Blog: Switching from A-Levels to University

Hi, it’s Joe here. As Education Officer at your Guild of Students, it’s my job to ensure that your academic experience at university is as good as it can be, and this starts as soon as you arrive at Birmingham.

joe education officer

The switch from A-Levels to University can be overwhelming, with lots to get involved in, and even more to learn. Here are my 5 tips to help you succeed in your transition to university: 

Introduce yourself to people 

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that everyone is in the same boat when you arrive at university. As well as meeting people in halls or at events like Welcome, your lectures, seminars and labs will be another great chance to start making connections. Some of the people I met during my first week became friends for the whole of my course. Plus, even if you don’t think someone will be your best mate, it's always helpful to have a friendly face when you walk into class at the start of a module! 

Remember it’s not A-Levels  

The style of working, teaching and even assessment is different. At university you'll have to do lots of independent study – but don’t worry, you'll still be able to arrange personal meetings with academics in their ‘office hours’. This independence will also translate to the type of work you’re expected to produce. While there are mark schemes, they're far less prescriptive about what to include, or how to structure answers. This can be daunting if you’re coming from a school (like I did) that took mark schemes as gospel, but it can also be liberating. Use it as an opportunity to explore the things that most interest you about your subject and show off your academic ability. 

Use the Library 

In one of your early lectures, you'll probably get an introduction to all the services provided by the Library. Obviously, they offer books, but they also provide tons of academic support to help plan, write and reference your assignments – make sure you take advantage of it when exam season rolls around. Most importantly NEVER buy books, journals or articles off your reading list. The library will probably have access to them, either physically or online, and if not, they’ll be able to get hold of it for you. Lots of new students spend money on textbooks when they don’t need to – don’t let that be you! 

Work life balance 

At university your time is your own, and this can be a tough learning curve for some. Whether you’re most excited about the academic or social side of university, it’s key to keep a good balance between the two. For most students, moving to university is also the first time they’ve had to look after themselves, and its important to make sure that, in between your nights out and nights in the library, you’re taking care of yourself. This means doing your washing, eating properly, and getting enough sleep - just because it’s boring doesn’t mean it’s not important. Personally, I’m a big fan of to-do lists to help make sure I don’t miss anything crucial! 

Take advantage of the support available – it’s there for a reason! 

While you’ll hopefully have a fantastic time at Birmingham, everyone has ups and downs. And that’s okay. It’s important to know that support is there when you need it. There’s a number of ways to access help: through your College welfare team who can help with things like extensions, university services like UBHeard (a 24hr hotline) who are here to listen or Guild Advice, who provide tailored and impartial advice on a range of issues. Any of these services will be able to signpost you to relevant help and resources. 

Hopefully these five tips will help to make your transition to university as smooth as possible. As well as all the services listed above, my door (or inbox) at the Guild is always open. If you have any questions, issues or suggestions for how to improve things please feel free to get in touch. 

Thanks for reading, and good luck! 

Joe Hill  
Insta: @Guild_Education 


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