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Going to University for the first time

Discussion in 'Serious' started by PauloWhysalli, 4 Feb 2014.

  1. PauloWhysalli

    PauloWhysalli Confused.com

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    I'm going to University of Derby in September to start my BA in Child and Youth Studies, which I am hopefully going to follow up with a PGCE. So I'm after some general university advice from people who are there currently or have been in the past. Some general background below:

    I will be 38 - I'm hoping my age isn't directly relevant but any thoughts from more... mature students would be appreciated. In particular how they found the social factors changed if at all?

    I have a young family and therefore will be living at home - no halls etc for me. Has anyone juggled a family with full time study before and how did they find it?

    How did you study at home? Take yourself off somewhere quiet? In front of the TV? I know this will depend on your learning style but some general advice would be good?

    Did you buy all the course reading or just the essential? Money is going to be tight so is there anything you really don't need?
     
  2. bawjaws

    bawjaws Well-Known Member

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    I wouldn't worry about the social aspect of it - you're going there to study, not socialise :D You'll meet plenty of people on your course and although you're not going to have the "typical" student social experience you can still make good friends and get involved in activities (time permitting - having a young family will limit your opportunities somewhat).

    In terms of juggling family time and study time, you have to be very disciplined. You'll need to put a lot of work in, especially if you've been out of education for a while, so make sure you set aside enough time to get the studying done, and stick to your study plan as much as you can. Of course, having kids means that your plans will get disrupted, so you'll need to aim for quality of study rather than sheer quantity.

    I'd personally set aside a "study area" at home - a small desk in the spare room or even in your bedroom is fine, and negotiate with your better half for some study time that will, as far as is possible, be uninterrupted. Alternatively, if family life permits, you could try studying in the university library - you might find you study better at home, when you can pop downstairs for a cup of tea when you need it, or that you study better away from the house where there aren't any distractions (like the internet :D).

    In terms of course materials, I'd not rush in and buy too much at first - speak to your lecturers to get a handle on what the essentials are, and what additional reading to prioritise. Remember that the university library can help, although you can't guarantee that they'll have what you need.

    Finally, congratulations on your university place and the best of luck with your studies. It's a daunting prospect getting back into education as a mature student, but you'll probably be far more motivated to succeed than some fresh-faced school leaver, and you can show these young whippersnappers a thing or two! :D
     
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  3. GeorgeStorm

    GeorgeStorm Aggressive PC Builder

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    Well I can't comment on the age thing (I'm 22) nor the course itself, but I've yet to buy any books for my course (Electronic and Computer Systems Engineering), completed 3 years so far, it may change for my final year.

    Some lecturers have told us recommended books, but we haven't had to buy anything, just use the internet for papers etc, or get a book from the library if you really need it (I've also never even done that).
     
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  4. gagaga

    gagaga Member

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    1. Buy books 2nd hand, or make use of the library - they will typically keep the required books in two forms - one is usual library lend and take away, plus if its popular title they often have copies you can read there but not remove. This can save a ton of cash

    2. Don't buy every book they suggest, there's not a need

    3. Having gone through the discipline of working full time, you'll probably find the workload *really* easy once you get upto speed, and really enjoy the learning process

    4. Consider treating it as a 9-5 job ... chances are that if you head to the library / union / coffee shop during your off periods, you'll have enough time to get everything done without needing to bring work home (avoiding the temptation to head home early is tricky).
     
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  5. pete*

    pete* Something witty here.

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    First off, good luck! XD

    Your age will not be a problem in any way at all. As bawjaws said, you're going to study so simply
    concentrate on that.
    Socially it will all be fine as well. As you are not in halls, you will mainly socialise with those on the course.
    You'll find the right set of people and hopefully they'll be helpful and mindful of the fact you are a family person.

    You definitely have to be disciplined for your study time. A lady who was on a course with me, she was 48. Had 3 kids, two of them under 4.
    I have no idea how she found the time.
    But she had a partner who helped a lot with minding the children while she studied.
    She had a set two hours set aside to do her studies, at that time her partner took the kids.
    They made the oldest understand this was important to mummy. She soon cottoned on and
    helped her Dad keep the other two occupied.

    Socially she still came out every so often. And she was a great laugh.

    You can't really tell how much time you'll need for your studies - it all comes down to how you learn best,
    the sort of course material involved and how you and your family live (as in, other responsibilities that you can't change/move about).

    Main thing is, don't seclude yourself from the rest of your course mates! There will be nice helpful people.
    Maybe even people who also have families. It can all be a godsend if you are able to swap notes, help with child sitting, etc, etc.

    As for equipment, like George said - don't buy stuff before the course. A lot of the time you're able to borrow or use the universities
    equipment. Just get cheap books, cheap used equipment once you know you definitely need it.


    I'm **** at writing helpful posts, sorry if all that makes no sense!

    :D
     
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  6. longweight

    longweight Possibly Longbeard.

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    I would strongly advise making some good connections early on, I have managed to find a few good friends that I can call or even revise with. This is really helpful as I study part-time whilst working full-time.
     
  7. benji2412

    benji2412 <insert message here>

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    This is probably going to get me some hate, but why hopefully? Do you have any other plans incase you don't get on/want to do a PGCE once you graduate? How good is the University at that course and is it likely to stop you from getting an interview? Believe it or not, some companies do throw CVs in the bin if you went to a certain Uni they don't like.

    My general advice is that you shouldn't be saying hopefully when you're paying upto £9k pa in tuition fees. Especially not if it doesn't enhance your opportunities in the end after completing the course. My wife and I have been discussing her going to University and leaving full time work and it's giving us quite a headache about whether it's actually worth it now.
     
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  8. loftie

    loftie Well-Known Member

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    I never liked my Uni library - it felt like a cold war bunker but with worse design. The library in town was much better and even had natural light!

    What I would say is get a list of essential course books asap and look how cheap they are second hand. While you won't be carrying every book with you all the time, it's much easier to avoid the inevitable rush for the supply of library books. Failing that, get to the library and take them on loan. The additional books may not be needed, so i'd just get them from the library when you can. I had 3 text books bought specifically for Uni, but I also had the benefit of someone else's notes.

    The modules with more people the books will go faster, so keep an eye out.


    Clubs - join something you're genuinely interested in if you can, it'll give you more social stuff to do, it should be relatively inexpensive. You can talk to the club leader and mention other commitments, most are fine with people turning up occasionally but it just depends.

    Course mates - will be invaluable. You're all in it together, get to know them. You'll be sharing ideas, notes, having a laugh, moaning about lecturers and enjoying lunch together ( if you wish ).
     
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  9. PauloWhysalli

    PauloWhysalli Confused.com

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    Thanks for the responses so far everyone, rep incoming all.

    I think the networking aspect is something I will need to work on from the beginning. I think connections with other people on my course will be invaluable as there will be a lot of sharing of best practice when we come back from the placements. I’m not bothered about the “going out every night and getting wasted” aspect of student live but I want to enjoy “going to Uni” which is something I regretted not doing when I was 18.

    I will have a look at the clubs idea but it’s probably not something I would be able to commit to (unless there is a golf society :thumb:)

    I think the occasional night out is going to be manageable and my good lady has already said that once in a while is fine but to be honest I would rather be at home with her and my little boy.

    I went to an open day last year and got the course books list from the course leader, I have picked up a couple of the essential readings books already, the rest as you say I will leave and see if I really do need them.

    ^This is good advice and something I have already started to look at, there is a lot of information out there as well as various Government papers to plough through.


    This is the thing that is worrying me the most to be honest. I am by nature not very disciplined so I am going to have to work hard at putting the time to one side and not getting distracted by “other things”. I have a study upstairs but depending on what I am doing I might be better downstairs at the kitchen table.

    No hate from me, my original post was a little vague. I will be doing my PGCE just not necessarily at Derby. It has a very good reputation nationally as a “teachers” university and the PGCE is usually oversubscribed. On the plus side the course I am doing is 60-70% practical (ie in a school environment) so I am hopeful this will stand me in good stead. This is a lifelong ambition of mine so I will be going into a teaching position after I finish at University.
     
  10. benji2412

    benji2412 <insert message here>

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    I think I went out about 10 times over the course of a 4 year undergrad degree, it didn't bother me in the slightest. I found that during my PhD I had a lot more of a social life, but purely because I had the time and I'd found the right people to spend my time with. I'm more of a hobbies and chat person, rather than drink myself into a stupor every night.

    Regarding revision and studying, I really struggle with my concentration sometimes, I'm easily distracted. I found that revising for an hour followed by a half hour gaming was the best way to remember things and actually motivate myself to start. I did a little recap of things after the time gaming and if I couldn't remember bits it really annoyed me, but I strived to make sure I did. I think it was the frequent breaks and recap sessions that committed things to memory. I think it's about finding what works for you though, and that's usually why the first year isn't too demanding of undergrad students.

    Oh and I have only ever bought one textbook for my field, everything else was/is from the library or from a budget code (now that I have one). One other thing is please don't be afraid to ask your lecturers for help or advice, this is the best way to go over something you don't understand. Have a read first by all means, it shows some initiative (which they appreciate) but they will be pleased to help.
     
  11. Porkins' Wingman

    Porkins' Wingman Can't touch this

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    Not here to rain on your parade or be negative for the sake of it, but it does seem you are putting quite a lot of eggs in the 'Teaching' basket.

    While it's impossible to predict 4-8 years from now, education is one of the most meddled-with aspects of our society by politicians and teacher morale is getting a right kicking by Gove at the moment. That being said, it's becoming increasingly likely that formal qualification won't be necessary in state schools.

    I tried a PGCE and bailed out for my own reasons, but my partner is a teacher, so I'm still reasonably plugged in to the scene. If a friend said they were committing 4 years and x-amount of £££s to pursue teaching, I'd be concerned that they were setting themselves up for disillusionment once they hit the classroom.

    My advice to anyone trying what you're doing, due to the cost of tuition fees nowadays, is to pick a degree course that will set them up for other things if teaching doesn't turn out to meet their expectations. Have you thought about what else you could do with the degree you're on?
     
  12. PauloWhysalli

    PauloWhysalli Confused.com

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    I’m certainly past the stupor point in my life and we have a well-developed social life currently. At the end of the day the most important thing to me is getting the qualification and furthering myself.

    One of reasons I was particularly excited about this course was that it is assessment based so there are no exams. The mixed element of practical and theoretical work really suits my learning style. Discipline and concentration will be a major hurdle for me to overcome but your suggestions may well work perfectly for me :thumb:

    I’ve already been in touch with some of the tutors and I won’t be going mad with the textbooks. There’s a couple of essential books, one of which has just been specifically written for the course which I will have to pick up though.

    It’s a life-long ambition and something I have been committed doing for a number of years. Now is just the right time to pursue it.

    It is meddled in, there’s no doubt about that and things will invariably change when a new minister or indeed government comes in. And as you say it would appear that as time progresses formal qualification won’t be necessary but that is not a reason not to have that formal background in place IMO.

    I chose this particular course because within two months of starting I will be in a classroom environment and over the 3 years of the course will spend in excess of 160 days in a classroom. I can chose with my tutors advice and support the areas I want to concentrate on and ideally I am looking at early years and primary education. Depending on how I find early years I may also take my YET but my passion is primary education. I would think I will find out fairly quickly how I find the classroom to actually work in.

    Hmm I’m not personally convinced about this. I made this mistake when I was at college and did a BTEC in Business thinking it would give me a wide platform of opportunity. Unfortunately the lack of focus in any particular area meant that employers were not interested and in fact I have never had a job where this particular qualification has been relevant.

    I would hate to spend another three years and in excess of £20K in course fees and at the end of it have no clear path in front of me. I’ve squandered nearly 20 years of my working life as it is moving like a nomad from one career to another.

    I have a (without being corny) dream and for me at least this course meets my long term career ambitions and should make this dream a reality for me. If I wasn’t completely committed then I wouldn’t even consider this move from employment to study, and have taken advice from and spoken to generally, friends, relatives and teaching professionals.

    My friends and relatives all believe that I have the required attributes to succeed and more importantly I believe it. #rantapologieswasntmeanttobe
     
  13. benji2412

    benji2412 <insert message here>

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    I did a Chemistry degree and despite it having more practical time than lecture time, the exam was still 75% of the module marks with practical being 25%.

    I wish it had been 50:50, I'd have passed all the modules before taking the exams!
     
  14. PauloWhysalli

    PauloWhysalli Confused.com

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    ^Well that makes no sense, should have been 50:50 I think!

    I hate exams and to be honest the main reason I didn't go to Uni years ago was because of the pressure of the exams. Finding this course was a godsend :D
     
  15. gagaga

    gagaga Member

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    ... this is the whole point of university (and was the main differentiator in the old days between university and polytechnics).

    University is about self-directed learing - you are not there to be taught. Hence the 75% encompasses stuff that has been covered in lectures plus other reading/research/ learning you should have made around the structured parts of the course. Plus of course you can be examined on knowledge gained from your practical parts.

    I think a lot of universities do *teach* now - this is the main differentiator between the top 10-15% of institutions that follow the more traditional model and the bottom 50% that operate more like 6th form colleges.

    I also think this is a differentiator between mature and younger students - mature students often taken more responsibility for their own progress and learning as it reflects their life experience and approach to work prior to deciding to go to university.

    Lots of generalisations of course ...
     

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