So its September… For a lot of us that means the start of a new academic year, whether that be a new school, college or university year. This is especially daunting for me this year because I’m going into my third and final year of university. This could well be the last year I spend in education (I can’t say I’m overly fussed about doing a Masters, but that might change in the future) which is super scary. University really has flown by, I can remember being a fresher so clearly. I wanted to give any first years (or any student in any year really) who might be reading this some advice since I know starting university and moving away from home can be super daunting. My advice is kinda based on my experiences, so this is kinda like tips for my former, Fresher self as well!
- Don’t worry if you don’t like clubbing – I was so TERRIFIED of being a fresher since there is so much focus on clubbing and drinking. I was worried that as a result of this, I wouldn’t make any friends. But I promise you, there are so many events, during Freshers Week and throughout the year that aren’t centered around clubbing. Don’t feel pressured into doing something that isn’t for you, there are so many other places to make friends and have fun.
- Join societies – I don’t mean you have to join everything (unless you want to of course), but societies are a great way to make friends who will already have a shared interest with you. They have socials throughout the year and most societies meet regularly so its a great time to take some time off studying to hang out and do something you love. The majority of people I am friends with now are those I met at societies rather than in class/people I lived with.
- You may not be BFFLs with your flatmates, but that’s okay – This kinda links to my last point. It is fab if an amazing friendship blooms from living together, but that doesn’t always happen for a lot of people. I got on with my flatmates sure, but we didn’t really hang out unless we happened to be in the kitchen at the same time and I haven’t talked to them since. Once classes started we met new people and formed our own friendships and that was okay. You are likely not gonna have a choice in who you live with, so don’t worry if the friendships aren’t natural or working out for you. You shouldn’t feel pressure to push a friendship or make it work, just because you share a space. My friends are either from my societies or from my classes, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the friendships I have. You are likely to have more in common with people who are in the same societies are you, or those who are in your class because you share common ground. And then you get to live with your friends in second and third year, which is pretty cool!
- Use first year as a year to make mistakes – Because first year doesn’t count (not sure if this is the same for everyone, if it isn’t maybe ignore this one!) it is the perfect time to make mistakes with your work and learn what not to do and improve your academic work overall. I didn’t work as hard as I should have in first year and did okay. Whilst I regret that, I learnt so much from that year about what is expected to achieve a higher grade and how much harder I need to work to get the grade I want in the end. I learnt how long I should actually spend preparing for an essay and on reading, I found my academic voice, how to structure my essay and argument and the importance of proof-reading. All these skills that are so valuable to me going into third year and have resulted in me achieving a 2.1 in my second year.
- Find the right balance of work and relaxation for YOU – I know its super important to work hard during university, but do not underestimate the importance of down time and self-care. I have always known my limits and schedules that work for me. I used to tell myself that I would work all day, but once I’d had my dinner I would stop working because I know I can’t work in the evenings and knew that I wouldn’t do my best if I worked into the night. So I would use the night times to chill and focus on myself and didn’t feel guilty since I already did work during the day. I still implement this idea now and will continue to do so, since I know it works for me. I used to compare myself to others because it seemed like they worked way more than me because they did all nighters and stuff. But I realised, just because that works for them doesn’t mean it works for me. I shouldn’t compare myself as long as I know I am working my hardest and doing my best. As long as the work gets done, it doesn’t matter how its done or what any else is doing – just focus on you.
So there were a few tips I would give my former fresher self/for any freshers starting uni this September! University is so much fun, as long as you work your hardest and push yourself, you’ll get a lot out of the experience. Studying for a degree is hard, but if you’re passionate about your subject it will seem less like work and if you surround yourself with the right people, you can make friends for life! And, you’ll have a degree in your field of study at the end of it, which is pretty exciting! Best of luck for anyone starting a new academic year, you’re gonna do amazingly!