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There are many common misconceptions about university. This article addresses some of these and explains more about studying and living at university.
Aerial view of library building on campus
© University of Reading

As a parent or supporter, helping your young person navigate the application process can feel daunting.

You’ve probably heard a lot of things about what university is like and don’t know what is true or not. This article will set the record straight and enable you to feel more confident talking to your young person about their choices.

Let’s take a look at some of these myths and explore them a little further.

Your young person will end up with a huge debt

While students do take up a Student Loan to pay for their tuition and living expenses, repayments to the Student Loans Company who provide the loan are small and are only taken when graduates are earning a specific amount and it is more like a tax than a loan. You’ll hear more on this later in the course in Week 3.

Students have to move away from home

Students can choose to live at home and still be able to claim a majority of their student loans whilst saving money on accommodation costs. It’s worth factoring in how much it will cost to commute into university and the length of time spent travelling. Many students that live within easy reach of their chosen university often choose to live at home in their second year to save money on accommodation or halls of residence. By this stage, your young person has experienced some of the independence of living away from home and have a good network of friends established.

The first year doesn’t count

This will be very different across different universities and degrees and will depend on how much of the first-year work feeds into the rest of the course. Assessment methods will also vary and there may be a different proportion of the final degree mark that is assigned to each year. Again, this will vary across universities and courses.

Your young person won’t fit in

This is something that many parents and supporters worry about. There are plenty of opportunities for your young person to meet likeminded people. Although in the first week of university there are lots of activities for new students to socialise and meet students on their course, there are also plenty of opportunities to make friends and fit it in throughout the year. Students that are interested in the same hobbies or sports can meet through clubs, societies and volunteering. They‘ll meet different people through their classes as they won’t be with the same students all the time. They’ll also meet other students through their accommodation. So, don’t be worried if they haven’t made great friends in the first couple of days, sometimes taking a bit of time to find who you have a most in common with is a good thing.

Top tip Suggest your young person looks at some of the clubs and societies that are available now – they can often be found on the student union pages of the university website or under student life.

University is not for people like them!

University is for a wide range of people with different backgrounds, races, household incomes, ages, educational experiences and outlooks. It’s for anyone who wants to learn and is capable of achieving the entry requirements. The range of courses on offer at university also reflects this as some will be focused around jobs, like Nursing, others will be more theoretical or cover a broad subject area, such as Geography or English Literature. There are also different types of degrees such as foundation degrees or degree apprenticeships which involve working and studying at the same time. Entry requirements vary hugely, and some may have work experience as part of the course requirements.

It’s all one big party

There are indeed many opportunities for having a good time but for young people to get the most out of their university experience they have to manage their time well. In addition to coursework and preparation for lectures, students can participate in work experience, volunteering and learning new skills. The more your young person gets involved in what university has to offer, the more they will get out of it.
Top tip Encourage your young person to look at the UCAS website to see the range of options available.

University isn’t worth it! They won’t get a job at the end!

People leave university with a broad variety of skills, knowledge and work experience so it may take time for some to find their perfect job or career. On average, people with degrees are likely to earn more over their lifetime than those who don’t have degrees. This is broadly true for all graduates, whether they get a job related to their degree or not. This is because students don’t only gain knowledge from university, but also many skills required for higher level, better-paid jobs. However, university is more than just getting a good job; it provides students with unique experiences that will shape their lives and futures such as studying abroad, voluntary work, taking leading roles in clubs and societies and many others.
Top tip Whether University is worth it will depend on what the individual student hopes to get out of their University experience and what opportunities they can take up at that University. Therefore, research into the options available is key!

Remember, you can find the definitions for university terminology in our glossary.

Hopefully, this addresses some of the common misconceptions about university. Share any other statements you’ve heard about university in the comment area below.

© University of Reading
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A Parent and Supporter’s Guide to University Entry

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