general guidelines and the topics, but you really need to read papers and books, and to do well you’ve really got to understand what they’re talking about.
108.3
Was there anything you weren’t prepared for? I remember being handed my first assignment at university and not knowing where to begin. I never had to research academic articles before, and therefore I didn’t know how to start. Because of COVID, now we don’t have that physical interaction. That makes things a bit harder, and we are just more reliant on technology and having access to a computer and a video camera. To understand subject-specific programmes. Like I do Psychology, so I need to use SPSS, and I think it would be very useful if I’d known more or less what it’s all about before coming to university. Because otherwise it’s very overwhelming.
150.9
Having so much time on your hands can take a while to get used to, but I love the flexibility and independence that university brings. Is there anything you wish you’d known before you started HE? The digital skills I wish I’d known before coming to university, especially during COVID times, is to use Teams for meetings, lectures, seminars. And my university uses Blackboard, so using that to be able to access my lectures and the media, and the PowerPoint presentations for the lectures.
186.5
Looking back now, I wish I’d known about websites, such as Google Scholar and J-STOR By simply plugging in keywords from the title of the assignment I was given, I would have been able to find a range of articles which would have given me information and ideas to write about within my essay. Digital and online skills that I wish I’d known as a first-year at university, or wish I’d paid more attention to I would say a big thing for me would be keeping everything connected between all your devices any work that you do. All it takes is one mistake to not having something saved or deleted or not being able to have access to one of your assignments.
224.4
With classes being moved online this past year, COVID has only emphasised how reliant I’ve become on my devices. What are your top tips for new students? I strongly recommend that you just spend a bit of time, before you start your university course, with a topic that you really enjoy, and just research it online. Find some academic articles. Find out what interests you. And just play around with the search engine and get familiar with it. All lectures should be recorded, and so it’s easy to sit in a lecture room and think “this is going to be recorded - I’ll just watch it again later.” But it’s a really bad habit to get into because then you just give yourself extra work.
266.7
You might as well just make all the notes during the lecture and you can also ask questions and things like that. How to write formal emails, especially as we’re not having face-to-face meetings, and I think it’s very important to know how to speak to your lecturers and when you want to ask questions. Make sure that from the beginning you learn how to use the platform properly. Ask people older than you or just, honestly, just play with it as much as possible, just so you understand it. Get ready to use your computer a lot more at “uni”.
291.9
Virtually everything will be online: Assignments, class materials, readings, you name it. Make sure to brush up on your I.T. skills, and consider investing in a laptop or tablet, especially if you’ll be travelling back home often. Anything else? What you have is largely sufficient, so enjoy, have fun. Good luck at university, and enjoy your experience.

What is it really like to be a student at an institution of higher education, such as a university or college?

Six current or former students talk about their personal experiences with the digital technologies they needed for their education. They offer tips and advice to incoming students.

Discussion points:

What are your reactions to the video? Did anything said by these students stand out as particularly interesting or useful to you?

This article is from the free online

Digital Skills Awareness for Starting Higher Education

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education