How to find out if university is for you 

by Ayesha Geekiyanage Don

University is a common route for many after leaving school, but it is perfectly normal to feel anxious or worried about it being the right route for you. Luckily, there are many ways for you to ‘try before you buy’ allowing you to get a taste of your course of interest or general university life. Examples of these schemes, include:  

  • University campus open days  
  • Summer schools  
  • Taster lectures  

University Campus Open Days  

Universities will typically have open days at multiples times throughout the year.  Attending in-person events is usually the best way to get a feel for the university, however virtual events are a great alternative where in-person is not possible. Open days, or similar events, are aimed at students that are looking to apply for that university. Some may be general open days, whereas others may be subject specific open days. These open days are particularly important if you are thinking of moving away from home to a new area, as the campus is likely to be somewhere you will spend a lot of your time. You can ask questions, visit the area and see if a particular university has the right environment for you.  

To find out more about open days and similar events to attend, check directly on the website of the university of interest, or have a look on UCAS.

Summer Schools  

Summer school students on the helipad

Some universities offer subject-specific summer schools, which aim to give you an insight into the course and university environment. These are 1-2 week courses designed to be completed in the summer between Year 12 and Year 13, just before you are set to apply for university. There’ll be a variety of opportunities during summer schools, which could include practical laboratory sessions for science-related courses, networking with like-minded individuals who are at similar stages to you and the opportunity to receive supporting with upcoming university applications. 

There are various summer schools available, including Centre of the Cell’s very own flagship summer school, and Queen Mary’s summer school

Taster Courses/Lectures  

At university, the usual learning sessions that you will have are lectures, which are quite different to your existing classroom environment. Typically, a lecture involves one member of teaching staff speaking in a theatre style room to hundreds of students. One of the main adjustments will be the difference in teacher to student ratio, meaning that you may not get the individualized help you require.

Taster courses/lectures are offered by many universities across various subjects, allowing you to experience the style of university lectures and get a taste of content you might cover during the course. Find a taster course right for you on the UCAS website.

Whilst it is a great idea to give these opportunities a go, you should remember that you may or may not enjoy them. Although not enjoying them might seem counterproductive, these opportunities are great ways to narrow down your options, ultimately deciding if university is for you.