Thousands of new, bright eyed students will be joining universities across the country this Autumn. As a graduate, I thought I would offer some advice!
1. Join societies!
All universities have lots of great societies and it’s a really good idea to join some in your first year. There is something for everyone: Quidditch, all types of dance, feminist groups, religious societies, cheerleading, music, creative writing, real ale. Plus, if there’s a society missing then it’s usually pretty straight forward to set one up. It usually requires around 50 signatures of interested people and then you’ve got a society of your choice. Some societies have sign up fees but it’s well worth it. Societies are a great way to meet new people and make friends even if you only go to a few meetings and socials.
2. Make friends on your course.
It’s usually fairly easy to make friends with people in halls but chances are that you’ll be in shared houses in 2nd/3rd year. This means any friends in halls usually drift apart. So making friends on your course is really important. You’ve already got your subject in common and that’s a great start for conversation. Introduce yourself to people in lectures, don’t sit on your own and shy away. You’ll see these people around for the next 3 or 4 years so be sociable!
3. Work hard.
Of course the social side of university is great fun and really good but you are there to learn so work hard. Most universities have it so that your grades in first year do not count towards your final result. However, it is important to get into the library and open some books. It will give you a head start for following years, if you have a good work ethic then it will be easier to transition into your 2nd year which is often more difficult. Get the balance right – go out but also go to lectures and enjoy all the great resources at your disposal.
4. Use the services.
If you have mental health difficulties, visit the university counselling service who will be willing to help. Even if your issues seem small compared to others, the counselling service will have helped people with all sorts of problems so don’t be afraid. Get to know your personal tutor, go to meetings with them and ask for help if you need it. They will most likely be writing your reference when you leave so it’s important to establish a good relationship with them. Financial troubles are common but there will be people to help so seek them out to ease your worries.
5. Don’t drink? Don’t worry!
A lot of people think that all students are heavy drinkers and out every night. While this is true of some, it’s not the case with all. There will be plenty of things you can take part in without having alcohol involved. Write for the university newspaper, hang out at coffee places, there’s plenty to do without alcohol and plenty of people to join you.
6. Have fun.
This is a time in your life when opportunities are endless. Take placements, volunteer, make friends, read all the books you can, work hard. Most importantly, have fun and enjoy this time. It will be your last chance to enjoy life before jobs and taxes and boring adult things take over.
I had a lot of tough times at university. My mental health was all over the place and there are definitely things I would have done differently. But it was also an amazing 3 years and I hope that everyone enjoys university as much as they can.