College and university: SWAP students speak about the differences
Ben, a first year Philosophy student at the University of Edinburgh gives us his thoughts on how it’s been for him:

‘’The biggest difference between being a student at college in comparison to university is the independence given to you. While college is a classroom environment reminiscent of high school, University expects you to be self-led. This can a good or a bad thing depending on you. As classroom sizes for undergrad courses are commonly in the hundreds, it’s easy to feel detached.

The good news however is the range of support networks available. While you may only meet your personal tutor once a semester at Edinburgh, there are still tons of subject related societies offering vital peer-support. This is something that the smaller classrooms of college helped cultivate, which you can recapture in university with effort.

The support offered is also great for reinforcing your learning before exams. You will likely have three modules in the first semester with midterms and finals for each. Some schools at Edinburgh offer a service where you can book immediate essay feedback, over video call, twice per semester. This is a great way to have a critical eye to look over your work.

Day-to-day you are attend lectures and tutorials, learning and reinforcing the material. Also a significant amount of at-home reading is expected of you. The amount of reading across the modules may be the greatest difference between college and university, so make sure you love the content you choose to learn!”

Melanie, a second year Nursing student at the University of Dundee, says:

“In March 2020, as the pandemic hit and people close to me became very ill, I wanted to reach out and help. It was then I decided to go back into education and start my career in nursing. With heaps of motivation and a fire in my belly, I enrolled on the SWAP Access to Nursing programme via Perth College. In 2021, I passed the programme and was offered a place at the University of Dundee studying a BSc in Adult Nursing.

My transition from college to university seemed daunting. Initially I worried about everything. “How would I fit in?” “How would I manage the balance between family and university life?” “How would I cope with exams?” What I didn’t realis was how well the SWAP Access to Nursing programme prepares you for university life. The critical skills you learn and develop at college allow you to hit the ground running in the first year of university. The structure and are very similar to university. The transition was smooth and positive with many elements just like college.

During your first week, you are allocated an Advisor of Studies (AOS) who supports your three-year nursing journey. You can discuss a range of topics with them, like course concerns, financial issues, personal issues and health and well-being. This support was vital.  The biggest challenge in my transition was becoming an academic student overnight, with the huge emphasis on self-directed, evidence-based research; I recognised I quickly needed to take ownership of my own learning, building learning strategies and further develop my reading skills to deepen my knowledge and understanding.

To anyone feeling anxious and nervous about going to university, this is normal, everyone experiences first-year jitters. Be proactive, enthusiastic and open to new learning experiences. You are ultimately the only one responsible for your time and experiences at university, so grab it with both hands and enjoy the ride, it passes in a flash.”

this short film with SWAP students giving advice on making the transition from college to university.


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