As the first in my family to go to university, I didn’t have many people to offer me university-specific advice before I embarked on this chapter of my life. I have learnt so much along the way, including things I wish I’d have known as I started this journey. Here are just some of them, and hopefully you’ll find them useful for your next chapter!
1)Don’t stress about Freshers’ Week.
Before I even got to university, Freshers’ Week was the topic of conversation in the Facebook group for students on my course. Everyone eagerly anticipated it, expecting non-stop partying and socialising. Try not to get too carried away with entirely positive expectations though. Chances are you’ll have a great time, but it’s okay to feel overwhelmed and homesick too; this is completely different to anything you’ve done before. If it’s not what you expected, just remember that there are plenty more (cheaper) opportunities to mingle outside of Freshers’ Week.
2) Prepare to work the hardest you’ve ever worked.
Somehow, I believed university would be easier than sixth form college. I was of the impression that studying only one subject with less contact hours would result in an easier experience. I was so wrong! Just because I’m not being taught as often, it doesn’t mean it’s any easier – there’s just a lot more independent research. But, if you love the subject you’re studying, the hard work is easy to tolerate. Because you’re studying something you’re passionate about, it seems you naturally work harder anyway because you want to do well!
3) Ignore “first year doesn’t count”.
Your marks might not count towards your overall grade, but don’t use it as an excuse to start slacking. Start asking for feedback and office hours from the get go – give yourself the best chance of succeeding after first year!
4) It’s never too early to do careers research.
Even if you don’t know what specific job you’d like in the post-university part of your life, start looking at what makes a good CV and what experience employers look for. Then, you can start to do things as soon as you start university that are going to make you stand out. It’ll save the panic in your final year when you realise you haven’t done much besides studying for your degree!
5) Don’t be pressured into fitting a stereotype.
It’s okay if you don’t like wild nights out! I expected all students to be the same, but at Manchester the student community is so diverse – you’ll always find somebody with a similar outlook and set of interests to you. Just be confident in talking to people and make the most of opportunities to make new friends.
6) Don’t go wild when it comes to buying books.
Before you go buying all the books on your module reading list, ask your lecturers which books they would recommend you buy – there’s usually one that gives a good overview of all topics in the module. Take a look at what’s in the library too. But, if there aren’t many copies available or they don’t have it – look at second hand book shops for discounted books that are usually in great condition. Don’t forget, many books are available online for free nowadays via the University’s online library and Google Scholar.
7) Don’t neglect taking care of yourself.
University can get tough, and you will be working hard during your time here. Don’t forget to make some time for yourself and look after your physical and mental health. Freshers Flu is VERY real, so from the start make sure you’re eating as well as you can and sleep well too.
8) The best way to get over your nerves is to just go for it!
There’s been many situations in university that have made me feel nervous. Trying something new can seem challenging at first, especially if you’re out of your comfort zone. Don’t let the nerves put you off. The best way to get over feeling anxious, in my experience, is to just go for whatever it is you’re doing! Try your best in all you do – if it goes well then great! If not, there’ll be a lesson to learn from it.
9) If you’re struggling, talk about it.
There are many places to find support in university including from your peers, housemates, lecturers, and counsellors depending on your problem. The worst thing you can do is bottle it up. As soon as you start to struggle in some way, reach out to somebody and talk about it. Ups and downs are a part of life, and therefore a natural part of life at university. Things can be solved, the first step is talking! You might be surprised at how many people can relate to the way you’re feeling once you get the conversation going.
10) Embrace every moment!
As discussed above, university is inevitably full of ups and downs. This chapter of your life will be over sooner than you think, so make the most of every opportunity. If things don’t go to plan along the way, make sure you learn from it. If things go well for you, be sure to praise yourself and celebrate!