Depending on how involved your teachers were, you may find first year university work underwhelming. For one thing, there will be much less of it. This, combined with the fact that it can be somewhat irritating when you realize that no one really cares how much work you do or what you hand in (although it has to be something) not to mention being constantly told by your wonderfully wise second and third year friends that what you are slaving away on doesn’t matter can lead normally conscientious people down the dark, windy road to the evil village of slackerdom.
There will be an innovative concept introduced during your first or second week called a reading list. Some take terms to discover this unusual device. You may also be issued with a reading pack and set reading for lectures and seminars. While I wish I could say that I was up, every evening, burning the midnight oil and highlighting with zeal, I usually skimmed the work on the morning of the seminar somewhere between my shower and coffee – no point in doing lecture reading because you’ll probably be asleep anyway. Anyway, the fable of the first year led astray continues until I (shock-horror) discovered that university work was more interesting if you prepared. You could learn things! You could participate! And exam time was much less intense.
Overall, the difference between university and a-levels comes down to the fact that there are no gold stars. I don’t mean this in a patronizing way but I too enjoyed the praise and feeling of accomplishment you got when an A-grade essay was handed back or you received 19/20 on a test. At university, results are usually announced in long, anonymous lists stuck up in various subject departments with no gold stars for good work and no consequences for bad. This can make it pretty hard to care.
If you wish to be successful at university, you must convince yourself that the validation you feel for your own good work is enough. It sounds straightforward and obvious but for many, it’s not. Failing that, rely on the superiority and satisfaction gained from beating friends and course mates..