How to Survive a year at University

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You’ve finished all your exams, and hopefully they went well enough that you can forget about them. Unfortunately, now starts the long summer of waiting – waiting for results, waiting for university offers to be confirmed, waiting to move away or start something new perhaps! In all the excitement and fear of the unknown, maybe you will find some of my 6 tips for surviving your first year useful.

1 - Join societies and get stuck in
Although the first week may be daunting, it’s a great time to go to taster sessions and find out about all the societies you can be a part of. I do recommend not joining all of them – you won’t have time, if nothing else - but you can try something new without committing. I tried badminton, netball, ballet, ultimate frisbee, gospel choir and the Christian Union. Not all of them stuck, but some of them did and I met many of my friends at societies, as well as some random people I really recognise around campus and realise an hour later I saw them once at that badminton taster session.

2 - Do SOME work
I know the first year doesn’t count – something you start chanting to yourself an hour before your deadlines – but it does set the habits for the next few years. It’s worth using the year to get used to the new essay and exam style, which means you might have to put some effort in. Try planning to do things before the deadline so you don’t have to pull all-nighters or hand in something you’re not satisfied with. Go to your lectures! They might not seem like the most interesting use of time, but it does help with revision if you have already been taught it at least once. You did come to university to get a degree after all.

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3 - Make the most of opportunities available
This advice was given to me by a lecturer (another reason to go to lectures). There are very few other situations in life where so much is so easily available to you. There are people whose whole job is to help you with employability or wellbeing or essays. Similarly, when else are you going to have the chance to go and pet some dogs to help relieve stress? (Pro tip: GO TO THE DOG DAYS) I found out recently that I could enrol myself on to additional practical courses like stone-carving, or photography, as well as more academic things like mentoring or essay preparation. Find out what is on offer – who knows you could find your passion is stone-carving!

4 - DON’T go to university just because everyone else is
One of the best things I did before going to university was to take a gap year. I wasn’t ready to go to university right after sixth form and it gave me a chance to really reflect that this was a choice I wanted to make, and I was studying something that I am interested in. There are so many alternatives to university which are available, and some suit some people better than others. Don’t just go to university because of peer pressure or teachers saying it’s a good idea. I was recently at a careers fair for students of an equine and agricultural college, and for most of them going to university to study conservation was not going to be the best fit. For some ideas of what other options are, look at these:
Volunteerics, apprenticeships,
Traineeships, National Careers Service and Gap360

Also speak to people around you, or a careers advisor at school. They can help you! However, even if you don’t go to university don’t switch off during those classes about how to write a personal statement or apply for UCAS. Some of these skills will be essential for writing CV’s and getting a job in the future.

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5 - DON’T live off pizza – have a varied and balanced diet
Even if only to stop your Mum from worrying. I’m pretty sure one of my housemates did it this year – rumours said that he only ate at 11 pm and his deliveries from Tesco’s were 90% frozen pizzas. Buy the odd vegetable or five. Try cooking - it isn’t as hard as you think, especially as most things have instructions of how to cook them on the packet. Also, common sense goes a long way – don’t leave your toast in the toaster to burn and then make you the enemy of the entire block as the fire alarm goes off.

6 - DON’T hide yourself away in fear
I know the first week or so is very daunting, and it is very easy to become a hermit in your own room. But it won’t get any easier if you do that. Everyone’s in the same boat and sitting in the kitchen at mealtimes together or during the day does make it a bit easier to get to know your housemates. Otherwise, how are you going to know who to write passive aggressive notes about the milk thief to?
I hope you find some of these useful if you are off to university this September (or even if you’re not!) I wish you the best of luck and I’m sure it will be great!

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