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Five things I wish I'd known before starting my arts degree


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Starting University can be a whirlwind experience, but there are a lot of things that they don't tell us at school about what it's going to be like.

Here at TNS, we decided to help out by giving advice to future students based on what we wished we'd known before we started. I am in my final year doing a History/Journalism dual degree and these are the things I wished I'd known before I started:


Image from Wikimedia Commons

1. Your first year of Journalism is mostly theory

Like most journalists, I got into doing this because I loved the writing and naturally I was expecting a highly practical course from the start. I'm sure it probably differs between universities, but at my uni, our first year was entirely theory and I didn't write any articles at all, so definitely modify your expectations: you won't be getting scoops from day one!

2. Shorthand is HARD 

I'll be honest, I didn't even know shorthand was part of the course before I started, let alone how tricky it was! So don't worry if it's something you struggle with, you won't be expected to sit down and be churning it out at 100 words a minute right off the bat, and yes, like I did, you might hate it, but it's just one small part of your overall degree so don't give up, you will get through it!

3. First year History is a lot like A Level

There will be a lot of repetition of skills you learnt at A Level in your first year of your History degree, at least if you're at a Scottish university like me, because of the way the school system works here. You may be bored of hearing things that you've already done (I certainly was) but it will stand you in good stead for when you do your first essays!

4. Your university paper isn't the only way to get experience

Experience, experience, experience is the catchphrase you will hear from all your Journalism tutors through uni and it is important, but there's more than one way to go about it. It's not the be all, end all if you aren't on the uni paper and you might want to go looking for other avenues yourself, because they won't be handed to you. I found out about TNS through a friend, not uni, and it's become my main source of experience. I wish I'd known that there were other options sooner!

5. Balance is key

This is true of everything at university, but especially when you do a dual degree. It can be tempting to focus on whichever part of your degree you are finding more interesting at the time, but you should give equal attention and emphasis to both because you can't get one part without the other! 

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