A student undertaking a 2nd Year Ecology module at Silwood Park CampusMaking the leap from school to university is exciting and scary.

Dr Elizabeth Hauke, a teaching fellow at Imperial, explains the differences and the support on offer to help you succeed.

Studying at university offers you many exciting opportunities to meet new people, find out more about a subject you are interested in and to learn from experts who have dedicated their professional lives to studying and researching a particular discipline.

When you arrive at university, you will quickly notice lots of differences between learning at school and as an undergraduate student at university.

How uni is different from school

Independent learning

You will have lots of lectures and classes with your whole year group – so you will find yourself in a large classroom, lab or lecture theatre with many other students.

You will have many more lecturers and teachers teaching you than at school, and sometimes you may have a different lecturer for each class. This means that you don’t get to know your teachers as closely as at school, and they often don’t get to know you individually either.

I love Dr Hauke’s course. It made you think out of the ‘science’ box. I got to know a lot of new people and use my imagination, while still working hard as a group, getting your ideas out there, while still incorporating everyone’s thoughts. I really liked the part that made me think differently about how to solve a problem."


Both of these things mean that you become a much more independent learner. You can make more decisions about how and what you learn. This is both exciting and scary – it is great to be in control of your own learning, but you also are responsible for making sure that you stay on track and up to date with your classes and prepare well for your assessments.

Although your degree is structured into lots of modules to introduce you to different elements of your subject, there is less structure provided within the work that you do. For example, you can make notes during lectures and revise from research papers, textbooks and internet in whichever way you find the most helpful.

Finally, at university you will be learning about one subject in a lot of detail, instead of studying lots of different subjects at the same time. This allows you to develop a great depth of understanding and helps you to begin to develop expertise that you can follow up with further study or take into the workplace.

Support and resources

Imperial has lots of support and resources in place to help students adjust to learning at university.

I like the way Elizabeth has formed a more personal relationship with us than in other courses. This helps when it comes to feedback and being included. Having lots of teamwork with peer feedback and the chance to take on a leadership role in her classes has increased my confidence and team working abilities"


Each student has a personal tutor to provide support throughout their studies. This provides a familiar point of contact and someone you can discuss your progress with. Together you can talk about things you are finding difficult and things that are going really well.

Many departments also pair new students with older undergraduate students who can help you to find your way around campus, help you navigate the various modules you will study in your first year and give you great advice about how to study and find help with when you need it.

At Imperial, we have a fantastic library where you can access a great many resources – both in print and online. The library also runs many different types of course focusing on study skills and good academic practice.

Expand your horizons

Imperial Horizons

The Imperial Horizons programme is a free set of courses that you can take alongside your degree studies in a protected timetable slot.

I like my Imperial Horizons class in particular because of its smaller size and its gender ratio balance. It has given me a voice and made me realise that my opinion and input is just as important as everyone else’s. It’s inspiring to have a female course leader who has a similar STEM background to mine."


This allows you to follow up other subjects that you might have enjoyed at school, or that you might fancy learning about for the first time.

Because the courses are open to all students, you will find that whatever course you choose, you will find yourself studying alongside students from other degree subjects. This is a great opportunity to meet new people and make new friends.

There are language courses, courses in the humanities and also the courses that I develop that are about problem solving in the real world.

I have focused on creating courses that help students to learn effectively and independently – whether that means writing your own research questions, designing your own projects or working effectively in a team.

Students who take these courses find that the learning skills they develop also help them learn better in their degree studies.

Every course has been developed with students and for students, to create opportunities for everyone to develop the skills they really need the most.

Imperial Success Guide

If you can’t wait to get started, why not take a look at the Imperial Success Guide, an online guide to becoming a successful learner at university?

This interactive resource has lots of information on everything from how to take good notes during a lecture to how to prepare for exams.