Studying business management at university

Business management student at Nottingham Trent University
Ellen Turnbull is a final year student in business management at Nottingham Trent University (NTU). She shares her experiences on her degree.

University and a work placement have shown Ellen where she wants her career to go. Here’s her story so far.

  • 2011 – worked part time as a waitress and kitchen porter
  • 2012 – became president of local Interact group
  • 2013 – completed A levels in business and English literature, with a BTEC in law
  • 2013 – began studying towards BA in business management at NTU
  • 2015 – completed a placement at NTU as a marketing assistant
  • 2016 – began final year and is due to graduate in 2017

Ellen says...

I’d always wanted to go to university. Growing up in a very rural area, I wanted to expand my horizons by moving somewhere new, living independently and meeting new people. I felt I couldn't get that experience anywhere else. I understand why the financial cost puts people off university but, for me, the benefits outweighed that.

Choosing a business degree and a university

I considered English and law degrees but decided on business, having become interested in the subject after a ‘business challenge’ day in year 9 and then a business GCSE. I usually take a big step back in that kind of group activity, but I remember really enjoying promoting the product we were given in the challenge. I narrowed down my choice to five universities within a four-hour radius of home, visiting my three favourites. NTU just stood out – the facilities looked great and there was a friendly vibe. The department also had good industry links: local businesses were involved in a module each year and big graduate employers, such as IBM, ran mock assessment centres at the university.

Writing my personal statement

In my personal statement I mentioned how the year 9 business challenge sparked my interest in business. I also wrote about being president of my local Interact group in my final year of high school. Interact is for 13 to 18 year-olds and involves contributing to the local community and fundraising for charity. As president of my group I organised events, such as dinners for local business people and bag-packing in supermarkets, and even gave speeches. I mentioned how it had taught me leadership and organisation skills, and the ability to work with different people.

Uni life

I have 12 hours of lectures and seminars (smaller classes) a week and I’m assessed through exams, coursework and presentations. If I don’t have anything timetabled in the morning, I’m still up by 9.00 am to do seminar preparation and reading. I used to sometimes work until midnight but now try to take a break in the evening. I chill with my flatmates and we go to the pub (although not as much as in first and second year!). University does teach you independence. You do all sorts of things you may not have done before, such as laundry and food shopping.

Doing a work placement as part of my degree

In my first year I extended my course to include a work placement in my third year. I found mine in one of my uni’s corporate departments. I did a lot of different things on placement, mostly marketing NTU’s postgraduate courses. Marketing is the middle ground between businesses and consumers. You’ve got to understand who your consumer is and encourage them to use you by being relatable. I helped produce videos, emailed potential students and worked with the accommodation team to create brochures. I also learned quite a lot about digital through working on our new website. It has prepared me for the graduate workplace. I’m more confident at emails and phone calls, and I got a taste of the recruitment process.

Applying for placements wasn’t easy. In fact, I nearly gave up at one point. Luckily I went to a drop-in session at our employability service, where the adviser showed me how to bring out my skills more. I improved my applications, and my next one led to my placement.

Graduate plans

I’d like to start in a marketing assistant job. I used to want to do a graduate scheme with a big employer, but my friends who did placements with large companies found they were doing a lot of the same thing daily. I’d like to start at a small company and work my way up.

Advice for school leavers

Don’t just do what your friends are doing. If you choose uni, do what interests you as it makes your degree so much more enjoyable. You need to visit a university before you decide to go there. My friend was shocked that I’d applied to my top choice without going to the open day. I then visited and was so relieved I did because I didn’t get a good feeling from it at all. Don’t rule out university straightaway because of the cost. If you find a course you love, at a uni you love, you may find the benefits outweigh the costs for you too!

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