So, A-Level results are out and I’m seeing social media updates about how excited people are to start uni and I feel so, so very old. Also nostalgic for that youthful, innocent flutter of excitement for what uni will be. I was going to Laaandan! I was going to freshers week! I was going to meet all sorts of interesting people and learn all sorts of new things!
Uni is great, and its entirely what you can make of it. But as a loving gift from a veteran (or, recent graduate)- here are some tips to survive the first year (or week).
Learn to Cook
Cannot stress this enough. I know some halls offer catered accommodation, but really try and cook as much as you can. You learn how to budget better, you will eat so much better than living off take outs and meals out, and being able to eat healthy, hearty meals will see you through the stressful exams and deadlines much better than bowls of cereal and pizza. So buy student cookbooks and google recipes. You don’t have to cook fancy meals, but having some go-to faves will be a life saver (and can impress anyone).
Your time spent at uni will involve more freedom than you have ever had, or possibly will have again. So don’t hold back from trying new things. Take up new hobbies, new classes, go to a house party where you only know one or two people, or use your long holidays to travel. Don’t let yourself stagnate, because some opportunities will slip you by.
Make Your Studies a Priority
Your main goal whilst at university ideally should be to come out the other end with a degree. The student life is fun, but it will be a heavy debt to pay back if that’s all you focus on. Your studies will challenge you to the point of breaking point, but that’s what they should do.
Do More than Nights Out
Do embrace clubs and their student nights before you start to feel too old for them (which will happen alarmingly soon). But do you really want your memories of some of the best years of your life to be a hazy blur? Take in the culture, the local life, and bond with people over more than just vodka.
Seize Every Opportunity in Your 1st Year
Sign up to all the societies that interest you (it’s a tradition) and try out as many as you can until you find the ones you really like. And stick with them. Your studies will only get more and more demanding, so you should really use your first year to explore opportunities outside your studies so you can still brag about them on your CV later.
If there is one word to sum up my first year of uni, it is ‘dramatic’. And I just mainly witnessed the drama. You will meet so many different people all cooped up together in small flats, so there’s bound to be drama. But find reliable people you can trust, embrace these friendships, and don’t get too caught up in fall outs. Because eventually you will realise these things don’t matter, as long as you have good people as support.
Managing finances whilst at uni can be varying levels of difficulty for all students. Some have it luckier than others, some don’t. But do try and budget wisely. I used a spreadsheet to estimate and work out how much I spent on different expenses monthly, and succeeded in living within my means. But don’t think of your overdraft as extra money, think of it as a safety net best not to linger too long in. The real world can be scary once a hell of a lot more taxes start biting into your finances, so try and always save for a rainy day.
Look After Yourself
So important. I mean it health wise: both physically and mentally. Uni can be daunting and stressful, but make sure you get enough sleep, eat healthy food (as well as food that makes you happy). Always talk to people and ask for advice when you need it. And I sound like your grandma.
Make Good Connections, not Infinite Connections
I know people who started uni hoping to make about 100 friends in their first week. Whilst uni is an amazing pace to meet many people, don’t focus on knowing everyone by name. Find good people who you can trust, because they will be the ones you turn to in times of need.
Don’t Forget Those Back Home
Family who hope to know you’re still alive, and friends who are possibly also off on their own daunting adventures. These are the people who looked after you during your first alcohol fused vomit fest, who explored the uni options with you, who know many terrible things about you but still love you. New people are fun and fascinating, and possibly will become greater friends than previous ones, but it never hurts to touch base once in a while.