It has come to that time of year, where people are going back to school, college and university. Let’s be real with ourselves… we are definitely going to be a little bit rusty considering we haven’t been there for about 6 months (thanks corona xxx)! So, I’ve compiled my top 5 university DOs and DON’Ts to help any new university students or students who just need a little refresher before they get back into the swing of things.
- Plan and Stay Organised!
- I would highly recommend getting some sort of planner/diary. I personally use a physical planner and what really motivates me is using cute stickers and colour coordinating. But if you are more of a digital planner type of person, you could use something like Google Calendar! Whatever format you choose, this is a must for staying organised! First of all it will make it really easy for you to remember all your classes – kind of a crucial thing – and it will help you keep track of all your deadlines and due dates.
- A must-need for any university student is a folder. This could be either a physical ring binder or just a folder on your laptop. This will be where you put ALL you lecture and seminar notes, study materials, extra handouts, etc. It will make life so much easier for you when you come to studying for exams or writing essays if everything is in the same place. Anything we can do to eliminate that student stress is worth it!
- A huge aspect of planning and staying organised is budgeting. I would highly highly highly recommend that you have some form of budget plan, even if that is just writing down where you spend your money on the notes app on your phone.
2. Get involved & Try new things
- There are so many clubs and societies at university so you are bound to find something for you. Additionally, almost all of these clubs will have taster days or give-it-a-go sessions for free, so, I would recommend going to as many as you can. Of course, you probably won’t enjoy every single thing you try but it is an amazing way to make friends and I promise you will find something you really really enjoy which you would have never thought about before. In my first year of university, I tried everything from arts society to the surfing club! I realised I loved the rowing club and stuck with it for the whole year and will be continuing it onto my second year. Even more importantly, this is where you are more than likely going to find your university friends. For me, I found almost all of my friends through the rowing club and I am actually moving in with them next year!
- I know this will be a little (more like a lot) different his year due to social distancing measures and limited face-to-face interaction BUT as far as I am aware, all universities will be holding a virtual Freshers Fayre where it will be super easy for you to find new clubs and societies you are interested in.
- It is super important to get to know your flatmates. Not only are they the people you will be living with for 9 months but they will also be you only friends until you each find your “group”. I recommend bringing a doorstop and some biscuits when you move into your halls so you can get to know your flatmates as soon as possible!
- All universities have a Freshers Week which is there for you to meet new people and make new friends, so take advantage of this!
3. Register with your local GP and/or Dentist
- I know this is a rather boring one and you may even think it is unnecessary but it is much better to be safe than sorry. There are so many germs floating around universities, especially on nights out, you really never know what you could catch. Also, while we are still in a global pandemic I think it would be a very smart decision, just to know that if you ever were to get sick, you can just walk 20 minutes to your local doctors surgery instead of travelling home.
- Also, it will make your parents really happy and give them some piece of mind!
4. Take classes you are interested in
- The amazing thing about Scottish universities is that there is a lot of scope to take classes outside your degree course especially in your first two years, which also means it is super easy to switch your degree if you are not liking it (which is totally okay by the way)! You are way more likely to enjoy the classes that interest you, in turn you will probably do much better in that class and avoid a lot of stress.
- Most universities have a 1-2 week period for class dropouts. So if you are not enjoying a class it is totally acceptable to switch to a different one. In fact, this is highly encouraged as the universities want to see you succeed.
5. Find something outside of university that you enjoy
- This could be one of the societies or clubs that the university runs like I mentioned earlier. Or it could be a club in the city you are living in with no ties to the university. This could be some sort of sport or exercise, music lessons, theatre groups, dance classes, weekly cinema trips with you friends, pampering yourself, etc.
- This is something I really struggled with in my first year. I lived in Halls of Residence so I felt like I was waking up with uni students, walking to uni with uni students, spending all day at uni with uni students and I started to feel like my whole life revolved around university (which it doesn’t)! So I found something I really enjoyed outside of my studies and that became a huge stress reliever for me.
- It is so so so important to take a break from uni and take time for yourself. This will prevent overworking yourself and burnout.
- Don’t leave everything to the last minute
- This may sound like an obvious one but nonetheless I think it is an important one to mention. Your professors, lecturers and tutors will be able to tell! And ultimately, you are doing yourself a disservice. Unlike school, your course content isn’t just something you need to know to pass an exam. More than likely you are doing a degree to get a job in that field so you kind of need to know your stuff.
2. Don’t blow your student loan on Freshers Week!
- This is something I saw all around me in my first year and you would be surprised at how common it is. I had friends who spent about £500 in fresher week!!! Unfortunately, it is so easy to spend a ridiculous amount of money, especially if you are buying alcohol and going on nights out. It even harder to control your money when you’re a little bit tipsy… I’m not saying don’t have fun, but it all comes down to budgeting – knowing how much money you have and knowing how much money you want to spend. Plus there are so many free options, not only in freshers week, but within the city, so definitely take advantage of them.
3. Don’t be afraid of feeling homesick
- This is totally normal! For most people, this is their first time moving away from home so its only natural that you miss it. Just remember that everyone else is in the same boat so you are never alone.
- To try and combat the feelings of homesickness, I would recommend putting pictures of friends, family, pets, etc. up on your wall or pin board so you always have constant reminders of home.
- It is also important to keep in contact with your friends from school who don’t go to the same university or college as you and even try to arrange a weekend to visit them. Same goes with your family – talk to them as much as you can because they will be able to help you if you do feel homesick. And if worse comes to worst you can always go home for a weekend!
4. Don’t compare yourself!
- When you go to university you will be surrounded by so many new people who are all different, do things a different way, have been brought up differently and like different things. But please please please don’t compare yourself. It doesnt matter if the girl from Edinburgh is better at netball than you. It also doesnt matter if the boy you sat next to in the library has been there all day and you only went for an hour. None of this matters!
- What does matter is that YOU got into the university/college for a reason! YOU got into the university/college because they wanted YOU! So remember that whenever you start to compare yourself to somebody you dont even know.
5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
- University is not like school where people are embarassed and even make fun of others for putting their hand up in class. Some tutors will not even talk in a seminar and will sit and wait for the students to initiate the conversation! So asking for help can be simply asking your tutor to further explain something you didnt understand in the lectures. Or it could be going to your personal tutor (all universities will give you an adviser of studies or personal tutor – they will be your first point of contact for almost anything) and asking for financial advice, to change courses, extra reading material for a certain course, help with finding a part-time job etc. Or it can also be seeking help if you are struggling with your mental health (another reason why you should register with your local GP!).
- With university, inevitably comes stress. And more than likely this is purely the stress we put on ourselves because we want to do well. But it is so important to know how to manage your stress. Which is why there are so many resources within and outwith your university that will help you with stress and general mental health.
- But the most important part of this final point is that you ask! There is absolutely no shame in asking for help in any aspect of your life and it is actually a brave and strong quality. If you don’t ask, you will never get!
These were just my personal DOs and DON’Ts of university that really help me stay in control of my life. University is all about finding yourself and what works for you, so I’m sure once you are in the swing of things you will establish your own which you can pass on to friends. I hoped this helped anyone starting uni at the end of the month – whether its your first year or your fifth year. Also, Good Luck to any new freshers! I hope you love it as much as i do lol :)))))
Stay safe, Ro xxx