New to Sheffield

Guidance on making a successful transition to university-level study and getting the most of your time in Sheffield.

An exterior photo of Sheffield Peace Gardens


Coming to university can be an intense experience. There is a lot to get used to, from finding your way around a campus that spans a city to the challenges of the new academic environment, including lectures, seminars, reading, coursework, assignments and deadlines. 

There are likely to be a lot of practical challenges to get on top of as you register for your course and get to know the University. The Student Services Information Desk (SSiD) should be your first point of contact for any questions that may come up. 

It is worth reminding yourself that you are not facing all of this alone. Your peers will be experiencing many of the same things and you will deal with the challenges together. And of course the staff in your department and other services at the University are here to get you accustomed to this new stage in your life so that you can get the most out of your studies.

At the University of Sheffield the biggest differences from your experience of previous education are likely to be that:

  • You will be learning with academic staff who are at the cutting edge of research in their (and your) subject.
  • You will be expected to take control of your own learning and work independently from the very start of your studies.
  • You will be expected not only to learn about your subject area, but also to think critically and question existing knowledge.

In practice, this may mean that you will have more self-directed study time than you are used to. You will need to strike a balance to ensure that you are able to make the most of the new social and cultural environment of Sheffield and keep on top of the demands of your course. 

301 Recommends:

Our Academic Skills Refresher workshop explores your experience of learning over the past 12 months to help identify strategies that have worked for you and put new strategies in place as you begin your first academic year at the University of Sheffield. 

Our Studying in the UK workshop is aimed at new international students, and introduces some of the key features of the UK Higher Education system and how it works at the University of Sheffield. We will explore the types of learning you will undertake, the range of assessments you will experience and how your work is assessed, the role of your tutor and how to make the most of the opportunities available to you during your time in Sheffield.

Our University Jargon Glossary [current students only] will help you to understand unfamiliar terms that you may encounter as you start at the University of Sheffield. 

Making the transition to University 

For many, starting out at university can be a period of great change and personal development.

It may entail living away from home for the first time and meeting a wider and more diverse circle of friends and social contacts than ever before. It is an opportunity to take on new things and find out more about yourself. 

Almost certainly, exams, coursework and other assessments will, at times, lead to feelings of pressure and strain. To get the most out of your university experience, it’s important to come to terms with this potential for stress, recognise it as part of your personal growth, and learn to respect and work within your own boundaries. All of this means finding ways to manage the stress you experience.

One Sheffield undergraduate described studying at University as 'like a roller-coaster ride' with ups and downs, highs and lows and quick bursts of activity filled with fear and excitement.

Not everyone will feel like this, but there will be times when you may find it difficult to see how you will get to the end of your degree. At these times you need to reflect on what you have achieved so far and remind yourself of your goals for the future.

Whatever the particular challenges you are grappling with, remember that there are plenty of ways to find the support you need.

Self motivation: a student's perspective

The flipbook was drawn and flicked by me. It illustrates how I’ve been able to pursue new and old activities by being self-motivated. I feel this skill has been integral to the progress I’ve been able to make in all aspects of my university life. For most, university is the start of real independence from parents, domestically, academically and socially. Self-motivation has been the key to successfully juggling all the new responsibilities university gave me.

Nancy Brown

Year 3 Psychology, 2013

Getting to know Sheffield

Sheffield is a city that is best explored on foot. Take some time to wander and find the hidden corners, sights and sounds of the city. If you can, get up the hills to experience the great views across its forested valleys and out towards the Peak District National Park.

Sheffield is a diverse and international city with a wide range of cafes and restaurants. Coffee, pizza, vodka, pad thai, beer, souvlaki, burgers, sushi; the list is endless. London Road, West Street and Division Street are the places to go to find something new to try. Kelham Island is the perfect place for a hip, delicious, getaway. There are vegan restaurants, traditional bakeries and the famous Peddler Street Market.

The parks around campus are also a real highlight, especially when the sun is out. Crookes Valley Park, Weston Park, and Ponderosa, all a leg’s stretch away from the Student’s Union, offer a bucolic respite from the bustle surrounding them.

Sheffield is also a short bus journey, bike ride, or even walk away from the Peak District National Park, famous across the UK for its rolling hills, gritstone edges and beautiful scenery. If the outdoors are your thing, there is no end to the possibilities for climbing, mountain biking, hiking and fell running. 

Top Tips

The following are a selection of top tips from University of Sheffield students:

  • Develop a good system for note taking. Don’t think that you’ll remember, because you won’t! Encore will help you re-watch lectures and presentation slides are often made available, but taking notes during a lecture will help you to learn and consolidate what you’re listening to.
  • I would highly recommend actively engaging in lectures and seminars, as challenging as it may be at times. Genuinely questioning, critiquing, adding, connecting to relevant literature or general knowledge you might have is always appreciated by the lecturers and is a good way to make your presence known.
  • First year is important. The academic foundation that first year presents is what the rest of your University knowledge-base will be built on. Getting to second year and realising you don’t have either the knowledge or skills you require will mean spending extra time trying to catch up.
  • If you feel overwhelmed, talk to someone. Fellow students, the module leader, your personal tutor. It cannot be emphasized enough that there are no stupid questions, and acknowledging that is half the work done.
  • It’s important to find your community. This will come naturally, as you’ll be meeting a lot of new people, but joining one of the University’s 300+ societies and clubs is a great way to bond with people with similar interests, keep yourself active and try something new.
The Summer Skills Spark: 5 weeks to ignite your research skills promo image

The Summer Skills Spark: 5 weeks to ignite your research skills

Are you working on a dissertation or research project this summer? 

The Summer Skills Spark offers workshops to support you through every step of the process. You'll have opportunities to plan your projects, develop your research skills, explore dissemination techniques, and consider a future career in research. 

Collaboration between 301 Academic Skills Centre, the University Library, Digital Learning, and the Careers and Employability Service.

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