Preparing for University life; a student perspective

Swat 5

The afternoon of the SWAT Conference began with a keynote speech from Alice and Sai, both students at the University of Exeter. Alice a third year International Relations student from Kings School Ottery St Mary and Sai a first year Medical Sciences student from Torquay Girls School.

They spoke with passion and enthusiasm, and gave a very insightful account of how they feel schools can effectively prepare their sixth form students for university life.


Ensure students learn how to use the Harvard referencing system during Sixth Form

Be familiar with and practice university style essays

Offer opportunities for independent learning, Alice suggested giving students a topic, they go away and research it and then pitch it to you.

Offer informed advice about choosing the right course and make sure students are aware that they can switch courses once at universities, if they feel that they have made the wrong choice. 

Emotional advice:

Drinking– both students felt pressured to drink to excess, particularly during Freshers Week and if their choice at University was to not drink at a social outing they felt they had received a negative response from others. Ensure you surround yourself with people that respect your choices and don’t feel pressured into binge drinking if it really isn’t for you.

Sexism and attitudes to women– encourage men to treat women as academic and social equals. Both girls had experienced sexism at Uni and feel that schools have a role to play in educating young people about this. Are boys surrounded by strong positive female role models at school? Do single sex schools provide opportunities for males and females to mix? Alice and Sai suggested mixed workshops and reinforcing attitudes against sexism from a young age.

Mental Health– Ensure students know that feelings of anxiety and stress are normal and that it is typical of students to feel that way when adapting to university life. This will help to ease the pressure and to know that they are not alone in feeling like that.

Reinforce integrity and values in your students as this will stand them in good stead at Uni. Sai in particular felt that her school had always developed her confidence and she was always told that she would do well and be successful. She really felt that by having positive values and attitudes reinforced throughout her school life, she had been able to transfer them to university life. Instill your students with confidence so that they believe in themselves and their ability.

Final comments:

Make sure students make informed choices.

Don’t put yourself in an ‘academic box’, A Levels are not everything and students should be encouraged to broaden their horizons.

Have a backup plan, things don’t always go to plan and turn out as you expect.

Their presentation encouraged me to reflect on what we do at DHSB and how we could extend the support and advice we offer. I feel that we provide and offer many of the things they suggested but would like to explore this further and develop this further.

It was fantastic to see Alice and Sai speak with such confidence and honesty. A highlight of the conference.

Nicola Randles @randlesnicola

Geography Teacher & Deputy Head of House


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