10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Going to University

As I’ve just finished my first year at University, it seems appropriate to compile a list of things I wish I knew before starting my first year (although it got cut short due to the pandemic). Before starting University, I read countless articles and blogs similar to this in order to prepare myself for this new experience, but there are a lot of things that I wasn’t prepared for.

Despite recently deciding to change my course from Law to Public Relations, my learnings since September have been valuable to me as I have been able to recognise what I really want to do in the future. I am looking forward to restarting as a first year student in September as I now have the knowledge and experience that I didn’t have this time last year, and I hope that I can also help to advise other first years!

  1. Share textbooks

I’m not sure if every course requires students to buy as many textbooks as Law students have to, but they are pretty expensive. I spent £30-£40 on one textbook per module, which would only be relevant to me for about 4 months before I changed modules. Some of your textbooks will remain relevant throughout your time at University, but they’re still pricey and difficult to sell afterwards as most courses require students to buy the newest editions every year.

TIP: Pair up with someone on your course and share the cost of the textbooks, because you don’t need them with you 24/7. It’s a bonus if you both live at the same student accommodation! Or, if you happen to access the textbooks at your University library before they’re all taken, you’re pretty lucky.

2. First year does actually count

You always hear people saying “well the first year grades don’t count towards our final degree classification, we only need to pass this year” which is true, but it is still worth doing the best that you can in your first year. Some employers (depending on your chosen profession) will look at your individual module grades and wonder why your first year grades are lower than your second or third year grades.

TIP: Try to get into a good study routine from the beginning to prepare yourself for the rest of the degree. Also, you’re paying £9k for the first year so you may as well make it worthwhile. 

3. Take the time to explore your new city

You most likely would have considered location as one of the factors in choosing your University, so take the time to explore your new home! If you feel comfortable travelling by yourself, explore the city on your own; you don’t have to make plans with a huge group of people every time. I attend University in London, so check out my picture gallery below to see what I got up to!

TIP: Swap some of the money you’d spend on freshers club events for touristy days; you’ll get bored of clubs too quickly and there is way more to University than just the nightlife. If you’re attending University in your hometown, there’ll still be places you haven’t seen yet, so you can visit these and show the freshers your favourite parts!

4. Step out of your comfort zone

You’ll probably feel out of your comfort zone simply by living in a new place or studying in higher education, but this feeling won’t last. I stepped out of my comfort zone by approaching people at my accommodation and making friends with them (yes, I’m shy). Now, these people who I took the courage to speak to first are now some of my closest friends who I’ve made the best memories with, and I have stayed in contact with them over the summer!

TIP: Make the first move; everyone is in the same position of not knowing anyone, so everyone will be open to making new friends!

5. Be friendly with your flatmates

From day 1, you want to be living in a comfortable environment, so do make an effort with your flatmates. In my first year, my flatmates and I would say ‘hi’ to each other in the kitchen and that was it – no one wanted to take the first step in inviting everyone to spend time together, and it remained this way all year.

TIP: Take initiative and encourage your flatmates to maintain a good relationship with each other. You don’t have to be best friends with every single flatmate, but you’ll have a much better experience if you do spend time getting to know them and having fun with them. Some people say your flatmates will be your best friends at University, which wasn’t the case for me but I hope it is for those reading this!

6. Find a part time job

Before University, I told myself I’d definitely get a part time job, I was even applying before I had moved into my accommodation! Once I had moved in, I got so wrapped up in freshers and social events that I told myself I ‘didn’t have time’ for a job.

TIP: Having a social life is important for your wellbeing, but if you manage it well enough you can fit in a part time job somewhere – even if it’s 8-12 hours a week. That extra income will go a long way.

7. Be strict with budgeting

Every University students’ number 1 tip is to set a budget, but it’s about how strict you are with it. Set monthly or weekly budgets for each area you spend money on e.g. rent, food, social events, textbooks, travel, washing and stick to it! I won’t sugar-coat anything, University is stressful as it is, so don’t add to the stress by constantly worrying about money. If you set reasonable budgets and stick to them, you’ll be fine.

TIP: If you’re really bad with self-control, ask a friend or family member to check in with you every so often to make sure you’re still on track.

8. Say yes to everything (without burning yourself out)

The one motto that I had at the beginning of my first year was to say yes to every opportunity that came my way, whether it was a work experience opportunity or a social event. In hindsight, this worked out really well for me as I’m a very spontaneous person and don’t mind doing things last minute; this allowed me to experience so many things that I wouldn’t have even dreamed of!

TIP: Use this motto within reason and put yourself first – don’t feel pressured into doing anything you’re not comfortable with and always take time to recharge your social battery. It can feel draining being around people 24/7, even if they are your closest friends.

9. Make the most of freshers

This includes attending events and freshers fairs! You may not get to experience these events in the same way again when you begin your next year of University and they are a great way to meet new people. This is also a great chance for you to settle in and become comfortable with your surroundings before you officially start your course.

TIP: Briefly plan your freshers before you move into your accommodation – there is so much you can find online! Joining Facebook or WhatsApp groups is a great way to get to know people and you’ll feel much more confident speaking to people you have already met virtually.

10. Be a well-rounded student

The clue is in the blog name, but I really stand by this! In my opinion, to be a well-rounded student is to have interests and passions outside of your studies. No, you don’t have to start a blog or have a passion for writing, just do whatever interests you and embrace it! This can include anything, not just the sports you play or the societies you’re a part of; maybe you’re really into fashion or makeup or enjoy going to concerts. Either way, this is what makes up your personality and makes you unique, so don’t distance yourself from your interests just because they’re not deemed academic! 

TIP: Remember that everything is good in moderation, so try to find a good 50/50 balance between your studies and enjoying your personal interests.

I hope some of these tips were helpful! Starting University can be an exciting but scary time, but the key skill to master is balance. Enjoy both your academic and personal activities. Attend freshers events (they don’t all have to involve drinking and partying) but also take time for yourself. Consider how you manage your finances to avoid stress further down the line. Overall, have fun! You will never get this time back, and I believe that it is fair to say that University will be one of the best experiences of your life.

If you have any questions or tips you’d like to share, please comment them down below!

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