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University and surviving your degree! An essential guide to the undergraduate life

Updated on September 6, 2015

Leeds Beckett Headingley Campus

I do not own this image. All rights belong to the respectful owners.
I do not own this image. All rights belong to the respectful owners. | Source

Introduction

Back in 2008 i went to view a number of potential Universities for which could be my home for the next three or so years. With my Btec in Music Technology at hand i was ready to find a University which would feed my brain with musical knowledge and give me a fantastic lifestyle alongside. I viewed 3 out of 4 Universities and decided in the end that none were as brilliant as i hoped.

I moved into clearing which is where i essentially turned down my options and put my hopes on another University hoping they would accept me. Luckily it moved towards me in favour and i got accepted at Leeds Metropolitan (now Beckett) University for a degree in Creative Music and Sound Technology.

After the long process of Ucas Extra and student finance i had made it, and was ready to embark on a new journey.Me and my mother had been and done the shopping of my essentials such as bed linen , toilet rolls , kitchen ware , the planner and what ever else i could think of that i would need living away from home.

Admittedly i was nervous at first, the thought of living away from home in a large city where you don't know any one.It was daunting but at the same time an adventure. I was ready for new challenges and ready to absorb a wealth of knowledge about the musical world and extend my playing capabilities.

One thing that really helped me prepare was checking out some websites , where you can meet people going to the same University as you and doing the same degree. This helped me make some friends and acquaintances before even stepping foot on campus, so i would feel more comfortable when introducing my self to people. There are plenty of these out there and you will find one or two links at the bottom of the article to get you started!

What is higher education all about?

What shall i study and what university should i go too?

Freshers Week

My freshers week was pretty fun! As they welcomed the freshers, we had a giant marquee out on the lawn in front of one of the main campus buildings.It could hold about 2000 people and also had a number of stalls for registrations , getting ID cards and so on. I was fortunate enough enough to get a free music department freshers hoodie as well as a welcome pack containing a few essentials like deodorant and toothpaste. A lot of the talks were inspirational , welcoming us to the University and introducing us to some of the people who worked at the campus. The atmosphere was full of energy and vibrant with everyone full of excitement. We were also entertained a live band and a bbq which was great on a hot september day.

Freshers week is full of activity from your welcome day , to getting your student ID card and getting settled in with your scheduling. It is also a time when halls are a hive of activity with everyone settling in and making friends. The of course everyone just goes out together to party and make bonds which could last a lifetime.

I was fortunate enough to have met a few of the guys online before i started , so i managed to settle in nicely. However i only ended up living with two others in halls so i didn't get to maximise my social experience as much as others. Both studying sport science it was a bit at the opposite end to me but the guys on my course were the people who i bonded with the most.

Freshers fair was one of the main events of freshers week. It was essentially a giant array of stalls from societies, sports clubs, businesses and University info points throughout the student Union. I just remember signing up to loads of stuff like societies, medical, competitions and filling bags with freebies!

Sport and Activities

Societies and sports clubs are at the heart of social interaction at Universities.They are a great way of making friends , enjoying the things you love and building essential life skills. You will discover everything from photography and film societies to basketball and hockey teams looking for members. Each of these will always have things going on weather it be regular meet ups to regular training sessions, they are worth getting involved with. Student Unions also give you the chance to set up your own society/club so that is what i did.

I ran a society for two years aimed at providing a social network for people into rock/metal and alternative music. It challenged me to become a leader, organize social/music events and promote a society to gain new members. Since I left University over 4 years ago the society iw still going strong, so I feel like I gave someyhing to my University. I strongly recommend to anyone to either join a society or club and even have a go at running one. You never know where it might lead you!

Work Hard and Win

So you master the art of partying, hitting back many beers and rocking the student life every week but of course there is one major part and that is the degree! When i started at University the grading stood as follows. In your first year you only had to get a 40% pass mark and it didn't even count towards your degree. Your second year counted towards a small chunk at 25% but then the third counted towards a staggering 75%! Depending on what course your on you will have a coursework based degree of one mixed with coursework and exams. It is usually the main kind of subjects such as Science , English, Maths, Law etc that will include exams throughout the duration of the degree.

Each year is split into semesters and contain a number of modules which count towards your annual mark. You will always see rough grades a long the way which is great for keeping track of how you are doing! The most important thing is to continuously ask for feedback when doing any work as this will only help you improve your grades in the long run. Essentially knuckling down before playtime is good practice as you won't end up having to rush to get work finished in a short space of time.

Using multiple resources will always benefit you in creating stronger pieces of work. I did most of my degree using the internet however i feel looking back, that i should have used more books with factual information than potential false leads. It is important to research Harvard referencing and gain a good understanding of it to avoid plagiarism. Acknowledging the sources you use for your work will keep you out of trouble.

My degree was a lot of fun and i was very fortunate to have great facilities at hand to accommodative my needs.. I got to study many areas of music from theory to history, but i found most interest in recording and creating music in the recording studios. Sometimes the modules were group work, sometimes i had to work on my own but either way it was enjoyable. Getting up for the 9 am lectures proved tough sometimes, especially in winter but then i also had the full course lectures.These were in the larger theatres where we would have talks from various guests and our tutors on various subjects and everyone would be scribbling away or typing away on their macs.

BY my third year i had 4 modules running at the same time for 14 weeks with extensions on pretty much all of them because i got behind. I was not the strongest at keeping on top of work and the period did prove stressful but i got through it and was relieved in the end. I would say to any one who is feeling worried or anxious is to get help or support fro your work and never struggle on your own. By getting help you can stay on course and reach you end of degree goal!

I look back now and sometimes wish i had worked harder, did things differently and applied myself to gaining more experience. My university experience was great but i wish i had pushed my self more to make more of it. If you work hard you will win and leave with flying colours!

Top Tips for Creating Lasting Memories

You will get as much out of University life as you put in. Having a good work-life balance is key to creating a great journey through University and a lasting memory of your University life once you leave. Her are some of my top tips for tackling University life.

  • Join a doctor and dentist straight away, preferably at Freshers fair if they are there.
  • Sign up to some student societies and sports clubs. These are great ways to make friends, get fit and active, discover new interests but also create something for your CV. Especially if you run a club or society these can be a bonus! By not joining can be a regret when you leave so try them out.
  • Try not over spend and waste your student loan. It is great that you have virtual money but buy the essentials first like food and materials for the course then see what you can budget to spend on things you like.
  • Party most in your first year but tone down by your last. Your first year doesn't exactly count towards your degree , you just need a pass mark of 40% to move successfully on to your second year. This stands at 25% towards your degree and your final year is 75%. So if you like to do nights out do it most in your first year but knuckle down as you move into the second and final year. At the end of the day it is your future and education!
  • Stay on top of work even if you are presented with distractions. This will stop a lot of stress and worry because you will not have to rush around trying to get it done last minute. Get it out the way first and then play hard!
  • Stay safe in more ways than one. You will meet a lot of new people and make new friends, potentially which could lead to more. Always carry protection and get regular check-ups at your local clinic. Most students under 25 get free contraceptives from their local clinics.
  • Use the library and increase your marks. The internet is a great resource but not everything what you read is factual. Mix up your research and referencing with the use of both books and the web resources to gain a stronger piece of work.
  • Always ask for help and feedback. Never hold any thing in as it could be your key to unlocking that 2.1 and even a 1st degree. It will only help you improve what you have written and push it towards better grading.
  • Halls can be fun but respect your your house mates. Keeping clean is important so you do not trend on peoples toes. There is nothing worse than hair in the plug or dishes left everywhere. Keep on top of it all and you will ever ones best friend!

Studying Law? This might come in useful!

Me on graduation day

Graduation

Graduation in the UK is usually around July time but it can vary. Mine was in July and luckily i experienced great weather. We rented our gowns early in the morning (our graduation robes) and also booked in for pictures for later in the day.Most of it was spent chatting to my friends and fellow graduates as well as my teachers. It was a nice atmosphere and there was ridiculous amounts of picture taking but i knew this was one of the last times i would be everyone i spent the last three years with.The photo sessions were off us holding a roll or parchment in our robes looking all very smart. Many of us holding smiles, mostly genuine some not .I personally wished i had not shaved all my beard off!

The ceremony itself had a band playing some grand music on brass instruments followed by a number of different speeches. These spanned from lecturers to people high up in the University and people from different departments. At times it felt long winded but the messages that the speakers had to say resonated among many. The room its self was divided into family and friends and then the graduates on the other side. Most of the lecturers were right at the front. It felt amazing to see my friends next to me, people i had gone on a creative journey with over the past three years. We had made it and got our degrees and moments like those are ones that i will always remember.

Eventually we all took out turn to walk across the stage and shake an important persons hand where cameras would be flashing. As we came of the stage we were handed our degrees in an envelope , where we then headed back to our seats. After the ceremony the rest of the day was spent talking to fellow graduates, taking more pictures and enjoying the atmosphere one last time before heading either home home or to a newly established home in the city.


My class of 2011 graduation hoodie

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© 2015 Robert Beeton

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