My tips for starting university – from a first year veteran!

tips for starting university

Now that I’ve completed my first year at university, here are my tips on how to choose or change your university course, deal with student accommodation, make friends and grow as a person. If you’re just starting university or college, make that first year go the way you want it to! 

So, you’ve chosen your college or university. You’ve had to sit through countless presentations, write countless drafts of your personal statement, but you’ve made it. You’ve got the grades and been accepted onto your chosen degree. What now?

As I’ve completed my first year, it’s time to share the wealth.

You can change your university course if you need to.

When I first started university, I was doing a Journalism and Creative Writing joint honours degree. By the end of week two, I already didn’t want to attend lectures, and found myself doodling in class when I should be taking notes. So I switched courses, and swapped Journalism for English Literature. What I’m trying to say here is please don’t worry if you don’t enjoy your university experience straight away – steps can be taken to improve your situation, even what course or modules you take. By the time university comes around, a lot of people know what they enjoy and what they don’t. The tutors are there to support you, not to scare you. Ask them to help you, and remember it’s part of their job to listen and help when you explain the problems you’re having, no matter how shy you feel about it.

First year student accommodation and halls

Figuring out student accommodation and wondering who you’re going to end up living with (or near to) can feel scary. Before you attend your first term at uni, find halls groups on Facebook and join them. If you don’t want to talk to the other students you’re living with on Facebook, that’s fine – I didn’t. When you move in, go and knock on someone’s door. My flatmate and good friend did this when we moved in, and we sat in the kitchen chatting until a third person moved in. It might be scary, knocking on a random person’s door, but that act definitely made me feel more comfortable and it helped with the process of turning new strangers into familiar faces, – so allow yourself to take the first step.

Embrace change

By the time I was ready to start my first year at university I was fairly confused about who I was, who I wanted to be and where I wanted to go in life. Now that I’ve finished my first year I’ve got more defined ideas about all of these. Back in school/college I went to rock shows, festivals and comedy gigs. I didn’t go out very much, and dressed very much in a rock style. Which was great, and I have no regrets. But I wouldn’t have guessed then that once I hit uni I’d start reconnecting with my love of RnB and Garage music! Don’t be afraid to reveal your slightly more hidden loves, and take advantage of all the societies on offer, from FemSocs to Pratchett FanSocs – whatever floats your boat. There will definitely be someone else in your new uni environment who likes the same things!

Explore a world beyond student cliques

It’s all too easy to fall into student cliques. Community bonding is great, but you can still talk to the girl who doesn’t look like the type you normally resonate with. If you like her personality, even if your exterior tastes don’t match, you don’t have to shut her out… She could be your new best friend. The friends I made in my first year at university are amazing, and I couldn’t have done it without them, but back at home I might never have approached them… and they might never have approached me. And while we all appear different, it turns out that I have so much in common with all these people.

Don’t feel pressured.

It’s your first year, yes, but that doesn’t mean that the ‘rules’ of casual sex and drugs have to apply to you. I had a fantastic year without all of this stereotypical activity, a year that was at least as good to me as it was to those who I know have indulged themselves. If you don’t want to go out every night, don’t – but don’t be a hermit either. Try to do as much as you can to express yourself, not act out a template of who you’re ‘meant’ to be.

There are so many places out there saying all of this. But they’re not lying, even when they say you’ll eventually resort to living off Supernoodles. They speak – in some cases unfortunately – the truth. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my first year at university, it’s that you can be as cynical as you like before you get there, but once you’re there…anything can happen.