By Alice Foulis

Freshers may have finished but the year is only just beginning! Hear 13 students and recent graduates’ top tips for how to make the most of starting your university journey.

Transitioning into university from school is hard. The summer before university seems to drag on and then suddenly you’ve said goodbye to your friends and family, moved into halls, usually moved to a completely new town/city, and started a whole new life.

You’re suddenly expected to fend for yourself; venturing into adulthood and life outside of your home, whilst also being thrown into a whole new degree in a subject you may have never studied before. And within all of these new and overwhelming situations, you’re also expected to make friends. Phew, it’s a lot to take in! Luckily, I’ve asked some of my fellow students for their advice on this transitional period. Here’s what they had to say (a sort of ‘Top 13 tips for what to do when you start university for the first time): 

1. Use this as a chance to shed the baggage of school, and be the person you want to be (from Ed, University of Wales Trinity Saint David and University of St Andrews).

2: Be organised and take responsibility: there’s no one there to make sure you do things like eating all your veggies or do your coursework or turn up to class. Be organised with your work and personal life, and make sure you’ve got a balance, whilst taking responsibility for your time and actions (from Beth, University of St Andrews and Imperial College London). 

3. I think for me it was all about structure and boundaries. Uni is so unstructured and you can end up either over or under working. Make a schedule and stick to it (from Meghan, University of St Andrews and University of Oxford).

4. Lose all inhibition: at university no one is cooler than anyone else. In particular everyone is starting fresh and finding their way equally! (from Chris, University of York & Studenteer).

5. Have faith in the process. Although it feels scary and overwhelming now and you might feel worried about making new friends, moving away from home, or even cooking every meal for yourself, this next year will be one of the best of your life. You’ll have the chance to meet so many new people, take on so many opportunities, and start figuring out who you are and who you want to be! In a year’s time you’ll look back and realise just how far you’ve come, how much you’ve changed, and how you wouldn’t change a thing. (from Amy, The University of Edinburgh, The University of Law, BPP Law School and Studenteer).

6. Be prepared to make mistakes – these are normal in all aspects of transitioning to uni life and can be anything from misjudging what kitchen equipment you need to buy to missing the mark on those first few assessments in first year. Don’t beat yourself up over these! (from Annie, Studenteer).

7. Remember that the lecturer is there to teach you, but not handhold you. If you’re having problems, you need to raise it early. They’ll be happy to help but they won’t ask. You need to take accountability for your learning. The flip side of that is also not being intimidated by lecturers. They’re usually very happy to help, especially if you show an interest (from Matt, University of Dundee).

8. Get involved with anything that looks fun. There are so many opportunities compared with school – do sports you haven’t tried before! Also, don’t go home every weekend or you’ll miss out on your uni life! (from Kirsty, University of St Andrews).

9. Do everything and talk to everyone (especially during freshers). Any event that sounds remotely interesting or any awkward icebreaker thing: do it. If a couple of months in you’re still not feeling comfortable or settled in academically or socially, that’s normal and most students aren’t. It can seem like everyone else is doing so much better than you are but if you talked to them you’d find out that’s probably not the case (from Claire, University of St Andrews and Trinity College Dublin).

10. Put yourself in uncomfortable situations and talk to everyone you can, even if they’re just standing beside you in a queue or sitting beside you in a massive lecture (attend your lectures and tutorials, even when you don’t want to!). On a more practical level, actually sitting down to budget your financial circumstances will go a long way to lowering your stress levels and allowing you to focus on studies and friendships. (from James, Trinity College Dublin and University of St Andrews).

11. Be prepared to make mistakes, to be disappointed, for things to go wrong, that’s all part of the process! Just be persistent and believe in yourself and you’ll achieve your goals! Also remember that University is not only about the marks, it also about the experience, the networking, etc. which will take you sometimes even further in life than those who just focused on getting the highest marks and left everything else behind (from Ines, University of Kent and Studenteer).

12. Have faith in the process and manage your expectations – it might not be what you imagined when you first get to uni but just try to enjoy it for what it is and trust that it’ll all work out in the end. And definitely try volunteering! (from Ellen, University of Stirling and Studenteer).

13. Don’t worry if you don’t make friends straight away. Sometimes the sparkly people who are a perfect fit for you take a little longer to appear, and that’s okay! You’ve got years at university and you won’t necessarily make all of your best friendships in your first semester of first year. (from Alice, University of St Andrews and The University of Law). 

And a final bonus tip: sign up to volunteer with Studenteer! You can learn new skills, help a charity in an area you really care about, and add an experience to your CV – even if you only have a few hours free per week.

Remember, you’ve got this. Transitioning into university is hard, and it’s okay if university isn’t the best time of your life – everyone struggles at some point, and sometimes people discover it just isn’t for them. Take your time, remember to step back and breathe every so often, and always reach out for help if you feel like you’re struggling. Most of all though, do what feels right and comfortable for you!

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