Not that I can speak for the university experience as a whole, but from my past two years being a student and the countless TV dramas and films I've watched, my misconception busting skills are upper second class. There's a lot of assumptions and preconceptions out there, but I'll keep this shortish I promise. And what we see onscreen is a big part of the perceiving problem. Even as a kid I'd internalise American colleges and high schools, just wishing Britain would up their education game. No such luck. University in Britain is a completely different uni-verse to our Atlantic counterparts, and I'm about to debunk some of the misconceptions you've read or seen over the years whether you're a parent, pupil or a little too curious family member. Read on for truth.
1. Everyone at university gets drunk, all of the time.
There is no denying that university isn't a starting point for alcoholism, but believe it or not, not everyone is out there downing the shots. I've seen my fair share of student digs and yes, cans, bottles and plastics literally pile up forming another wall, but there's a lot of us, including me, that prefer a quiet night in. So, if you're heading to university, don't feel as though you have to participate in the student drinking culture every evening. When choosing halls, you can, with most accommodation, choose to be with non-drinkers or "quiet" flatmates. The best thing is to find people who match your aura. A lot of people go to uni for the social side, so if that's not entirely you, that's okay. Even if you don't drink, that doesn't forbid you from going out with people who do or from having fun. Far from it. Just do what you're comfortable with and find friends that accept you either way.
2. You'll meet all of your friends in freshers week
The first week or few of university is not where everything happens. While it depends on your Myers Brigg's personality type, or if you live in halls or not, it could take you any amount of time to make those lifelong connections. Especially with the pandemic, it's become increasingly difficult to make friends; Zoom, unfortunately, doesn't have a friend-making function. Though freshers week, if you managed to have one, is a great way to interact, the more you do at university the more people you meet. From joining lots of different societies, taking part in department quizzes (if you have those), getting involved with open days or student volunteering, going to the uni bars, there's so much you can do instead of freshers to meet friends. I would say freshers is a springboard for those friendships.
3. The first year of university doesn't count
We all get told this. We've all thought it. But if you really want to ace academia, then making your first year at university count is a conception not to miss. While it's true that first year doesn't "count" exactly, you still have to pass, with 40% being the number to hit. If you're at university in the first place, then settling into a third without effort is wrong for a multitude of reasons; the masses of debt being the most significant one. First-year is the best time to make all the mistakes, experiment with your writing style, discover your academic interests. Without trying in my first year, I never would have realised my potential or that where you put a semi-colon really matters! So, it may not count per se, but it should to you.
4. You can't live at your parents' house
As a home student myself, I can say this one is rather peculiar. While halls and living with other people is a large part of the student experience and is something I'd like to do further along my studies, not everyone does. If you're lucky enough to have a university in your home town (and a good one), then living at home is a more affordable and easier option. When you make friends at university, you're more than likely to stay over a lot of the time, so this isn't an escaped experience. The friends you do have that live away, you can visit them whenever they'll have you. That way you can travel across the UK and experience a little more than student shared living.
5. You'll meet your soulmate
If you've seen How I Met Your Mother then you'll know the cutest television couple of all time (one of), Marshmallow and Lilypad who met at university. But unfortunately, for most people at uni, including myself, we live on the Ted Mosby spectrum of dating. This meaning that many many more years are required to find a long term partner. Though it's common to date, experiment or mess around, not everyone will meet the love of their life, so don't go into full panic mode when you don't. After all, we go to university to study rather than meet attractive strangers - though that is a plus. Again, this is one where we can be fooled by the TV shows and films, from HIMYM to Gilmore Girls to When Harry Met Sally. Take the time to study and not settle, that is unless you do find your soulmate.
6. All your friends back home or elsewhere will forget you
This may seem like a harsh sentence and along with that, it's false depending on who your friends actually are or indeed you; I'm hoping you have good friends. Regardless, going away to university will be the first time you'll be away from those you've seen pretty much every day for your entire life, so not seeing them as much can seem like you're leaving them behind. This can be true for mature students; going back into education is time-consuming and may result in you moving halfway across the country too. But university, in actual fact, makes you realise who your friends are. There's a lot going on, from freshers to hefty reading lists to settling in, it's natural to drift a little and use your time to focus on your current needs. In life this will always be the case; things get in the way, but friends don't forget friends.
7. Everyone goes to university at age 18
While it's true that most university students leave sixth form or college and go to higher education, there's a lot of "mature" students around campus. So, don't think otherwise! I say mature in quotations as 23-years plus is far from mature in the age sense. Anyway, for the gen z generation, taking a gap year or three is a "cool" option. Many students over the years take time to discover who they are before taking a big leap into financial debt, so whatever age you decide to go to university, you're going at the right time, eighteen or not. Another two notes are: a global pandemic has resulted in many eighteen-year-olds pushing their education back and nowadays people play catch with their careers. So going to university is certainly less eighteen and more mixedteen.