The difference between studying a Humanities subject at School vs University: English and Drama

Hello! My name is Ferdia and I am in my second year studying English and Drama at Exeter. I am originally from Manchester but I love going to a university far away from home as it has given me an increased sense of independence and responsibility. My favourite thing about studying at Exeter is the size of the university and the fact that it is campus based. I think that as a campus there is an increased sense of community and everyone is really friendly so getting to know people and making new friends couldn’t be easier.

I am writing today about the difference between studying a humanities subject at university compared to studying humanities at school. I would say that the first key difference is the sense of freedom you get at university. At school, you have to study the topics assigned to you by your teacher meaning you may not necessarily enjoy all of them, whereas at university level although there are some compulsory modules, you get the freedom to choose what you want to do and are interested in, making it a lot more enjoyable. For example, in my first year I picked “Introduction to film studies” as one of my English modules. This was really enjoyable as I had never studied film or cinema before, but this freedom of choice had led me to have a real love of film studies and consequently I will be taking a film module as part of my final year.

Another difference is the level of engagement with tutors. In school, you spend most of your time being guided by a teacher whereas at university most of your time is spent in independent study. In an average week, I might have eight to ten hours when I’m led by a tutor – broken down into lectures and seminars. I might have two one to two hour long lectures a week, which will be based on the reading for that week. You will be expected to have done the reading and be prepared. I might also have two two hour long seminars a week. These seminars are a guided discussion led by a tutor based on the reading and further reading for that week. These sessions are really helpful as they make you think about things in a way you might not have thought about before and you can engage with like-minded people. I love the independent aspect of studying a humanities subject as you can learn more about what interests you, and learn more about your writing style, even though you can always go and speak to one of your tutors if you are stuck and they are always more than happy to help.

A difference in essay writing between writing at school level and writing at university level is the criteria you have to fulfil. When writing essays for humanities subjects at GCSE or A level, there are certain assessment objectives you have to fulfil and you are taught how to write an essay in a very specific way. However, at university level, you are given more freedom in the way you can approach an essay question and can develop your own essay writing style. I found this really helpful as at school, I struggled with the way we were taught to write essays and consequently, my marks suffered due to this restriction. However, now I can approach an essay in a way I feel is most suitable and I find that I can write essays with more passion and enthusiasm!

Although I have really enjoyed the increase in freedom in my studies during my time at university, there are also many other things that have made my time at Exeter a special one. I have been very active in societies, including my academic subject societies and also theatre societies which have helped me to make friends and enjoy myself! I hope that this post helps with any questions you might have and I wish you the best of luck studying humanities in the future!

   April 21st, 2020    Exams and Assessment, Higher Education, Lectures and Seminars, Preparing for University, Studying, Undergraduate

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