The summer before I moved to Manchester to start university I watched every advice video ever uploaded, and read every blog post I could find on the Internet. I heard the advice ‘say yes to everything’ and ‘don’t skip your lectures’ more times than I could count, and ended up with a packing list longer than my arm. Although my research proved helpful, after two years of my degree, I have learnt so many other, more specific lessons that I wish I had known earlier. Here are five things I wish someone had told me when I started University.
Buy a mattress topper
Trust me on this one, your back will thank you! University accommodation is sometimes less than luxurious, and your mattress will likely be no exception. Thin, springy, and often with a few questionable stains, a mattress topper makes all the difference in making your new bed feel cleaner and more comfortable. I got mine from Dunelm for around £30, but you can find one at most high street homeware stores.
Just remember to check your mattress size before purchasing because although most first-year accommodation offers single beds, private or more expensive accommodation options, such as Unsworth Park, provide slightly larger beds.
Use Microsoft OneNote for lecture and seminar notes
For the first half of my first year, I had no idea how best to take notes. I ended up with some hybrid method of Google Docs, handwritten notes, and Quizlet, and although all of these methods have merit, they culminated in me scrambling to find information during seminars and missing critical points in essays.
After realising it wasn’t working, I have now switched to Microsoft OneNote and have converted some of my friends too! It’s really streamlined, allowing you to create a digital ‘notebook’ per module and then a page for each lecture. You can search for keywords throughout your notebooks, which is a lifesaver during seminars when asked something on the spot. I know this sounds like an AD, but I promise I’m just a big fan!
Invest in a bus pass
A bus pass is definitely the most worthwhile purchase I’ve made at university, especially living a little further from campus and the city in Fallowfield. I use it up to four times a day, and it has probably paid for itself twice over by now! I have the ‘Manchester Annual UniRider’ from Stagecoach, which you can buy online and has covered buses to almost everywhere I have wanted to go since living here. Often the earlier you buy a pass, the cheaper it is, so I recommend looking at your options before you even arrive in Manchester.
Reference as you go along
We have all done it, and you probably will too at some point, but completing the references and bibliography for an essay just before submission is not the good idea you think it is. Don’t underestimate how long it takes to format correctly, especially when writing your first few assignments and getting to grips with how to reference! This mistake also leads to potentially losing your sources as you go along which can cause many issues. It may lead to more hours of work, having to read over everything again in an attempt to find a very niche quote or statistic. Instead, complete your references as you write, transferring these to a working bibliography simultaneously. Trust me, I’ve learnt this one the hard way!
Fully explore study spaces on campus.
This sounds ridiculous, but I went my whole first year without realising that the main library is so much larger than it first appears, or that it contains many other study areas as well as the Blue area. In my defence, I wasn’t the only one who didn’t get the memo! Ask library staff to show you around when you first arrive or have an explore yourself, but don’t do what I did and scramble for a seat in the same crowded part of Blue 2 every day for a year.
The Alan Gilbert Learning Commons and Main Library get pretty busy, so it’s also worth familiarising yourself with the plethora of alternative study spaces on campus. I really like the Joule Library, Kantorowich Library, and my subject common room, all of which tend to have spare seats, even during exam season.