University Tips Blog
Image of a student considering different pathways through looking at alternative entrances
A headshot image of the author, Ashleigh Little

by Ashleigh Little

Head of Post-16 Outreach and Recruitment at the University of Sunderland

posted on 19 Mar '24

What are the differences between sixth form and university?

University is an adjustment from what your young person has been used to at school or college. The key to this transition is preparation. Here are five key differences they might experience and some advice about how you can support them with the upcoming changes.

1. Location

Many university students will move to a new part of the country and become part of a larger institution than they’re used to. Open Days are a great way to meet staff and current students, visit the university campus, check out student accommodation and explore the local area. Most universities also offer applicant or offer holder days where they can find out about courses in more detail and meet other applicants. If they can’t attend oncampus events, university websites provide photos, videos and virtual tours of facilities and accommodation options.

2. More independence

Your young person will experience a new sense of independence at university, helping them build crucial life skills. They’ll be responsible for applying for student finance to cover their course fees and living costs, managing their money, attending lectures and completing academic work. They may also get a part-time job, which they’ll need to balance with their studies.

Your support and advice around finance and budgeting will be invaluable; you could prompt them to apply for student finance in good time, research university bursaries and scholarships and help them to budget effectively.

3. Different teaching methods

Learning at university is different to school or college – there’s a greater focus on independent learning. Your young person will be expected to attend lectures and seminars, as well as conduct independent study. Time management, attendance and commitment are important skills to help students adapt to this new way of learning.

They can find out more about teaching methods by chatting with academic staff and current students at an Open Day. They could also do some research on university websites and on platforms such as The Student Room.

4. Managing deadlines

Students need to be organised to stay on top of deadlines. You could help your young person to prepare for this by giving them a calendar, planner or online diary to set their own reminders. It could be a haircut, dentist appointment or a friend’s birthday – anything that gives them responsibility. This organisation and time management will help them to find a balance between their social life and their studies.

5. Course content

University courses are often structured differently from school or college courses. Your young person can find information about how a course operates, and the modules on offer, on university websites.

Many universities also offer foundation courses, which can bridge the gap between school or college and university study.

"As a parent or supporter, you can support your young person with their research by helping them to compare and contrast options and select courses which work best for them. And once they start at university, they won’t be on their own. There’s a range of support available for students, including study skills, wellbeing and funding."

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