Starting University is an overwhelming experience. It’s strange because one day you are sat at home with your family, and the next you are sitting in a block of flats filled with almost 100 people who have never met each other. The panic sets in because you think “Right, I need to make some friends ASAP before everyone else finds *their people* and I’m left completely alone.” It’s reasonable to think this way, everyone does. However, if you speak to students coming to the end of their degree you will discover that most of their friends are not the people they first met at uni or lived with in halls. These might be the first friendships you form, but they aren’t the only people at uni you will know. Don’t feel pressured to force these connections if things aren’t working out, because more often than not other students are going through the exact same thing.
Freshers Week is the next hurdle that presents a whole list of false expectations. It can be a lot of fun and is filled with many over-excited students who have discovered freedom for the first time. However it is just a week; it’s the beginning of an experience, not the defining moment of your degree. So many students get to the end of fresher’s week and are not content with how things have gone and think “maybe uni isn’t for me”. But in reality you could sit in halls for the entirety of freshers and still come out of uni at the end with a stronger group of friends than someone who goes out every night of the week and fakes it hoping they make it. Your best first night out will happen towards the end of your first year or maybe in your second year. You’ll be stood in the middle of the dancefloor on a weeknight in that shitty club with sticky floors, and look around to see all your favourite people smiling at you excitedly while bopping along to Mr Brightside, screaming at the top of their lungs. It’s cheesy, it’s trashy, it’s chaotic, but that’s what uni is all about.
Societies are a social aspect of uni that are pushed at first year students, specifically at Freshers Fairs. It’s a good idea to try some out but remember that there is no rush to join anything straight away. Many students don’t join societies until second semester or later because in first year you’re trying to juggle adapting to a new home, discovering your learning style and keeping up with all the new friendships you’ve made – meeting more people is the last thing you need. It’s so important to find a balance when you’re at university. Socialising is great, but it can become consuming and has a habit of taking priority over what you’re actually there for – lectures.
A lot of students talk about how “first year doesn’t count” and that as long as you get 40% you’re doing fine. This is true at most universities, the first few assignments will take some getting used to, so don’t get disheartened if you’re not getting 2:1’s from the get-go. However, if I could do first year over I would try to figure out how I benefit the most from assignment writing; do I prefer to smash out a few thousand words over 48 hours, or is little and often the way to go? Don’t wait until second year to figure these things out, because then you are risking grades that actually matter. I think lectures and workshops themselves are something that takes time to adapt to also, and I wish I had known about Jamworks from the moment I started my studies as it would have saved me a lot of time which I had instead spent note-taking! Lectures are a lot different to classes at school, and they vary in structure depending on the course you study. Using Jamworks as a tool for your studying early on in your degree can help to implement a study and note-taking routine into your weekly schedule which will benefit you in exams and assignments later down the line. It’s also important to not get too consumed by assignments though, we all need a balance of work and play, so don’t turn down that last minute offer to go to Spoons, because getting out of those prison-style halls can do your mind a world of good.
It’s reported that approximately 27% of students report having a mental health difficulty whilst at university, so if you’re living in a house or flat of more than 5 people, chances are one of you are going through something too. All of these new experiences and the emotions that are tied to them can be a lot to go through. It’s useful to sign up to a GP in your new area once you start your course, so that if at any point you feel you need access to support it will be freely available. Universities also have Student Services with trained councillors available to listen and offer advice to struggles and situations you’re experiencing, no matter the size.
It’s okay to not love your course. Unfortunately, we can’t try before we buy via Klarna when it comes to Uni, but decisions aren’t set in stone and changing your mind is okay. As you get older and mature, your interests and abilities change, and maybe now at 19 you’re not as passionate about being a teacher as you were in Year 11, when being surrounded by teachers was the thing influencing you in the first place. Maybe over the summer you spend a lot of time playing video games and realised that designing one is a secret passion that suddenly unfolded. Talk to your lecturer and Student Support, do some research and work out what the best choice is for you because that is the most important thing. Don’t spend three years studying something you don’t enjoy when you could do an extra year in something you actually enjoy and are good at. University isn’t just about getting the degree at the end, it’s about what you learn along the way.
The best way to learn is to have fun, so smile and make some memories, after all these are the best years of our lives right?