How University Works: Introduction to University Life

Lena Heckmann & John Roman, U-Multirank

October 8, 2019 10:37 AM

How University Works

Applying for and studying at the university level can seem like a cosmic universe, but it doesn’t have to be so extra-terrestrial. Just like the universe, there are countless possibilities of what and where you can study. If you are starting your university career straight out of high school, it may be tricky to get your head around how different some things work.

Let us make your first days easier with an overview on how this teaching and learning universe works with some tips and insight.

Probably one of the first questions that comes to mind, is ‘what are the main differences between school and university’?  Simply put, in high school you adhere to instruction and are led by instructors, however in college/ university you are an adult who has to take initiative. Essentially, college students take control of how to spend their time and what to study, which can be very empowering. However, with great power comes great responsibility, meaning that your education is your responsibility; no one is going to do it for you.

This journey begins by creating a time schedule, which is often proposed/ outlined by the university in a course catalogue, however the final decision of which courses are taken should be done by the students themselves. The workload can be comprised of lectures, tutorials and/ or labs, classes, seminars, workshops and group assignments.

A lecture is the most common learning form at university. Here, students – sometimes more than hundreds in one room – listen to a professor, or an expert in the field giving a presentation about a specific topic. The lecturer usually publishes lecture notes and/ or the presentation online, so everyone has access. The duration is up to two hours.

In addition to the lectures, there are often tutorials offered. Tutorials are much smaller than lectures with up to 20 to 30 students in attendance. They often take place in a classroom setting. In these one or two hour courses, material from the lectures and readings are discussed in more detail. Also, students can ask questions. The aim is a more in-depth understanding of the course material.

Especially in science-based degrees students attend science-based workshops to gain practical scientific experience. Many computer-based degrees also hold workshops in computer rooms so that students are able to use the necessary programmes to complete activities.

An empowering element about university is that students are free to decide about their lectures, courses and tutorials – giving students the opportunity to learn pretty much everything they are interested in. Almost every university offers a variety of studies from science and aviation, to business and government, humanities, social sciences and languages, education and even music; every theme is presented.

As a student, the most important thing at university is to know the dates which are relevant for your studies. To be successful in your studies, you have to know what is up next and what needs to be prepared. Some students may struggle with such liberty and freedom, especially when introduced to so many curricular and extracurricular activities. If this is the case, it is essential that students go in with a plan, focused and seek out support to be successful. The best way to keep an overview is to get a calendar, to note all relevant dates.

Introduction to University Life

Speaking of tons of possibilities at university: besides lectures, tutorials and workshops you can also follow your interests while attending sports courses or political speeches. Also there are cultural, religious or social offers at university.

In many different ways students can participate in what they are interested in, including making friends and memories along the way.

Every university also offers some kind of information centre, guidance counsellors, or special offices for questions regarding study programmes. If you are not sure about something, don’t be afraid to ask for help.

If you’re considering pursuing a university degree, then let us help you find the best university for you. U-Multirank’s ‘Best university for me’ track offers personalised university comparisons, so you can find the university that best matches you. U-Multirank’s university rankings by subject provide the feedback of more than 100,000 current students studying at the respective universities, offering a unique student perspective to the university rankings via our Teaching & Learning dimension. Create your own personalised rankings today, and compare universities according to what matters most to you.  To start, make sure to select a study subject of interest and we’ll help guide you through the rest.


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