George Sykes

Mechatronics and Robotics BEng
Talking about
Going to university after studying a BTEC qualification

Why did you choose to study your degree at the University of Leeds? 

The staff at the open days were really welcoming and the courses looked interesting. Some universities didn’t mention BTEC qualifications in their entry requirements but Leeds was clear that they're accepted as they offer a unique set of skills that can be used on a degree.

What were your concerns before coming to study at Leeds? 

That my chemistry and physics weren’t up to standard and that I would need to spend a lot of time catching up. This wasn’t the case as most of the chemistry needed is quite simple and there was lots of support to help me improve in the areas that I struggled with.

What helped you feel confident in your academic abilities at Leeds? 

I realised after a few weeks at university that everyone I knew was worried that they weren’t good enough at one thing or another as no one has full knowledge of the degree before they start. This made me more confident to ask questions and ask my friends for help as it’s likely someone else is thinking the same question.

What are the positives of having a BTEC qualification that have helped you on your course? 

Experience in practical skills such as soldering and computer-aided design (CAD) really helped me on group projects when we had to design and make something. Also the independent learning format of a BTEC is very similar to that at university.

Did you face any challenges studying at Leeds? 

As an autistic student, I initially had difficulties with anxiety about meeting lots of new people in a new environment. I watched the virtual campus tour to familiarise myself before attending so I felt less anxious. I also made sure to set aside time frequently to call my parents so I didn’t get homesick.

As a dyslexic student, I find it very hard to take notes whilst I'm listening to someone talk so I don't take lots of notes when I'm in lectures. I find it much better to read the lecture slides before I go to a lecture and after I've been to the lecture. The University provides a system called lecture capture which automatically records the lectures and it gives them subtitles as well. This is really useful for students who might not be able to take in all the information, in one go. And you can also pause lecture capture at any point.

The disabled students allowance helped me to purchase a dual screen and a printer for my home desktop setup. I also had a disability mentor in my first year which really helped me to settle into university.

Can you tell us about positive experiences at Leeds that have made you feel a part of the University? 

Being part of university societies has made me feel like a part of the community here at Leeds. I would say that my key achievement at university has been my work with societies because I really enjoy helping other people to be the best people that they can be. I've helped run the robot fighting league with the electronic and electrical engineering society ShockSoc and I've helped to set up the abuse awareness society. This is something that I'm really proud of. 

What advice would you give to another BTEC student coming to the University of Leeds?

It's a big step to take but everyone is in the same boat. In the first year of university, I would focus on making friends - they’re what's going to get you through the rest of the university experience. My top three tips are: join societies, make friends with people who are not on your course, and take every opportunity open to you. When you have time, make sure you explore the city of Leeds and its surrounding towns as it’s a really lovely area.