20 things I wish I knew when I started university

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With 6 years of University under my belt, I have had plenty of time to learn and reflect on my experiences as a student. I’ve learnt a lot of new things during my time as a student which would have been incredibly useful to know during my time as a fresher.

I hope this piece can give any prospective students a helping hand when they start their journey at Manchester University and maybe prevent them from making the same mistakes that I did.

#1 It’s not necessary to purchase every textbook on your courses reading list

When you attend your first lectures in welcome week, you will undoubtably be given pages of recommended reading and textbooks. I would advise taking some time before deciding which books to buy. The library is a great resource to borrow hard copies and give students access to the e-books at home. If you do decide to buy a text, take a look on eBay and Amazon for cheaper second-hand copies.

#2 First year may not count but it does matter

The fact that you aren’t assessed in first year is negligible because you will still need to learn the content at some point. I would advocate working hard in your first year, getting into a good regular work pattern, and acquiring a good level of basic knowledge for subsequent years to build on.

#3 The library is extremely popular, so have a good workstation at home

I couldn’t quite believe the amount of people that utilise the library on a daily basis, and during exam season it’s almost impossible to get a workspace. I would suggest organising a good workstation at home which provides a favourable place to get your studying done if the library is not accessible.

#4 Leaving referencing to the end of an assignment is a bad idea

You’ll soon learn to hate referencing and realise that it takes just as long to acknowledge other pieces of work as it does to write your own, but I would strongly advise to cite and reference throughout. Leaving referencing last is always a regretful mistake because you are left with a mass of sources that are difficult to reintegrate into your work.

#5 It’s perfectly acceptable to ask questions during a lecture

Lectures may seem daunting at first but if you have a question, don’t be afraid to ask it. The tutors are more than happy to re-explain concepts during a lecture and the likelihood is that there are other students with the same query.

#6 Time management is key to success

University is not like school or college. You don’t have teachers chasing you for work, you either do it or you don’t, but the repercussions of not doing it are fair greater. Get organised from day one and don’t leave things until the last minute. Create a study and assignment plan to ensure that you get all of your work done on time.

#7 Uni work will be stressful at times, but it is normally short-lived

Don’t be fooled by the images of fresher’s week and the stories of older friends and family. Studying is hard and it will get stressful, but this won’t last for ever and the rewards are worth the struggle. It is important to find good work-life balance and give yourself time off to relax and re-energise.

#8 The University wants you to succeed

Despite what you may think when you attend your first lecture or try to tackle your first assignment, the University does not want you to fail. Put the work in and know when to ask for help!

#9 Build good relations with your tutors

Tutors are not like teachers; they are far more relaxed and will talk to you like a grown-up (finally!). They are far more likely to lend a helping hand if they have had previous interaction with you, as opposed to only hearing from you when there is a problem.

#10 Stay on top of your house chores

Moving away from home provides its own challenges. You now have to cook, clean, and wash for yourself. Don’t let the washing pile up or the house become an unsightly mess because it is not conducive to a good headspace or learning environment. Make yourself a weekly chores list and share them amongst your housemates to ensure they all get done regularly.

#11 Fresher’s flu is not a myth

Students get it, tutors get it, staff get it. So be prepared!

#12 You don’t need to join every society

Every welcome week there is a fresher’s fair where you will be bombarded with societies and clubs that you can join. Don’t feel the pressure to sign up for everything because in reality you won’t have time to do it all. Take the time to think about your interests and what you would like to try before signing up.

#13 Make connections with fellow learners on your course

Having course friends is the key to success at University. Being able to confer with others is so much easier than having to tackle your learning alone.

#15 You don’t need to live up to the student stereotype

Not every student goes out daily and turns up to lectures in their clothes from the night before, still fuelled with alcohol. There are so many types of students at Manchester, so don’t worry about trying to ‘fit in’. I love nothing more than making a ‘to-do’ list, having a good cup of tea, and settling down for an early night. Do not let the student stereotype prevent you from being you.

#16 Enjoy every moment

Time really does fly when you’re at university. Being a student is a roller-coaster ride filled with new opportunities, new friends, and new experiences for you to enjoy.

#17 A student loan needs to last the semester

A student loan may be the first time that a large sum of money is transferred into your bank account, but don’t spend it all at once. Create a budget plan so that you have a clear idea of how much money you are able to spend each month.

#18 Be open minded

You will meet so many different people from a variety of backgrounds. I have met some amazing people that I would have never crossed paths with before University. Be open minded and your experience at University will be life changing.

#19 A degree doesn’t come with a revision guide

Forget about your GCSE and A-level revision guides. There is no such thing at University. Higher education requires you to develop an ability to conduct your own research, pick out the important information, and acquire a deep level of understanding. Use your lectures, learning objectives, and reading lists as a guide to help direct your learning but ultimately, what you learn is down to you.

#20 Take all the advice and criticisms you receive onboard

Tutors are not there to feed your ego and praise every piece of work you do. They are there to help you learn and transform you into a credible University graduate. Take all their advice and criticisms on board because that is how you will develop as a student. Nothing they say is a personal attack on your intelligence, but they will be open and honest with you.

Starting university may seem like a daunting prospect at first, but it will be one of the best experiences of your life. Embrace it!

Good luck and keep Studenting!

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