Ahhh university a strange but exciting time for the majority of people. You’re either flying the nest to live out your life as a poor student in halls or just as a poor student who commutes every day (I’m the latter). I’ve endured quite a few years of university so far & the majority of courses start back in less than a month so I thought I’d share some tips and advice for anyone who is about to start their journey, here goes.
1. “After high school you realise you were only friends with people because you saw them 5 times a week”
For the people that are going to uni straight out of school this statement will more than likely become your reality, however this doesn’t always have to be the case. As both you and your friends will probably be going to different universities / colleges, there’s no getting around the fact that your priorities will change and that’s 100% okay. You’ll have different schedules and deadlines to meet which is expected and it’s important that this factor is respected on both sides.
You’ll find out that a lot of people you considered “friends” in school were actually no more than acquaintances and the relationship really did only ever exist because you did see each other every day. You can be left feeling guilty that you’re possibly pushing your high school friends to the side to make way for new ones but it’s all part of the “growing up” process and doesn’t mean that friendships (both new & old) can’t be maintained for the long haul.
2. Don’t be afraid to just be who you are.
This is a really cliché sounding piece of advice but just trust me on this one. University is your chance to move on from the constraints that come with high school and not be stuck in a social “clique” you were placed in. You can start uni knowing that no one else in your course knows you/anything about you and that they can only form their judgement on what you show them. I’m not in any way suggesting that you be fake or lie to portray yourself as someone you aren’t, just be yourself.
You’ll find a lot of students to be more open-minded and receptive to that, that is if they have (hopefully) moved on from having a high school mentality. Another way to show off your personality to people without even having to speak is in the way you dress. In school you had to stick to the rules, follow a dress code and be stripped of any chance to show hints of personality, university is your chance to change that. As trivial as it sounds the only con of this situation is actually having to chose what to wear but it’s university so that’ll soon be the least of your worries.
3. Don’t buy EVERY book lecturers recommend.
First week into uni, every lecturer will provide you with a book list they suggest you buy to help you “pass” the class. Here’s your opportunity to learn from my mistakes. I’m doing a science related degree so I’m not sure about other courses but I’m assuming book prices will be similar across the board. They are REALLY expensive, realistically you don’t want to spend £60+ on a book you might only look at a couple of times.
My first suggestion is buying it second hand, I’ve done this on more than one occasion and saved a good amount of money, your uni might also have a second hand book store and/or a forum where previous students are selling them on so keep an eye out, especially at the beginning of the semester.
Have a look on websites like EBay & Amazon, you might even be lucky enough to find an online PDF version of the book as well. Another source that is often overlooked is the university library, you can normally check if they have it then rent it for varying amounts of time. Keep in mind that around exam time every other student will also have the same idea so rent it beforehand and even photocopy the pages you specifically need.
I don’t suggest buying EVERY book lecturers recommend, purely for the fact I doubt you’d even get a chance to get through them all & it’s a lot of money that you’d just be wasting. Do your research and see what book/s are best for covering a wide variety of subjects then later if you need more in depth information on a topic, a quick Google/YouTube search will more than likely cover it.
4. Wear a comfortable bag & pack light.
In school you left your bag in class or where you hung about at breaks and lunches, remember at uni you don’t have that luxury. Buy a bag that is big enough to hold everything but also comfortable enough to wear when you have to trek across campus (trust me you’ll be doing a lot of that).
Another piece of advice is to not over-pack, I’m the worst for doing this. Realistically most days all you’ll actually need is a notebook, a few pens/highlighters (whatever your preference) & most importantly lunch if you’re trying to save some money.
5. Looking after yourself physically AND mentally.
This last piece of advice is the most important of this whole blog & really hit home with me personally. At uni it’s easy to become swamped with deadlines and fall behind whereas in high school teachers would chase you up for homework/assignments, this difference has its obvious pros and cons but how you carry yourself at uni is 100% on you & you alone. No-one can force you to put in the work & it isn’t easy, in fact you’ll face a lot of challenges throughout your degree (that’s not to say you won’t rise above them, I believe you will).
My attendance for lectures was only recorded in my first year and the general rule is to attend at LEAST 70% of my labs, again this will be different with each course/uni but you get the idea, the flexibility of uni in comparison to high school is something you’ll definitely notice. Each individual knows their own limits in terms of studying & its important to not overdo them, especially around exam season as you’ll already be really stressed out.
Taking care of yourself mentally and frequently carrying out a self-care routine will alleviate the general pressure of uni, however if everything does get a bit too much you should contact your Guidance lecturer so they are in the know of your personal problems if your grades do start to slip. I also advise reaching out to a healthcare professional who may be able to get you counselling/further help.
It took me years before I took the steps of going to a doctor about my struggles with mental health and if I could go back in time I’d of done it sooner, no-one should have to suffer in silence. It’s important to remember it is TOTALLY okay to seek help, it doesn’t make you weak and definitely isn’t something you should be ashamed of. I hope this advice is somewhat useful & eases some of the panic about starting / going back to university, thanks for reading.