Thinking about higher education

What's it like at university?

University might seem a long way off but if your son/daughter is thinking about higher education then they will soon have decisions to make about types of courses or universities.

University is very different to school - your son/daughter will have to find that they have to undertake a lot of independent learning. Unlike at school or college, they will study one particular subject in-depth so it needs to be something they're really interested in and motivated by. And they'll be introduced to new ways of learning that they won't have previously experienced. It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience offering them the chance to experience new things and meet new people.

What can they study at university?

There are a wide range of interesting subjects available to study at university. Unlike school or college students normally choose one subject in a lot of detail.

You will find higher education courses available in traditional subjects which your son/daughter has studied at school, like maths or English. And more unusual options such as nursing, computer animation or engineering. Some courses lead to a specific job and your son/daughter will need to bear this in mind if they want to enter a particular profession, for example journalism or law.

At some universities it's possible to study 'combined' or 'joint' courses - studying two subjects at the same time.


University is a very different learning environment to school or college. Your son/daughter will attend lectures and tutorials every week, and also be expected to do a lot of independent work and background reading about the subject area in more detail.

Your son/daughter will also experience different learning styles and assessment methods. They will be expected to undertake group work, practical assessments and presentations. Staff from the library are always on hand to advise on these new ways of working and cover aspects such as referencing and research.

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Download our revision plan and timetable to make sure your son/daughter is prepared.

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Making new friends is a key part of the higher education experience - and an opportunity for your son/daughter to meet students from different backgrounds, cultures and religions. One way to form friendships is through student societies or sports at the Students' Union. Each university's Students' Union website provides more information on the social activities they can get involved in.

The first two weeks at most universities is freshers' week (or fortnight). This is an opportunity for new students to meet their housemates, make new friends, sign up to clubs and societies and sort out administration tasks such as opening student bank accounts. Freshers week is usually based around a series of social events - discos, live bands.


Learning to manage money whilst at university is an essential skill your son/daughter will want to develop. They will need to factor in things like accommodation, food, travel costs, insurance, course requirements (books, equipment etc), bills and leisure activities. Your son/daughter will be able to better manage their finances whilst at university if they follow our three steps.

  • Keep a record of spending
    Nowadays people tend to keep track of their spending using internet banking. Your son/daughter can monitor their finances in other ways - keeping their receipts together when they make a purchase or printing out their balance when they take money out of a cash machine. They can keep a monthly spreadsheet of their spending and calculate how much they've spent and what they have left available.
  • Build a budget planner
    Your son/daughter needs to know what money will regularly come out of their bank account - things like mobile phone bills and rent. Once they account for these regular items in their budget planner, they know how much is left to spend on things like clothes and nights out.
  • Prioritise finances
    Your son/daughter will find it much easier to start managing their finances if they prioritise essential items and nice-to-haves. Make a list of essential spending and approximately how much this is likely to be for each item - they can then start to prioritise their leftover funds.