Bridging the way from high school to university: A student perspective

In October, students from King’s College London, University of Belgrade, UCLouvain and Aarhus University came together in London to share and discuss their experiences of being first year students and develop ideas to improve the first-year experience across Circle U. 

Photo: Amanda K. Timmermann

As part of Circle U.’s ambition to create an inclusive European University, this project aims to develop student-driven ideas for initiatives which support the social and academic integration of first-year students and build a positive learning environment and student community. 

A student from the University of Belgrade shared the following highlights from the weekend: 

“The experience of intensive group work through brainstorming, exchange of ideas and the creation of new solutions for the challenges faced by first-year students. For me, this was also the first experience of working in an international team at another university.” 

“King's College London organised a tour of London, during which I had the opportunity to get to know the programme coordinators and colleagues from other universities in a more informal way, as well as to see parts of the city which I would not have the chance to see under other circumstances.”

Identifying common challenges and brainstorming ideas 

The students began by sharing experiences of first year at their own university, which enabled them to identify common challenges across the participating institutions, including academic writing, study skills, making new friends, homesickness and managing time and finances. 

After identifying common challenges, the participants moved into mixed university groups to brainstorm ideas about what the first year of university should include more and less of.

More of... and less of...

More of: Communication, Exam Guidance, Campus maps, Peer-to-peer integration, Studying technique support, Help finding housing, Adulting tips - Bank account - Rent, Mental health support and awareness, Concise information, Proper feedback for assessments, Communication between university and students, Introduction to university before applying, Career talks with professional in same industry, Info about what to do with your degree, Counselling from older students, Consistency across faculties, Help managing time, mental health and finances, Financial Counselling, Guidance for living on your own, Help managing/info about academic expectations, Informal social events, Help integrating socially, Clubs/societies, Personalised academic support, Time management support, Non-alcohol events, Better mental health support, Helpful apps and portals for info, and Help between students.

Less of: Pressure, Stress among students, Expenses (renting, books, services), Confusion/getting lost on campus, Anxiety, Physical exam papers, Dropping out, Inconsistencies across departments, Individual work, Financial pressure, Loneliness, Fees, and Rigidity around changing course.

Designing the ideal first year experience

Through a dream boarding exercise, the groups worked to design their ideal first year experience. The dream boards took several different forms, but common themes included pre-university academic writing guidance, mentoring, tutoring and campus tours from older students, the flexibility to change course, feeling empowered to manage housing and finances and being able to strike the right balance between academic and social life.

Next steps

Having designed their dream first year experience, the students developed more concrete ideas for initiatives which address the different challenges they identified. The groups are currently working on communicating about these ideas to reach relevant audiences across Circle U. The final ideas will be revealed soon, look out for more details over the coming weeks!

For more information on this project please contact the Circle U. team in London: circle-u@kcl.ac.uk

Published Nov. 15, 2022 11:56 AM - Last modified Nov. 15, 2022 11:56 AM