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University vs School – What’s the difference?

University vs School – What’s the difference?

Whilst attending university is an extension of your education, the differences you encounter between school and university can sometimes be a bit of a culture shock.

Naturally these will take some adjusting to, but just so you can prepare, here are the main differences you’ll come across during your time at University.


Single subject

For the first time in your academic life, you’ll be studying just one subject (or two in the case of joint degrees) rather than the several different topics you studied at A-level and GCSE.  This doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be easier – although it should provide much more focus for you. 

Whilst studying for one subject may not provide as much variety as you had during your A-levels, you’ve hopefully chosen your course because it’s something you genuinely enjoy and find interesting.  Finding your specialism at university will make it easier to pursue a career once you graduate. 

Independent thinking

Your lectures and tutorials will be informative and will form guidance for your course – but don’t expect to be completely spoon-fed the facts in the same way that your teachers did with you in school.  At university, you’ll need to do a lot of your own independent research, and you’ll be expected to give your own opinions.  You’ll be free to challenge others, as they will with you.  It’s certainly a much more rigorous experience than at school, but a truly worthwhile one that will help to develop your knowledge and skills.


Whilst you had continuous lessons each and every day at school, you’ll find your university timetable looks a little different, with just a few lectures and tutorials dotted throughout the week. 

This doesn’t mean that all the empty space is free time – at university you’ll be expected to undertake a lot of the work under your own steam.  However it’s entirely up to you how and when you study – self-discipline and time management are key skills that you’ll need to develop.

Staff/student relationship

Even during your A-levels you were probably still calling your teacher Mrs. X or Mr. Y.  At university there is much less formality so you’ll have more of a relaxed relationship with your tutors, and you’ll usually address them by their first name.  No matter the difference – it’s still embarrassing when you call your lecturer ‘mum’ by mistake.


Living away from home

If you’re going to University in your home town this can be a great way of saving money and the change might not be so drastic, however if you are moving away this will be a significant lifestyle change for you.

You’ll need to become somewhat of a responsible adult as you won’t have anyone to cook or clean for you.  You’ll need to start buying your own food and managing your own finances.  You’ll have to learn to live with other people that aren’t member of your family.

Yes living away from home can bring its stresses but it also gives you your own freedom, no set rules and the chance to make some great new friends.

Fellow students

Many people find that the friends they make at university are ‘friends for life’ and there’s a good reason.  Unlike at school where you are thrown together will all and sundry from your local community, university gives you the opportunity to meet a wide diversity of students from all across the country (and the world) and you are more likely to meet people that are on the same wavelength and share the same views. 

Whilst university may be completely different to school – bringing with it, its own set of challenges – you’ll soon learn to love your new life and all the people you meet on the way!

About the author

Heather Collin

Heather Collin

Heather graduated from University in History and English and has spent the last ten years working in Marketing, PR and Events.  She currently works in Digital Communications at Wrexham Glyndwr.

To get in touch with Heather please email