Some things about university life you just can't know until you've got there.
Or can you? We asked some of our speakers and writers to tell us what they wish they'd known before stomping the ground to graduation.
Here's the first WIWIK (or 'what I wish I'd known'... slick, right?).
No two universities are the same by Tom Brookes, Push speaker and primary teacher (Journalism @ Cardiff)
I've only ever been given two bits of life advice. Number one, ‘Always wash behind your ears’ (Mum). Number two, ‘Try everything once… except incest and crystal meth’ (A former lecturer who shall remain nameless).
Wise words, I’m sure you’ll agree. Life should be a doddle knowing that and that alone. And it is. Well, until it comes to applying for university.
You start your application and suddenly everyone’s a font of knowledge who can’t wait to splash their university ‘expertise’ all over you. Pearls of wisdom you may hear include:
‘University? Full of geeks, innit?’
‘Good luck paying off your debts, jobless!’
‘I had a great time, they’re the best years of your life’
This is a monumental pain in the arse. If you, in a Family Fortunes sorta way, took 100 university graduates and asked them ‘University, how was it for you?’ the chances are you’d get 100 very different responses. Not exactly what you want if you’re still trying to decide where and what you actually want to study.
Advice becomes more of a hindrance than the helping hand it should be. Everything you’re told and everything you read says something completely different. The reason?
No two universities are the same.
Contrary to what you may have been told, there is no defining university experience that everybody subscribes to when they send off their UCAS application.
If you take in every myth and rumour you hear, you’ll panic: you’ll build unrealistic expectations and by graduation you’ll apparently be an unemployed, high-flying townie, with huge debts, a drink problem, you’ll have slept with everyone on campus and have the largest stash of stolen traffic cones in the world.
When you get yourself into the maze of applications, it’s easy to get bogged down in the Stats and Stories Swamp, but the simplest thing to remember is that universities differ in almost every imaginable way. One university may have a much higher employment rate after graduation than another, but that’s just a statistic.
Stats aside, is it really going to be right for you? What about your course? While they may go under the same name, no two universities will teach the same course in the same way.
What about that money thing? No two universities will cost the same. Cost of living varies throughout the country and that’s before we get onto those pesky little tuition fees.
And I’m afraid while one university may be home to the largest Jeremy Kyle fan club in the UK, it’s my sad duty to report that such clubs aren’t available at every university.
The truth is that every student can make different experiences for themselves and every institution will do things differently. Universities undergo more changes than Katie Price's breasts. So, you’re just going to have check them out yourself… the universities, that is, not Jordan.
If I were being cheesy I could tell you that ‘you can’t spell University without U’ but this isn't Sesame Street, so I won’t. Just remember, no two university experiences will ever be the same – it's whatever you make it.
Interesting? If you'd like to see your words of wisdom on this page, drop us a line with what every student should know before going to university.
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