Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Started University
Yes, hello, hi, this is yet another post about starting university clogging up your feed/timeline/whatever you happen to read blog posts on.
I know this is a topic that has been written about hundreds of times but that’s because university is a scary life moment and, while there can be too much advice sometimes, I was honestly grateful for all of it before I started. I may not be able to offer you any ground-breaking words of wisdom, and much of what I say might have appeared in lots of similar posts, but I’m not sorry about that. What I can offer is my experience.
And, as I’m a new-student again (read about why here) I understand what I did right in my undergrad, and what I got spectacularly wrong. I loved university the first time around but I have some huge regrets and sadness at not doing the things I really wanted to do. I know that if I had followed the below advice I would have gained so much more from my experience:
Throw Yourself into university life
There’s no time for thinking I’ll ease myself in slowly and get a feel for things before committing to societies or extra-curricular activities (the ones put on by the university you filthy animal!). You need to throw yourself into the lifestyle head-first and from the very first moment. I kept telling myself that I’d get involved next semester or I’ll do that in second year but, before I knew it, I was walking across the stage in my cap and gown having not done the majority of things I wanted to try out. Go to fresher’s fair, sign up to societies, go to taster sessions (and then commit to some), find out what talks your course are putting on and go to the ones you’re interested in, be a course rep, get involved in volunteering, learn a new language – the possibilities are endless and, if you’re not careful, you’ll find yourself thrown out into the real world, struggling to figure out what to do with your spare time or how to make friends or how to take that weird class you’ve always wanted to take.
Join Societies To Make The Best Friends
Sure, your flatmates can be the nicest people on earth (if you’re lucky – thankfully I was), but, for the majority of people, the only thing you will have in common is your address. Societies will be full of people who have joined because, like you, they have an interest or passion in whatever it is you’ve joined. You’ll have more in common and, no matter how strange people not in the society may think it is, you will face no judgement from your society-mates. All events, nights outs and socials will be tailored to your interests. Join the things you’re interested in immediately and get involved.
The Best Time To Be A Course Rep Is First Year
You might think that you don’t know the university well enough yet or you haven’t learned enough in your course to be a representative but you would be wrong; first year is actually the best time to put yourself forward as a course rep nominee. You don’t have your dissertation taking up most of your time, the work isn’t as difficult as it will be towards the end, and you only need 40% to pass (although you should aim higher, I’ll get on to why in a minute) so you have more time to speak in lectures, campaign and canvas for votes. Being a course rep means you will get to know your university and course mates well, and they will get to know who you are too! Not only that but speaking in full lecture theatres will give you bags of confidence making those presentations seem like a walk in the park, and you can start making changes from the beginning.
Volunteering Is Important
These days it isn’t enough to have a degree anymore. You need to have things on your CV that is going to stand out in an over-saturated job market, and volunteering is a good place to start. Try and make it relevant to your degree subject, but definitely start doing it as soon as possible to give yourself the most experience possible. I found out just how important voluntary work is the hard way as I kept putting it off until it became too late so I ended up working a terrible job, unrelated to my degree, whilst volunteering for a year after graduation to get that vital experience. It’s finally gotten me a job in my chosen field but I wish I’d done it sooner. Learn from my mistakes.
Use Your University’s Careers Service
Careers services are a god send and it’s very easy to take them for granted when you’re a student. Don’t do that. Use them even if you don’t think you need them. Go and get your CV checked or do a mock interview just so you have the experience and advice under your belt for when you finish your studies. At some (most? all?) universities you can still use the careers service after you’ve graduated for help with things like job or further study applications but you don’t know if you’ll be living anywhere near your uni or whether you’ll have the time, so it’s better to do it whilst it’s easily accessible. They can also help you find jobs and voluntary positions to do alongside your studies as well. Use them.
First Year Grades Do Matter
You might think that because you only need to scrape 40% in your exams in first year you can do the bare minimum and get away with it but you’d be wrong. Many employers who ask for a specific degree look at your grades from all three (or four, or five) years of your studies. Yep, it’s true. I’ve been asked to send copies of my transcript and everything. If you’re applying for general graduate jobs or jobs where a degree isn’t necessary then you might get away with it. If you’re aiming for something else then you need to be doing well from the very beginning.
You Don’t Have To Drink Alcohol To Have A Good Time
A lot of university life – especially during freshers’ – is centred around getting as wasted as possible. But, more and more universities are putting on alcohol-free alternative freshers’ events. And what’s more is, these events are becoming more popular. I was a really anxious mess before I started uni for the first time, mainly because I had such bad anxiety when it came to drinking and being drunk – but that went away after Freshers had died down. I’m not saying it’ll be easy if you decide to go out-out but don’t want to get super drunk, or participate in pre-drinks drinking games, but it won’t be like that for the whole time. I got teased for not wanting to mix drinks or down pints but, after the proper work kicked in, everyone settled down, accepted that it wasn’t something I was in to and we became good friends. Don’t feel pressured into doing anything you don’t want to do. If the people you’re hanging out with can’t accept that fact that you don’t want to drink then they’re not the people you want to be spending your time with. There are so many different people at every university that it’s pretty difficult to not meet someone just like you.
Make The Most Of Your Student Discount
You will miss it when it’s cruelly taken away from you and you have to pay full price for everything like a total loser. Oh, and you’ll probably want to have a little cry when you’re at a till and the cashier asks if you’re a student and you have to say no and they give you a little pity look.
Are any of these tips useful to you? Would you add anything to the list? Let me know in the comments!
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