Coming from College- Hear from our students

We welcome students every year from College into a number of degree programmes. The students below have come from HNC/D or SWAP courses directly into their chosen subject area. Use the drop down to read about their experiences and tips for students looking to move from College to University. 

David Gray - Mechanical Engineering (with Oil & Gas Studies)

Course: BEng (Hons) Mechanical (with Oil & Gas Studies) Engineering
College route: HND Mechanical Engineering at NESCoL

What do you wish you knew before studying at University?
I knew it was going to be difficult from the start. But if I’d known more about MATLAB before starting, that would have made me feel much better. Being good at MATLAB as an engineering student allows you to streamline such a vast amount of work. Find out what software you’ll be using, see if you can get a hold of a student license, download it and play around over the summer. Or, Youtube tutorials and just try to absorb it if you can.
  
Did you always plan on coming to university or did you decide whilst at college?
I planned on coming to uni when I left school, but didn’t get the all the Highers I needed in S5. The choices were to go back for S6 or go to college and I chose college. I soon found that I wasn’t mature enough for college as a 17 year old, and college was different back then as everyone doing HNC/D was in their late mid to late 20s, and I was the baby. It was intimidating, not like it is now. So I left college after the first year and went and got an apprenticeship as a car mechanic. The oil-price crash of 2014/15 was bad for the job market and I lost my job at an oilfield services company. I took the opportunity that had presented itself to use the lull in the market and upskill. 
 
What surprised me the most about the transition from college to University?
The reliance you have to put on finding information outside of some of the provided lecture notes, and how much I referred to YouTube for help with topics! There is a wealth of information on YouTube on everything you’ll study as an engineering student. Make use of it all.
 
What was the most difficult part of coming from college to university?
Going from 2 days a week to having to pretty much be here 9-5, 5 days a week was a trip. We had a big transition at home with this increase in days, my youngest had to start going to a childminder. Luckily enough, the university has a Childcare Fund that you can apply to as a full-time student if you get the full student loan amount from SAAS. I wouldn’t have been able to go to uni without this help in paying those fees.
  
Was it more difficult to make friends coming in to university with advanced entry?
I came in to 3rd year with 2 guys I came up from college with, we all did HND in Mechanical at NESCol, and had all been pals since the second or third week of the first term in college. I made the concerted effort to sit quite close to the front of each lecture, and it just happened that the guy that sat front row, centre seat was another direct entry student who had come up the year before from Edinburgh college. I’ve made a lot of friends. Being that I was so much older than the majority of people that I was studying with it did feel strange to be able to connect with so many people. 
 
What is a typical day for you?
4 – 5 sessions of an hour duration each, majority of that is lectures and perhaps a tutorial session or computer practical session. That’s another change from college. College classes were almost 2 hours long, you could sit down and do a good amount of work in that time. Uni timeslots are brief, which is why it’s important to have done tutorial questions before turning up to tutorial sessions, so that you can be the first to hold up your hand, ask a question and get the advice you need. But there are days through the term when you’ve only got 1 class of maybe 2 hours length. In 3rd year 2nd semester, mechanical students have a 3 hour computer practical session on a Friday afternoon where you will be doing your group design class. 

What do you want to do once you graduate?
 I was on track for getting a job straight out of 4th year, but covid-19 stopped that. Was looking for graduate/entry-level engineer positions, preferably field-based as I’ve always wanted to do offshore/international work. 

What was the biggest challenge being a parent whilst at university?
The biggest problem was definitely time, being able to put in as much studying as I thought and then being able to carry out my duties as a husband and father. My eldest was 5 when I started at NESCol, youngest was 6 months old, my wife (fiancée at the time) was pregnant with him when I lost the job with the oilfield services company I was with. This caused major problems obviously, but it was because of all this that her employer became much more accommodating so this helped us a lot.  

NESCol was 2 days a week, when I was at college my wife was home and was able to handle both kids. When I was not a college, she went to work and I was the parent. Uni is obviously very different, five days a week. We couldn’t afford for my wife not to work, simply would not have been able to do these last two years without the university’s Childcare Fund. I can’t stress enough how much of a godsend it was. 

These problems arose really because I found it impossible to study at home. If you’re a single parent and have a very helpful retired/not working grandparent that can help with your little people you’ll be in a better situation than me. 

Do you have any advice for someone starting university that is a parent?

The catch-all statement would be to make sure you make the absolute best use of your time away from your kids. This will allow you to minimise your time away from your kids. 

If you have partner you need to make sure that your partner doesn’t feel like a single parent, otherwise they’ll end up resenting you. This is what I meant about being at uni even when I didn’t have a class on so that I could study. This way, you can be a parent/partner when you are home and not have to have the books out and the laptop on. But they also need to know the pressure you are under is real. 
If you need to make use of childcare facilities, get in touch with Student Support ASAP. There is a nursery on the campus but places fill up fast with the kids of lecturers, university staff and other students. There’s an 8am-5.30pm nursery not far from the campus (Abacus Nursery, King Street) as well if you don’t get in to the uni’s nursery. The manager there was very accommodating of us, and she understands the ways that the university allocates the Fund.
 
Make sure you attend tutorials with questions to ask about problems you’ve had whilst attempting the tutorial questions. The lecturers will be more accommodating of any problems you have with tasks down the line if they know you are putting in the effort. Class schedules might change week on week but keep yours and your children’s schedules as consistent as possible, I think this will help you keep on track.
 

Lisa Stewart - Law

Course: LLB Law 
College route: SWAP East

Did you always plan on coming to university or did you decide whilst at college?
I always planned to come to university from college, that was my reason for going to college.

What do you wish you knew before studying at University?
I wish I had known about referencing before coming to university. We did learn Harvard referencing but different schools such as law use different referencing such as Oscola and that took a bit of getting use to and learning. 

What was the most difficult part of coming from college to university?
The most difficult part was as a mature student making friends as the majority of the students are young but I have been lucky and have been able to make friends with a few of my fellow students and I think you do have to put yourself out there and be open to making friends with younger students. 

What is a typical day for you?
A typical day for me is getting all my children ready for school/childminder in morning before heading to university. I usually have 3/4 lectures a day and sometimes tutorials every other week. If I have large breaks between lectures I usually will go to the library to get my notes or any reading done or to study. I’m usually in university all day 4 times a week. I try to study and do any reading in the evening or if I have any essays I’ll do my research for those.

What course do you find the most interesting?
The courses that I have found most interesting is criminal law and private law

What do you want to do once you graduate?
I hope to become a practicing solicitor when I finished with my studies. 

What is the biggest challenge being a parent and studying at University?
I think the biggest challenge being a parent is balancing your time between studying and time with your children, but having a strict routine helps so much. Having a timetable with all your daily activities where you can slot in time for studying as well as family time. Also having activity boxes such as arts and crafts that can keep little ones occupied while you study. My little girl loves to copy me so we have a toy laptop and she loves to pretend she’s doing her essays just like mummy and keeps her occupied while I work. But routine and being organised is essential to balance everything.

What advice would you give a parent starting university?
My biggest advice would be to organise your childcare for the whole year. This can save you money especially during holidays when you don’t need childcare such as Christmas and Easter but do take school holidays into account that you will be in university. It takes the stress out of worrying about childcare during holidays if you are prepared and organised at the very beginning. Also don’t worry if your children are ill most lectures are recorded so you can listen to them from home and if you have a tutorial email straight away and let them know and they will organise another tutorial you can attend at a different time but they will only do this if it’s a genuine reason for being off. 

Bethany Hume - Psychology

Course: MA Psychology
College route: HNC in Social Studies

What do I wish I knew before studying at University?
I wish I had known how important it is to take each day as it comes. It was an overwhelming experience with all the welcome emails, events and class schedules and left me a bit confused. It was best to focus on one thing each day – what societies to join is a Tuesday job, figuring out the timetable on a Thursday and so on. Another thing I wish I knew beforehand was the importance of initiative when entering the university, there are a lot of opportunities available and it can be difficult to figure out what you’re looking for or who to ask for help. Initiative is a very important characteristic to have when looking at opportunities, so to optimise the experiences that are offered.


Why I did not stay in student accommodation?
This was a personal choice for me, I moved from Morayshire with my partner and we wanted to have a place of our own. I think living situations are a personal choice, I prefer privacy and quiet where others may prefer to be around fellow students. There isn’t a right or wrong choice in where to live. 


Did you always plan on coming to university or did you decide whilst at college?
Throughout high school I had been determined to study psychology, unfortunately I didn’t get the grades. College was a steppingstone to get the correct grades and helped to support my decision making as to which university I wanted to go to. After attending open days I was most drawn to Aberdeen for a number of reasons, the introduction talk, staff made so much effort to get to know possible students and answer any questions, the university was easy to navigate and the student volunteers talked about their experiences. I couldn’t imagine an alternate world where I went somewhere different.


What surprised me most about the transition from college to university?
My biggest surprise in the transition was the technology-based procedures, such as registering, choosing classes and making my own timetable. This was all new to me and it took some time to figure out this system but when I did it was easier to navigate. Online learning is a great tool that I hadn’t used too much beforehand, lectures are recorded and uploaded so learning doesn’t end after the class. At college most things were handed out on paper so when getting used to the new way of doing everything online it was surprising at first.


What was the most difficult part of coming from college to university?
The most difficult part of coming from college to university was the sheer size difference in everything, bigger classes, bigger campus, more students, more emails and more expectations over the classes. 


What is the best thing about course/studying at university?
The best part of my course is discovering all of the areas of psychology that I didn’t know about before The course helped me to gain a broader understanding of what areas of psychology interest me and which ones don’t. 

What is a typical day for you?
The days vary a lot. In second year, I had quite a lot of classes and was in the university a lot more than in third year where there are less classes but more independent studying. During times where an essay was due, I would be in the library a lot more to focus and be around all the resources necessary. After finishing at university, I would spend evenings exercising and spending time with family. Most other students would probably also have society or club activities too.


What do you want to do once you graduate?
I have spent a lot of time figuring this question out for myself. I do not have a specific interest or career path that I am fixated on. Doing a postgraduate degree seems like a good option to become more specialised and try to narrow in on my area of interest. 
 

Michael Walker- Civil Engineering

Course: BEng (Hons) Civil Engineering
College route: HND in Mechanical Engineering at NESCoL

What do you wish you knew before studying at University?
I wish I knew that everyone is in the same boat. Before I came I thought that everyone would be much smarter than me but by the time exams rolled around I found out the whole year found it just as hard as I had.

Did you stay on University campus?
I already had accommodation in place before starting university but I would definitely stayed in halls if I were in the position. Hillhead is really a fantastic facility and there's lots of social events going on there.

Did you always plan on coming to university or did you decide whilst at college?
I decided at college, I was only there for a HNC to wait out the oil crash but found I really liked studying.

What it is like to have a part time job whilst studying at university?
Tough, Especially in 3rd year. The university policy recommends no more than 15 hours of work per week but I think even this is too much. I'd say 12 hours is the maximum manageable working week while studying.

What surprised you the most about the transition from college to University?
With the summer school there weren't any surprises for me, I had a good idea of what to expect.

What was the most difficult part of coming from college to university?
Jumping from 2 day weeks to a real full time 5 day/week course. 

What is the best thing about your course/studying at University? 
There isn't anything that stands out but the whole course is well designed, there isn't anything I don't think is useful. I really like the campus as a place to be and the Taylor library for studying.

Was it more difficult to make friends coming into university with advanced entry?
Absolutely not, you'll see your class every day for the next 12 weeks so making friends is pretty easy.

What is a typical day for you?
I'll get up around 6 and head to ASV before class then I'll be on campus from 9 to around 530. 
Then I'll head home for supper and try switch off for the night, I try to avoid working at night.

Is studying at university much more difficult than college?
Yes, without a doubt. It's not that the content is much harder but rather the amount of content there is, for engineering at least I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say 1 course at University is about half a years’ worth of college work.

What societies are you a part of?
Yes! I joined the boxing club in the second semester of 4th year and I wish I started sooner.

What do you want to do once you graduate?
I want to be a civil engineer, hopefully I can get to Canada to work.


 

Stuart Watt - Mechanical Engineering

Course: BEng (Hons) Mechanical Engineering
College route: HND in Mechanical Engineering at Edinburgh College

What do I wish I knew before studying at University?
Everyone says it but building a network is vital to doing well at university. Make friends, help each other, speak to lecturers, build relationship and maintain them. That's definitely the formula to be successful at university. The summer school (Engineering Transitional Summer School) is a fantastic opportunity to meet people who are in a similar place in life to you so use it to get to know your peers and keep in contact with each other.

Did you always plan on coming to university or did you decide whilst at college?
Before I started college I didn't think I would ever go to university then after finishing my HNC and being unable to find a job I continued to the HND, then upon completion, again, I struggled to find employment so university felt like the only option. Thankfully, it was definitely a good choice to go to university.

What surprised me the most about the transition from college to University?
The thing that surprised me most about the transition was the genuine interest many lecturers had in students. If you make the effort to get to know lecturers you will find that they are very supportive. I would definitely encourage you to get to know them early on and not to be afraid to ask for help when you are confused, this doesn't have to be during class, most lecturers operate office hours or are always available by email.

What was the most difficult part of coming from college to university?
Personally I found the hardest transition was going from working straight through the day to my day being constantly split up with lectures, tutorials etc. It was hard to keep up as I struggled to study in the little gaps.

What is the best thing about your course/studying at University?
For me personally the best thing about university has been working within ProtoTAU. I joined the society early on, before they had built their first prototype hydrogen vehicle and it has given me some incredible opportunities such as attending a European Hydrogen conference in Brussels, getting in the university's workshop to do some hands on work and even doing BBC interviews.

Was it more difficult to make friends coming in to university with advanced entry?
When I started at Aberdeen University I attended a two week summer school organised by Sally. This gave me the opportunity to make friends before starting and as we where all direct entry students we had a lot in common. We have all kept in contact throughout university and have helped each other.

What is a typical day for you?
My day to day has changed massively throughout university. In second year (when I first entered) I treated university as a 8am to 5pm job as I commuted in from about 30 miles away, this worked really well for me. Third year is crazy busy and with lectures and tutorials being more spread out I spent a lot more time studying on weekends because I find it difficult to sit and study in an hour gap. Then fourth year gets quieter, the workload is definitely more but feels like less than third year as it is mostly end of semester deadlines. 


Is studying at university much more difficult than college?
In my personal experience it's just very different. The bar is definitely set higher but if you are well driven in college and do very well, then you are definitely capable or doing well at university. At college usually you spend blocks of your day in class whereas in university you'll have a lecture for an hour then a two hour break then a tutorial then a lecture then a break... etc. If you're good at studying in those short gaps you will excel at university but, if like me, you struggle to study in these gaps its a big adjustment. My advice would be to be honest with yourself, if you aren't good at studying for short bursts then use that time for social time or other constructive things and find other time in your day to study.

What societies are you a part of?
I am the Mechanical Manager for ProtoTAU, the university's Shell Eco-Marathon team. There are many societies at the university, enough to keep anyone with any interests satisfied. I would definitely encourage anyone to get involved in societies, whether they be sport, social or engineering. It's a great place to make friends and get opportunities and having involvement in societies definitely helps you when job searching. Also, the earlier you get involved the easier it is to maintain your involvement when university work starts eating up more time, it's also a great distraction from revision.

What do you want to do once you graduate?
I have been very lucky to find employment at the Astronomy Technology Centre (ATC) in Edinburgh working for the Science Technology Facilities Council. There I will be working as a Graduate Design Engineering designing and building instruments for telescopes. If you had asked me before I went to the assessment centre for this job I would have told you I want to work in heavy industry or automotive, but after meeting the people working at the ATC I discovered that it really was my dream job.