My experience as a Psychology student at ARU

Lily Bayford

Faculty: Science and Engineering
School: Psychology and Sport Science
Course: BSc (Hons) Psychology
Category: Psychology

12 June 2024

BSc (Hons) Psychology student Lily discusses what students considering applying for the course can expect, based on her personal experiences.

When thinking about joining university and deciding what course you may apply for, there are various questions that you may have. Hearing from a current student may be beneficial to get a first-hand perspective on what is in store for you when considering the course.

In this blog post, I will be talking about everything I think would be useful for you as a prospective student considering Psychology at ARU. This ranges from how the course is laid out, to things I have learnt and the change from college to university.

How you will be taught throughout your ARU Psychology degree

One of the most important things to decide whether a course is for you is the teaching style a university has to offer. This was one of my main requirements when looking for my course, as I knew what style benefitted me and how I learn best.

Throughout your Psychology degree at ARU, you will be taught through lectures and seminars. Lectures will teach you the content of your module, and you will be able to take notes on the content, and you may want to do some follow-up research on topics of interest to you. Seminars will encourage discussion on the week’s lectures, offering a more in-depth conversation with each other and additional taught content.

Lectures and seminars will usually last 1-2 hours, and some lectures may happen multiple times a week, but this depends on the number of credits the module is, as this determines how much work needs to go into the module. This will require you to be on campus around three times a week, which is beneficial for me because I am a commuting student, and this allows me on the other days to either work at my part-time job or do some independent research.

During each term you will be required to produce different pieces of work, mainly coursework, which includes assignments where you will have 2-3 pieces for each module spread through the term. This can include 1,000-word essays or an infographic.

As well as this, some modules require you to complete Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs) which are closed-book mini exams, and you will have three of these in each module which requires them.

This module layout is how I was taught in first and second year, but when you enter third year you will choose what modules you would like to take, and these vary in their use of exams, coursework, or presentations for assessment.

What my university experience taught me

I was sceptical about going back to university after going to a previous university and not feeling like it was for me, but returning after that setback has taught me that I can do hard things. Going to university is hard, and if it wasn’t, everyone would do it.

Specifically on my Psychology degree, I have learnt how much time and effort goes into research in the psychological field, sometimes taking months or years. Being taught how to conduct my own research and reading other people’s research shows how much thought goes into people’s work and has given me a real appreciation for researchers.

As well as this, during first and second year you are taught multiple modules, ranging from being taught about mental health disorders to statistical tests. Being able to learn multiple different fields in psychology has taught me there is so much more to explore, and sometimes your main interests you don’t even know about yet, which is so exciting.

It has been interesting to see different ways in which our brain works and different things which impact our behaviour, and this has opened my eyes into what niche I want to go into when I complete my degree.

What I wish I'd known before I started my degree

There are multiple things it would have helped me to know before joining university.

For example, I may have just been naïve, but I didn’t realise how much work university would be. Having multiple different modules at the same time with different assignment due dates can be really overwhelming and it’s so important to keep on top of it. Now, going into my third year, I want to prioritise my organisational skills which I have developed throughout my two years at university.

One way which helps me keep on top of my workload is writing down all my assignment due dates in a calendar at the start of the trimester, usually a handwritten one for me personally. This helps me get organised into what needs doing now, and what can be done later. This enables me to get started on tasks which are essential in the present, and then the to-do list isn’t so overwhelming.

Another thing I wish I knew – or wish I had previously developed – was the level of independence university requires you to have. A lot of your coursework and reading will be independent and done in your free time, so you must be very disciplined into when you are going to do this. You have to be hard on yourself sometimes for when you are going to fit in this extra reading, otherwise things won’t get done. Having this discipline earlier would’ve enabled me to get my work done quicker as well as limiting my stress levels.

On the other hand, you do also need downtime to recharge. I have recently learnt in one of my lectures that students who take a few days away from their work and then come back to it get better grades. Personally, this has really helped me, as I come back with a fresh set of eyes and can notice mistakes I have made or things that don’t quite make sense. Again, this would have benefitted me if learnt earlier as my stress levels wouldn’t be as high and I would’ve allowed myself to have that downtime without any guilt.

How university differs from college

Going from college to university can be a real jump and can be quite scary. You’re in a new environment, with new people and a new way of learning.

Firstly, I must say that especially in your first year, there are huge amounts of support from lecturers in terms of academic writing and wellbeing to check in with yourself during a huge adjustment. I think in college you think you are all grown up and feel like an adult, but for me, university was my step into adulthood and trying to find my way in the real world.

One massive difference I noticed going into university was that there is no one to push you into getting your work done. It is all about self-discipline, and although you get loads of support with the research and reading side of your work such as Study Skills Plus, if you don’t get your assignments done, it's on you. This is the way of the real world, and you only get out of something what you put in.

As well as this, making friends is a lot different than college. Seminars are the easiest way in which you can make connections, but you may only be seeing that person once a week, compared to multiple times in college. Therefore, you have to put yourself out there and go out of your comfort zone to make connections and build friendships. Ways in which you can do this is joining societies or clubs, or just asking someone to study with you in the library after class.

I don’t mean to make this all sound daunting, because you should look forward to your university experience, it is such an exciting time in your life. So many people thrive in university and it can be beneficial for your growth as a person as well as developing all the skills you already have.

This obviously is all personal experience, so what may be hard for me may for easy for you to do. I hope I summarised what you may expect when becoming a Psychology student at ARU, and if you decide to apply, good luck! Thank you so much for reading.

Lily studies Psychology at ARU in Cambridge. Find out more about this and other degree courses at one of our Open Days.


The views expressed here are those of the individual and do not necessarily represent the views of Anglia Ruskin University. If you've got any concerns please contact us.