Transition from high school to university

When you are at secondary school, you will attend the same type of classes for a certain number of years. You have probably heard that things are different at university, but do you know exactly what the differences are? Knowing about these differences will help you to prepare before you start university.

The main differences at a glance

  • Greater amount of learning materials: the materials that are used in Pre-university Secondary Education are often clearly divided into paragraphs for each lesson and the teaching methods are designed for school pupils. A great deal more materials are used in university lectures, and these are also more abstract. The chapters or articles are not always written with the student in mind, but rather for scientists in general.
  • Lectures and exams: even though you are currently used to spending the whole day at school, when you get to university you will only attend classes a few times a week. These classes may be lectures or seminars. Lectures are given in a large hall where the lecturer explains the material, and this information is then absorbed by the students. During the seminars, you will focus your attention on the material. For this purpose, you will often need to prepare an assignment. In your free time, you will prepare for lectures and study for exams. Examination weeks are usually held four times per academic year.
  • English literature: research is usually written up in English, so that it can be read by scientists all over the world. As a result, most of the literature is in English. Experience has shown that students get used to this quite quickly, but feel free to approach the lecturer during a seminar if there is something that you don’t understand. If you have any doubts about your level of English, take a look at the English courses that are offered by Radboud in’to Languages.
  • More freedom and independence: university students have fewer contact hours. You will often be expected to work with the materials independently. This type of freedom will require more discipline. Your academic progress will also not be monitored so closely at university, because you will be responsible for your own progress. 
  • Number of contact hours: during the first year of university, you will have around 15 to 20 hours of lessons per week. This will vary for each study programme. In addition to your lessons, you will need to allow time for studying. You will ultimately need to devote about 40 hours a week to your study programme.

Students’ experiences

In this vlog, students Yara and Alex explain what the differences are between school and university and they talk about their own experiences. 

How is an academic study programme structured?

A Bachelor’s study programme at a research university usually takes three years to complete. The first-year courses are compulsory. These will give you a good idea about the rest of the study programme and the specialisations within the programme. This will help you to figure out what you enjoy most. At the end of the academic year, you will receive your binding study advice (BSA), which will determine whether you are allowed to continue your studies. In the second and third years of the programme, you will have more options. For example, you will be able to choose elective courses and a minor. Elective courses will enable you to deepen your knowledge within a field of study, while a minor will allow you to expand your knowledge. You will usually take a minor in your third year. You may choose to take a minor in a different field of study and even take your minor at another university.

Conducting scientific research

During a study programme at a research university, you will learn how to conduct independent scientific research within the field of your chosen study. This is an important part of all research university study programmesThe research that is conducted at Radboud University is of high scientific quality. We aim to use our research to contribute to a healthy, free world with equal opportunities for everyone.

If you are currently in Pre-university Secondary Education and you would like to learn more about conducting scientific research, you may be interested in the activities that the Pre-University College (PUC) organises for Pre-university Secondary Education pupils. You will be able to attend masterclasses, seminars or training courses at Radboud University while you are still at secondary school.

Find out about Pre-University College activities

Watch the video in which Miriam explains how research works.

Student life

There is more to student life than just studying. You can become a member of a study or student association, get a part-time job and take advantage of the Sport Centre facilities in your spare time. The following video gives you a glimpse of a day in the lives of several students.