Tips from a Criminology student
Third year BSc Criminology student, Gemma Spencer, gives her top tips on how to prepare for your start at City, University of London.
Does the thought of starting your degree seem daunting? Are you unsure about how to make the most of your time at university? Here are some top tips for preparing to study Criminology at City:
If you’re moving away from home to study or don’t already have friends starting the same course as you, the thought of day one of university can be pretty daunting. I know I wondered, “How will I make friends? I’ve had the same group of friends for years!”. Well, City runs a programme called CityBuddies where, as a first-year criminology student, you can be matched with a mentor who will be in their second or third year of a criminology degree themselves! This means you can have a friendly face on campus when you first begin your studies and will always have someone to turn to who’s already been through first year. I was a mentor to new students for two years and made great friends with Ellie (pictured below) who’s just finished her first year with amazing results! You can do it too!
2. Make the most of Welcome Week
Welcome Week is a great chance to make new friends, try out new clubs and societies, and go to the Freshers Fair which everyone loves (I went every year..!). At the Freshers Fair you can talk to members of societies, brands and university departments. You can also get loads of freebies and bag yourself some City merch. During Welcome Week, City’s flagship event is their Boat Ball– basically a massive boat party on the Thames! Throughout the week there will also be a chance to go to pub or club crawls to try out the London nightlife… which is crazy. There will also be lots of daytime activities like the CityBuddies café on-campus, trips out to museums, gym sessions at CitySport and market visits.
3. Only invest in absolute must-have core textbooks
You may feel rich when your first student loan instalment comes through (that is, until your rent comes out if you’re not living at home) but be wise with that cash. Most of the core reading for your classes will be from e-books or online journal articles. Unless there is one core textbook that is a must-have for that class, don’t buy a load of really expensive books you’ll only read a few chapters of. The library is your best friend– you can find almost anything in there or if you can’t, there is always The Senate House Library that you can now use as a student of the University of London.
4. Don’t leave all your reading until ‘reading week’
As a criminology student, each week you will be given core reading to do for most of your classes; however, you’ll also have the luxury of a reading week (a week off in the middle of each term), something Cass students don’t have… sorry not sorry. However, don’t fall behind in your reading because you say “I’ll catch up with it in reading week”. We all know…nobody actually does reading in reading week. (I used it as a week to travel back home to Edinburgh to see my family!!). This is no problem if you’re already up-to-date with your reading. So, if you don’t want to do any during reading week, make sure you keep up to date with your reading each week and then you won’t fall behind.
5. Visit the Old Bailey
Aside from the sociological side of criminology, you will also learn a bit about the criminal justice system. Therefore, a trip to the Old Bailey is a must! Check on their website to see which cases you can watch that day in the free public gallery. If you’re like me and you love watching crime dramas, you’ll find the murder trials incredible to watch in real life!
6. Get involved in university life
City offers so many opportunities to get involved with the university and make money too! I would recommend becoming a Marketing Student Ambassador. You’ll work at big events on campus such as Open Days and Taster Sessions, meeting prospective students, running campus tours and talking about your own experiences at City. You can also work at recruitment events such as Higher Education or UCAS fairs where you can represent City and talk to students! Also, if you like working with kids, become a Widening Participation Ambassador– you’ll help run events on campus for students from neighbouring schools to come in and see what university is like. It is such a rewarding role and if you work on any of the subject-specific taster weeks, there is always a trip involved– most likely followed by a free lunch at Pizza Express!
One of the great things about studying criminology at City is that London is on your doorstep and therefore placements are in abundance. So, consider doing a sandwich year– a whole year of paid (!!) work experience between your second and third year. However, if you would rather do a smaller placement, City runs a micro-placements programme over the summer after your second year, giving you the chance to gain valuable work experience when you have no studying to stress about.
8. Professional Mentoring
The careers service at City are brilliant at giving students opportunities to improve their skills and job prospects. One way of doing this is to apply for the Professional Mentoring Scheme. If successful, you will be matched with a professional in the field you are looking to go into (for criminology students this could be solicitors, police officers, psychologists etc.) and they will mentor you over a 6-month period. As I want to transition into psychology, I found this incredibly useful as I was able to learn more about the different opportunities and pathways that are out there.
9. Make use of your student union
Your student union can help you with things from academic advice to joining clubs and societies. We have our very own CityBar on campus which, besides being a normal working bar, also runs events like the Dance Society shows and sports nights for all the sports teams every Wednesday. Exam time might be stressful but the student union are there to help you through it. Every year they run a programme called ‘Study Well’ where they organise lots of free events on campus to de-stress students and encourage everyone to take a break from studying. The Study Well programme always includes a petting zoo in Northampton Square where you can come and see ponies, chickens, guinea pigs and lambs. And not to forget the famous dog cuddle room that students love– book this early to avoid disappointment!
10. Make the most of your time in London
City is in Zone 1 of the greatest city in the world (in my opinion)! Aside from the fact you can find almost any kind of work experience, placement or advice you need, there are so many things to do in London that you can’t do studying anywhere else. Head to the West End to watch a theatre production– if you have a 16-25 railcard there are massive discounts on various theatre shows. Casually catch a Thames River Bus from Embankment to Greenwich using your Oyster, hop on Bridget Bakery’s afternoon tea bus tour, join in with a silent disco at the top of the Shard– the tallest building in the EU (for now…). If you’re looking for free things to do in London, Trafalgar Square runs free events all the time– just a few weeks ago I watched the opera Carmen streamed live from the Royal Opera House. There’s always things to do if you look hard enough! Your time at university will fly by, so grasp every opportunity available to develop yourself personally, professionally and academically.