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It’s fair to say that uni so far hasn’t been what any of our first years were expecting when they submitted their applications this time last year, and it’s to be expected that those of you who are hoping to start in September 2021 might be a bit worried about what things will look like for you. We don’t know yet how “normal” September 2021 will be, but we thought we’d ask the students who started uni this year to tell us about their experiences so far, and ask what advice they’d give you, our 2021 freshers.  

No exams? Don’t panic!

The first thing we asked them was what advice they’d give to students who, once again, won’t be sitting exams this year. Annabelle, an International Tourism with Spanish student, had these words of wisdom:

“My advice to current students who are not taking exams is to not let your work ethic slip, and I would encourage you to take any learning opportunity during the summer which might help with your course.”

And this was a sentiment that a lot of our students echoed, whether through their own experience of doing exactly that or, in some cases, not! Holly Jones, a Maths student, told us that she’d also advise any current year 13s to carry on studying subject areas that might benefit your degree:

“This will ensure you do not fall behind in September and it will make the transition from school or college to degree level much smoother.”

Some of the first years we spoke to told us that they had enjoyed watching the University of Chester’s Kitchen Sessions. Last year’s lectures are still available on our website and are great for encouraging you to think a bit more deeply about your chosen subject (as well as getting a look at your future lecturers!) and we’re still running them so you can sign up to watch live as well!

Remote Learning

This is a hot topic! We’ve all seen the reports in the media about online teaching and the impact it has on students but our experience has been overwhelmingly positive. At Chester, we were already working towards the Chester Blend, a flexible offering that combines traditional face-to-face teaching with high quality online learning. Covid meant that we had to introduce this sooner than we had anticipated but because we had the foundations in place, the transition was smooth with very little disruption to our students.

Will Garrett, a first year studying French and German, enjoyed some face-to-face teaching when he arrived in September but doesn’t feel that the move to online learning has impacted him negatively at all:

“Personally, as a language student, I feel very lucky to have had so much face to face and online teaching from the University of Chester since September.  Since lockdown, all of my lectures have moved online, and I can say that both teaching methods have been extremely useful for my development. Remote learning has allowed us to be a lot more interactive with online activities.”

We know that when students join us in 2021, their experiences of remote learning will differ hugely but we support our students to ensure that they are engaged with remote learning and continue to make progress. Cerith Pierce is studying Marketing Management and, like many of our 2020 intake, she had no experience of remote learning before she joined us:

“The concept of studying online and remotely was completely foreign to me, however this was soon second nature with the University providing exemplary guidance, patience and resources.”

What about my social life?

We hear you! We all know that coming to uni isn’t just about the study; you want to make new friends, have new experiences and enjoy your social life. So, what happens when you start uni in the middle of a pandemic and your socialising is restricted? Niamh was just one of the first years we spoke to who had started making friends before she even started, which helped her when she arrived in Chester:

“A good way to make friends before you arrive would be adding yourself to the University of Chester offer holders Facebook page as I did start talking to people on there who were doing a similar degree to myself.”

Despite the restrictions that were in place in September, our Freshers Fair still went ahead (virtually) and first years were able to join societies to meet likeminded people, and get involved in our Chester Rules sports. Freshers events were also a huge success – free boat trips on the river and ghost tours introduced freshers to the city and there were a variety of virtual and real-life events around campus. Read more about what our 2020 freshers got up to here and you’ll get a flavour for what you have to look forward to.

How will the uni support me?

It’s a good question and we want to reassure you that we have a great network of support that all students can access whether they are on campus or not. Some of our first years have accessed this support and told us how they were helped, including Lindsey Webb who is studying Chemical Engineering:

“The University offers a number of support services, which I have used during a few low points during the first term, mainly the Wellbeing and Mental Health Team, who were amazing with helping me with my anxiety and homesickness. So, don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you need it, even if you just need a quick chat with someone for some reassurance.”

Cerith also had some words of reassurance about how the University has been communicating with students throughout the pandemic:

“The University of Chester’s ability to instil peace of mind during what could’ve been a turbulent semester has been superb. Communication from the university has been frequent, caring and precise – you are more than just a number here with many avenues of support to turn to.”

And if you have loved ones who are worried about you going to uni whilst there are still so many unknowns about the current situation, send them this link from a parent who shared their experience of having a child join the University of Chester this year. It’ll reassure them, we promise!

Got a question?

On Thursday, 25th February we're holding another of our popular Advice and Guidance events. The Students' Union, Athletics' Union and Volunteering will all be on hand to tell you how you can make the most of the student experience at Chester whatever September looks like, and experts from Admissions, Finance, Accommodation and other support departments will also be taking your questions. Sign up here.

If you have any questions about what it's really been like at the University of Chester over the last 12 months, you can chat to our students at any time at

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