Overcoming barriers to going to uni
Help and advice
Going to university could be one of the best experiences of your life and could lead to opportunities you never knew existed. Don't let your fears get in the way of the amazing experience waiting for you.
There are 9 common concerns students have about uni to help you make the right choice.
1. Getting good grades in the right subjects
You might be worried about going to uni if you don't have the best grades or haven't done the 'right' subjects. But entry into many of our courses isn't just based on your school record.
If you're a creative person, you could do a creative course, for which you might be asked to submit a portfolio of your work as part of your application. And if you're invited to university interviews, you can talk about your passion, goals and motivation. These are your chances to prove yourself beyond your grades.
If you haven't done the subjects needed for your chosen course, you could do a foundation year to get up to speed, then move onto the full degree.
You could also use relevant knowledge, skills developed at work, volunteering experience or other training courses as evidence of your eligibility for a course alongside your grades. Recognition of prior learning (RPL) lets you convert relevant university-level knowledge, skills and experience into credits you can put towards a qualification.
2. Taking out a loan
Government Student Loans aren't like commercial loans. How much you pay back depends on how much you earn after university not how much you borrowed. Some people won't pay back all of their loans.
You only start making repayment contributions once you earn over the income threshold set by the government. For 2020/21 it's £26,575 a year.
If you haven't paid it off 30 years after you finish studying, your outstanding student debt is wiped.
Your loan won't go on your credit file and doesn't affect your credit rating or your eligibility for other loans (like a mortgage).
3. Cost of living and budgeting
You might be worried about stretching your money far enough at uni, but there are lots of ways to make money and spend it wisely. Most students apply for a Maintenance loan which they can use to help cover their living costs.
You can bolster your student loan by working part-time while you study or by doing a summer job. Apply early for your student loan so it arrives around the start of term and can tide you over until you get your first part-time pay check.
Our Student Finance Centre can give you more advice and support around money and budgeting. They also help with student loans, bursaries, funding applications and can liaise with Student Finance England for you.
4. Going to an interview and producing a portfolio
You might be put off by the idea of doing an interview or submitting a portfolio of your work as part of your uni application. But if you prepare well, you'll do just fine.
Interviews and portfolios help universities assess your academic potential, self-motivation and ability to engage with your course. They're your opportunity to shine a light on your interests, passions and skills, and prove you're the right person for the course.
5. Meeting new people and making friends
Coming to uni is a big step. And depending on where you go, you might have to move away from your family and friends. If this worries you, remember it's totally normal to be afraid of stepping out of your comfort zone. Nearly everyone starting uni is in the same boat. And they're all potential new friends.
You'll have loads of opportunities to meet new people from all over the world and all walks of life. The Students' Union is a great place to make friends. Ours has over 100 clubs and societies. Freshers' Week brings new students together with events, giveaways and nights out. And you'll have the support of our Welcome Ambassadors and Residence Life Team in halls if you need help settling in.
6. Disability or additional needs
If you have a disability or additional learning need, you may need some adjustments to support your studies. You'll get loads of support when you go to uni to help you succeed.
Our Additional Support and Disability Advice Centre (ASDAC) provides confidential advice and support. You can get help from study skills tutors and access assistive technology. We can also discuss and agree any reasonable adjustments like extra time for exams and assessments.
We can help you apply for the Disabled Students' Allowance to help cover extra study costs related to your disability. And we can give you advice on accessing other funding support.
7. Lack of support
Having friends, family or classmates who support your ambitions is important. But if you don't have support, it can be tough. If you're doubting whether you should go to uni because you don't have backing, keep these things in mind:
- University is an investment in yourself – you'll come out with more skills, knowledge and options than when you arrived
- University is a great opportunity to see the world, meet new people, visit other countries or get work experience on a placement
- Your career and salary prospects are higher as a uni graduate – and 9 out of 10 of our students are in work and/or further study (HESA Graduate Outcomes Survey 2018/19)
- It's not about the hand you're dealt in life, it's about how you play it – if going to uni helps you live the life you want, then it's the right choice for you
- Choose a university that will give you lots of guidance and support
We're a very supportive university. Our Welcome Ambassadors will help you get settled when you arrive. The Residence Life team is there for you if you stay in halls. Your personal tutor offers guidance throughout your degree. And you can drop into our Student Wellbeing Service or multi-faith chaplaincy for a chat any time.
If you've spent time in care, we can offer you bursaries, housing support and an advisor. And if you're estranged from your parents, we can offer you year-round accommodation, bursaries and financial and wellbeing advisors.
You'll get all the guidance and support you need to thrive.
8. Balancing work, life and study
If you already have commitments, you might think you haven't got time to study. But there are a lot of degree options that allow you to balance existing responsibilities with university.
If you're thinking about working less so you can study, you might be eligible for a maintenance loan to help meet your living costs.
9. Distance from home
The prospect of packing your bags and moving away from home can be daunting, whether because of work, family or other commitments. Especially if you're moving far away.
But coming to uni is a great opportunity to meet new people and make friends you wouldn't find anywhere else. You can see more of the world and experience different cultures and perspectives. It's also a chance to be independent, grow on your own and be the person you want to be.
And if you want to go home to visit family and friends, getting home from Portsmouth is easy. The city is well connected to transport routes – 1 hour 30 minutes on the train to London, and 30 minutes by road to Southampton Airport. You can catch National Express coaches from right outside the Student Union, and the Megabus stop is just a 15-minute walk from campus. The main train station is a 5-minute walk from campus.
As a student you can make use of big discounts on train and coach travel, so getting home doesn't have to cost a fortune.
If you decide moving away from home isn't for you, you can still study what you're passionate about with little or no need to come to campus. Our distance learning courses allow you to study wherever suits you. And our part-time courses mean you only need to come to uni occasionally.