The Change from College to University

The Change from College to University

My College Experience

I had done a HNC in social sciences at college, this was a course that gave a very broad overlook on different topics. The topics involved in this course were: psychology, sociology, criminology, history, politics and methodology. These all got assessed through essay writing and assessments. I felt that college was a great stepping stone into university as it made me aware of the skills I needed. Due to the mass of people doing the course, classes were grouped so I was always in a class with the same people throughout the year, these classes were small and didn’t consist of more than twenty students.  The course work consisted of a lot of assessments and reports, each topic had different deadlines and guidelines – it could be confusing at times and blackboard reminders weren’t active at the time. The end of year exam was a three-hour exam called the Graded Unit which determined my grade and whether I would get into university, this was a nerve-wracking exam but helped to manage the stress of exams when in university. College was a great chance to discover what it was like to study independently and use online portals which were not available in earlier education.

University – First Impressions

Upon the first day of lectures at the university it was a very different environment, the transition of being in small classes of no more than twenty people compared to the hundreds of people in one lecture hall took some digesting. Although this allowed for a more relaxed learning environment. The lectures were all very engaging and only an hour long which was a refreshing change from college which was a consistent two hours upwards per class. The seating in lecture halls was vast and allowed for some testing of where the ‘preferred’ seat was, an odd detail I didn’t realise would matter. The online learning portal (MyAberdeen) was a large improvement compared to the college student portal, deadlines were easier to locate, powerpoints were clearly labelled and the overall structure of it is easy to navigate and understand.

Psychology Theory Course

The psychology course seemed somewhat similar to college, the course is split into two sections – theory and methodology. Theory classes had three lectures a week and looked at three different areas in psychology (such as personality, social psychology, biological psychology, psychological assessment and many more), lectures were easy to digest and a new and very beneficial aspect of learning was that lectures are all recorded. The setback I felt in my studies was the first essay. Having done essays before I was reasonably confident I could write one. My difficulty came in when there was not a clear checklist of points to cover in the essay, it took time to discover the independence needed when writing essays at university and not relying on a checklist – support services are regularly available during these deadlines, whether going to peer support groups or emailing staff members. I never felt as though I was completely in the dark and there was encouragement where/when needed. This independence was a valuable trait to develop as it was transferrable to other areas of the course and areas in everyday life.

Psychology Methodology Course

Methodology introduced the computer systems that I didn’t realise were so vital in psychology research. At college it was just the idea of calculating the mean, median and mode. The methodology course aims to make students aware of these systems, learn how to use them and provide as much help needed along the way. Along with this new material there was also a research project which was done in small groups, this is where I discovered my social circle. The research project went well for a first attempt, gathering participants was a slow but progressive experience as it was independent. Following on from the research and into the report writing was a comfortable experience, similar to the theory essays the report is a chance to be more independent in the writing but while also abiding by certain standards. The online materials available for this report was generous with a break-down of each section and how to write it in an analytic but clear manner. The methodology course provided a variety of transferable skills, such as: the communication with fellow group members and peers, furthering the independence in report writing, using the statistical computer systems and providing innovative ideas for research application.

SONA – Psychology Research

SONA is the research participation system where psychology students who are in fourth year can gather participants for their thesis projects. From first year through to third year there is a target each student should meet per semester showing active participation in these studies. SONA is a great way to feel comfortable being a participant, discover the research lab experience and feel rewarded for helping fellow peers. Having participated in many of these experiments it has assisted in making me feel more comfortable and ready when I am the researcher rather than the participant. As a side note – for any enthusiastic and curious readers, most experiments provide a debrief and some information into their field of research. 

Extra Courses

Side courses at university are endless in choice, going into second year meant picking up two side subjects which interested me. For semester one I chose sociology and history (comfort topics which overlapped with college) and in second semester I did another sociology class and tried my hand at philosophy. The side subjects all consisted of weekly lectures, but assessment structures varied, such as history being graded on an essay alone compared to philosophy which was graded based on an essay and take-home exam. 


The social dynamics of university varies more compared to college as there is a lot more chance of meeting people who have come from other countries to study, it provides a richer sense of diversity. My first few weeks were interesting while adjusting to walking around campus and hearing so many different languages spoken, it was a refreshing change. Once beginning my research for the methodology course it all clicked nicely, I had actually befriended another direct entry student from a different college which helped ease my ‘new student’ nerves. It made the shock of new coursework shared and I didn’t feel alone in my challenges which helped a lot throughout second year. 

Published by The School of Psychology, University of Aberdeen


  1. #1

    Hi, I read information about your university and i really liked not olny, the way of education but the way you treat your students. Because of that I would really like to continue my education in your university.

    1. Carolyn Porter

      That's great to hear! If you have any questions please get in touch and we'll be happy to answer them.

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