You may have all sorts of worries about university life and it is sometimes hard to get the real picture. We have tried to address some of the main concerns below.
Worry: you will spend the rest of your life in debt
Reality: the picture is complex! There are different levels of financial support for students in the different countries within the UK, but wherever you are you will probably have to take out some sort of student loan. You will then have to pay this loan back once you leave university. But remember:
- A student loan is not like a normal loan. It operates more like a “graduate tax” which comes into effect once you start earning a certain amount
- You will not have to pay anything unless you earn above a certain amount. The amount of your repayments will depend on your earnings. You can find out about the current repayment arrangements here
- University graduates generally earn much more than non-graduates over their lifetime
You can reduce the size of your debt if you get sponsored by an employer or take up one of the new degree apprenticeships. There might also be other sources of additional funding available for your particular degree. There are also special awards for people who are the first in their family to go to university.
Worry: you won’t have enough money to live on
Reality: your eligibility for financial support depends on your family situation. Even if your support may be in the form of a loan rather than a grant, you should have enough to live on. You can help your financial situation by:
- budgeting carefully; don’t spend more than you earn
- taking part-time jobs that can fit around your studies
- getting sponsored for your degree (see above)
Worry: you won’t find anyone like you
Reality: a huge range of people go to universities, from every type of background, and of every imaginable character. You are more likely to find people from different backgrounds than you did at school, but you may find more people that are actually like you in more important ways – who share your hopes or passions or sense of humour – as well as people who bring out aspects of your character you never knew you had. University broadens your mind in all sorts of ways.
Worry : Oxford and Cambridge are for public school students only
Reality: they are not. More than 60% of current Oxbridge undergraduates are from state schools. Oxford and Cambridge genuinely want the brightest students from all backgrounds and make allowances for their different backgrounds.See their “widening access” pages here and here.
Worry: you will find it difficult to live away from home for the first time
Reality: some students do find it difficult to adapt to university life at first. The good news is that universities are much better now at recognising this, and giving both practical and emotional support to students who need it. Most find it easier after the first term or two, and enjoy the independence of looking after themselves.
You can help yourself prepare by developing your practical skills (making sure you can do basic cooking, and your own laundry, and know how to manage your money, for example), as well as by reading as much as you can about your course and university beforehand.
If you really don’t think you want to live away, you may be able to attend a university near your home. You will not experience the full range of “student life”, but not everyone likes the same thing, and in other countries it is normal to attend a local university.
Worry: You need to spend all your time drinking alcohol
Reality: you don’t. First, you have to do some work. Second, universities realise that lots of young people don’t drink, for all sorts of reasons, and make sure there are always alcohol-free options at university events.
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