For every student, their university experience will be different, but if I had the opportunity to start all over again, would I have done things differently? With the benefit of hindsight, there is probably plenty of advice that I could have done with before starting my university years. Things that I shouldn’t have worried about, and things that I should have focused on a little more.
Here I have rounded up eleven pieces of advice for students who are about to begin their first year at university.
1. Your first year is the best chance to get to know your university
Your university town will be your new home for the next few years, so take the opportunity to explore your surroundings. Visit your campus for an open day first, so you can experience day-to-day life and find where all of the facilities are, as well as places where you could meet up with friends for a coffee will be. There will also be other places to discover outside of your campus, so take time to explore the hidden gems of your neighbourhood or even take weekend trips to surrounding areas.
2. You shouldn’t worry about your living arrangements
There will be a number of options to choose from for your first year and opting for the most comfort could potentially break the bank! For campus universities, most freshers choose to live in halls to experience living on campus and being close to everything that’s going on, before moving into town for their second year. Look into all of your options and allow yourself time to apply early. It could also help to ask people you know at the university already to make any recommendations.
3. Meet as many people as you can
From the moment that you arrive, remember that everybody is feeling the same. With so many events to choose from, fresher’s week is the perfect time to have fun and meet as many people as possible. Your hall neighbours – if you are staying in halls, are the first people you will meet so make the effort to introduce yourself, leave your door open so they can stop by for a chat and make sure that you get involved with any group outings.
4. Participating in non-academic activities is fun and will boost your employability prospects
During Freshers’ week, you will be introduced to the social side of student life and you will be given the opportunity to take part in a number of non-academic activities. Join your neighbours, or flatmates if you’re sharing a flat, and go to the Freshers fair to find out what clubs and societies are out there. Pick the ones that you find the most interesting, and sign-up for their try-outs to see which ones are right for you.
5. Living away from home will give you the opportunity to learn life skills
For most, this will be the first time they are leaving home and you will have to pick up new skills really quickly, such as washing and cooking and generally fending for yourself. There are a number of resources at your disposal, including mobile apps designed to make your university life easier and to help you get started on some simple cooking recipes. Such tasks are more enjoyable in groups so why not team up with your flatmates to cook a meal and share the costs.
6. Learn to live on a budget will help your loan go further
The arrival of your student loan is an exciting moment but if you’re not careful you’ll be amazed at how quickly it will go down. Budgeting and keeping a record of what you spend will help your loan stretch as far as you need it to, so you can enjoy all of the end of term events with your friends. There are also a number of money-saving options. Purchasing an NUS Card or a 16-25 railcard for example will help you make huge savings throughout your time at University.
7. Securing your property will avoid any nasty surprises
If you’re planning to bring laptops, mobiles or tablets to your university (and who isn’t!), you will benefit from having insurance to protect those valuable items. Do your research to find which policies are out there and to ensure that you are covered appropriately. Communal areas are one of the most vulnerable so when you leave your flat, secure your belongings to keep them safe.
8. Social media will keep you up to date
Social media will be the best source to keep up with what’s happening and when. Before you arrive follow your universities’ social media pages to discover the latest news and to share the excitement with others who will be joining you. Moving away is a big step, and the transition could be easier for some than others so once you move out, make sure that you also stay in touch with your family and friends.
9. The reading list isn’t as daunting as it looks
On first impressions, your reading list could appear daunting and you will wonder how you are going to fit it all in. Start by highlighting all of the core text books and readings that you will need in preparation for your lectures and seminars and slowly build this up. There are also cheaper ways to purchase, look for online stores, or to your friends in the years above who no longer require theirs. Book sales are often held in the first few weeks of term where you can buy used text books at a discounted rate compared to the shops. Your library will also be home to many online resources and journals to help you stay up to date with your workload.
10. Staying on top of your workload will help your course run more smoothly
With the temptation of a partying lifestyle, it can be easy to lose the momentum and fall behind with work. University will introduce a new style of teaching as there are less contact hours with your tutors and teachers, and more independent learning. Try to start your assignments as soon as they arrive as completing them early will alleviate the pressure of multiple deadlines that arrive at the same time at the end of term. You will also have time to visit your tutors should you misunderstand something earlier on.
11. Studying abroad is a great life experience
Employers value students who have work experience, and there will always be various opportunities to build your experience of working life in your time at university. As well as working part-time during term time, use the longer holidays to secure a summer internship to earn whilst you learn. Some courses also offer the opportunity to study and/or work abroad for up to a year – take these opportunities to learn whilst immersing yourself in another culture.
Your first year is an experience like no other, and sets the bar for the rest of your time at university. My advice would be to take as many opportunities as you can to enjoy the social side, join societies and student committees, but don’t neglect to work hard to complete your degree and secure a graduate job.
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