What could be even more important than all the things that are said about university? Well… the things that no one ever really talks about!
You’ll have the time of your life at uni”, “All students do is party”, “I never go to classes anyway…”.. These are all things you are very likely to hear once you decide to go to university after high school and start telling others about your plans. There are many stereotypes associated with being a student and university itself. And, admittedly, many of these are somewhat true, depending on who you’re talking to and what student you yourself aim to be. However, university, college, or whatever you may call it, there are many things that no one ever tells you straight up about these institutions.
So, Here’s a List of 15 Things Nobody Ever Tells You About University:
1. You can always quit
Perhaps one of the most important things to remember. University isn’t for everyone, and that’s ok. You’ll have to experience it, to really decide if uni is the right thing for you. If it’s not, that’s ok. A great way to explore other options is through talking to student counsellors or student support services.
2. You can change your subject
Just because you enroll into Biology, Spanish or any other subject, doesn’t mean that you have to stick with it. Sometimes you realize after the first week, 3 months or even more than a year, that the subject is not right for you. Maybe you don’t enjoy it, maybe you realized it won’t get you where you want to be, just like Ally shared in her story. Usually there is the option to change subjects, or to select a different combination of minor and a major. Talk to student support services or the student affairs office to explore your options.
3. If you change your subject, you might be able to take some credits with you
If the change is possible, and depending which subject you are switching to, you might be able to transfer some of the credits/ ects you have already acquired. Check the examination regulations and course catalogue for both subjects and talk to the student affairs office for a detailed inquiry.
4. Societies and student initiatives are a great networking opportunity and will benefit you when trying to get an internship
Being a member of a society/ initiative is not only great because you can meet new people and make great friends. It can also be a big advantage when it comes to scoring your first internship position. A role in a society/ initiative can provide you with your first real work experience, something that employers really value; in addition to you showing interest in things outside of your direct subject area.
5. Most professors are genuinely nice people, and will help you solve your problems if you just ask
Professors are not all these mythical creatures floating around university halls. Most are genuinely nice people who value students that show interest in their subject. If you have questions or experience difficulty with the material, write an email or go up to them after class. Most professors will be happy to answer your questions. If not immediately, most have regular office hours where you can discuss your problems.
6. Your professors will remember you if you make good contributions
When you’re sitting in an auditorium with 400 people, it’s easy to think that the professor holding the lecture won’t even notice you. Wrong. Even in these settings, there are things that the people standing upfront notice. If you’re on your phone, they will know. If you make good contributions they will notice, and if you ever meet them in the hallway, they are likely to have some kind of faint memory (good or bad) of you if they’ve seen you before.
7. Not all grades count the same, weighting matters, so spend your energy wisely
This is different for every university, so check your module handbook and examination regulations beforehand. Ects points are calculated from the estimated time and the estimated workload needed on average to complete an individual course/module. Some might be worth 5 ects, others 15 ects. This not only indicates how much time you should spend on each module, but it sometimes also influences the weighting of the mark you get. The 15 ects will then have a higher weighting towards your overall grade than the 5 ects module. Check in advance!
8. You don’t have to buy all the textbooks
Most subjectives will have a reading list, distributed at the beginning of term. Some readings are indicative, meaning that they are optional and you don’t have to go all. Then there are essential readings, the ones the course will be based on and which you will need to do the course work and to prepare for exams. Your first urge is probably to buy these books – until you see the price tags.
So before you buy any new books, do the following: a) check in with the university, many have their own book store where new books may be a little bit cheaper b) search on Facebook, many students sell used books in university related groups c) check the following online retailers for cheaper used books eBay, World of Books, Medimops Bonus Tipp: You don’t always need the newest edition, and older editions are much cheaper – check with your module leader!
9. Don’t get too attached to all the people in your first semester, many of them are likely not going to be there in your last
As explained in the beginning, many people change unis, subjects, or modules over time. Some quit uni altogether. So don’t be surprised if faces around you change regularly. You will meet great people at university, they’re just not all going to be from your exact course.
10. You don’t have to follow the given timetable
At the beginning of each term, you’ll get a timetable with the modules to take that academic year. For some unis/subjects this is fixed, for some it isn’t. Often there are core modules and optional modules and some alternatives to make your own choice. This will probably be explained to you at the beginning of term and it will be written down in the module handbook or examination regulations, so check those!
11. You can work at uni as a research assistant
Uni is not only a place where people go to study, it’s a big institution employing thousands of people. Especially in Germany, it’s common that many faculties offer research assistant positions and other jobs for students. This is a great chance to immerse yourself more into your subject, gain work experience, get insight into academia as a job and earn some money along the way. Check faculty websites, university job boards, or ask your tutors if something like that exists at your university.
12. Many companies offer working student positions and if you have the opportunity, do it
When you’re thinking about going to university and ways to earn some money to finance yourself, you’re probably thinking about things like working in a coffee shop. However, especially in Germany, many established companies offer working student positions. This is essentially a part-time job working as a full team member in a company. Such jobs are advertised on all common job searching websites and sometimes the possibility comes up after you’ve successfully completed your internship with that company. Being a working student is a great way to get work and industry experience and start building a professional network.
13. You can get an extension on your term paper, even if it doesn’t say so anywhere
Term papers have fixed deadlines. However, there is such a thing called exceptional circumstances. Wherever you feel your work is being impacted negatively, you should talk to student services and your professor for guidance on how to handle this situation. If there is a sound reason, extensions should be possible.
14. Find something outside of uni to balance the stress
Being at uni is a once in a lifetime experience. There is the studying part and there is the friends and events part. Managing the workload, friends, family and sometimes work all at the same time can become overwhelming. So, it’s really important that you find a way to balance it all. That could be going for runs, playing sports, but it should be something that can take your mind off your To Do list for some hours every week, giving you the ability to recharge.
15. You should look for internships opportunities early, so you can check if you really chose the right subject
When studying, preparing for exams and balancing family and friends, it can be easy to forget what you are actually studying for – a degree which will ideally help you to score future employment. Completing internships can help you decide in which direction you want to take your career and if you’re studying the right subject to get you where you want to be. So inbetween terms, start looking for internship opportunities and apply early.
There you have it, 15 things no one ever tells you about university. Of course, not everything will apply to you, your chosen uni, your subject and your personal experience, but it may help in giving you some idea of what to expect at uni you weren’t expecting yet 🙂
Have you already experienced some things on this list or do you have even more to add? Let’s talk in the comments!
Also make sure to check out this post about how to chose the right university and this one on how to decide what to study at university!
See you soon,