Though I’ve just graduated, my first few weeks at uni still feel like they were yesterday – I might not remember the details, but I can still remember the mixed bag of emotions I felt: fear, anticipation, anxiety, excitement, worry, sorrow – they were all there.
Sometimes I’d like to fly back in time to 5 years ago and tell my younger self a few things that could help me get me through, but alas I can’t – so I thought I share those things with you – especially if you are about to go to university.
So here’s my 5 tips to get you through your 1st year at uni.
1. Go to your classes
Firstly, you are now paying a crap-ton for your education. You might not be paying directly yourself, because you’ve got a loan, but remember that as soon as you take out your student loan, it incurs interest until the very end when you’ve paid every single bit back. I broke it down for me last year; if I were paying the max of £9k per year with 15 hours of lectures and seminars a week from October – June minus term breaks, I’d pay over £85 per class. So I wouldn’t be wasting that by not going.
Secondly, while 1st year doesn’t count toward your degree result and you only have to pass all modules, they will still make a difference if/when you need to find a placement for after 2nd year (which I can only recommend; any employer is more inclined to consider you if you’ve worked for a year). Placement jobs are very limited, due to financial budgets, and the competition is high. While only 4 unis in the UK make placement mandatory – there are a huge amount of people that do choose to take a year out after 2nd year to do this.
2. Play hard, work harder
I’m not saying you should be wasting your exciting first year of uni only going to classes. Go and enjoy yourself! But if you can party hard, you should still make that 9am class. Be strict with yourself – if you know you have a piece of coursework due in 7 days and you haven’t started it yet (which is more than likely), don’t go out. I know you’ll feel like you’ll be missing out, but it will be most likely just another night in an overcrowded club.
3. Be safe whatever you do
Lock your room – it’s nothing personal to your flatmates, it’s a security thing. Student accommodations are notoriously targeted by criminals and insurance don’t pay out anything if you can’t prove that you did everything to protect your belongings eg locking your room. Even if your halls require special keys or swipe-card access, there’s always a way in by tailing after someone, etc
Also, when you go out to party, always have a condom with you if you are after a shag. There’s nothing wrong with getting laid, but don’t count on the other side to have a condom or to want to use a condom. Say no if they don’t wanna use one. It’s your life that might get screwed up by the consequences of unprotected sex (and I’m not just talking about the embarrassment of having STDs).
And make sure you go back to your place – it’s your body, so it’s your rules and especially if it’s a random hook-up you know next to nothing about the person. So go somewhere where you know where you are and where to go and who to call if anything happens.
Also, don’t be afraid to say no if you change your mind or if you don’t wanna hook in the first place! There’s nothing wrong with not wanting to sleep with someone. If they call you names, screw them!
And finally, when you go out clubbing, put a fiver into your pockets or bra – that way you will always have a bit of cash on you for a cab. There’s nothing more stupid than to walk home on your own risking getting mugged or worse!
4. Be money-savvy
University is expensive. And so are books, nights out and all that jazz. Try make use of student offers and buy older editions books or see if you can split the costs of a book with a course mate.
Try and buy your food from Morrison or Asda rather than Sainsburys and again, make use of shopping after 5pm when lots of stuff is being reduced. If you live in a house where you have to pay for electricity, switch off the lights whenever you leave a room.
And on nights out, withdraw some money, say £20-30 and leave your bank card at home. This way you won’t risk spending more money than you can spend! I for one should’ve done that many, many times.
Keep track of what you spend your money on – make a little list for each amount you spend, even if it’s super small. You’ll see how much money you spend on random crap. It will open your eyes.
5. Make friends
This one is a duh-one, but building a network of friends is really important. Almost everyone I know from uni struggled in first year, whether that was dealing with being away from home, or the stress of self-study, money issues, etc.
As a fresher you’re all in the same boat: You’re all new to this experience and don’t know anyone, so no one is going to say ‘no, I don’t want to get to know you’. It is incredibly scary to introduce yourself, but the chances of being turned away are slim. Ask about what course the person does, or what club or society they’ve joined or which halls they live in or where they’re from. You might find you already have things in common.
Speaking of clubs and societies – join as many as you can and be experimental, try things you haven’t tried before. I was talked into joining Jiu Jitsu in my first year and I actually turned out to be very, very good at it!
For those of you who are going to uni this year – I hope you found these 5 tips helpful.
And for those who have been to uni – what would you tell your fresher-year-version of yourself?
What advice would you give other freshers?