As the year slowly starts to come to an end, comes the start of the university year. Going into second year, I honestly am so excited to see everyone again and get down to work. However, I know not everyone feels this way. Especially for first years, university can be extremely never-raking and anxiety-inducing. For me, one of my biggest worries was that I felt so unprepared and I had no idea who to be and what was going to happen.
So, with a month or so left, here are 10 tips for anyone starting university.
1. The power of social media
Being an international student, starting university didn’t feel like a new chapter – it felt like a whole, new book. Nothing was going to be familiar; everything was going to be new, and it scared me. However, after June, that anxiety turned into excitement, and that was all thanks to the Facebook groups provided by Freshers’ and the university. I was able to speak to some people before university, and because of this, when I moved, this brand new world had something small that was familiar, and it made such a big difference. If you have Facebook, the best tip I have would be to get into these groups and meet people in your course, or on your residence or nearby. Talking to people helps you feel less alone, both emotionally and physically.
2. Be yourself
As cheesy as it is, another word of advice would be to be yourself. Starting university can be stressful and scary, and for a lot of people, that stress and fear revolves around meeting new people or not having a lot of friends. One thing my year at university taught me is not to be someone else or change the person you are. University is massive, filled with different and unique people, and I promise you will find friends who are compatible with your personality and who you are.
3. Look online for textbooks first
When I first got my reading list, the first thing I did was hop onto Amazon.com and buy all the textbooks I needed. A few days later, I found that most of my textbooks were online and free, and I instantly regretted the day before; and lost a lot of money unnecessarily. My third tip would be to always look for your textbooks online first, or check if it is in your library. Surprisingly, a lot of your textbooks will be online and downloadable free of charge, and eBay and Amazon offer second-hand textbooks at a much lower price. If you do find your textbook in the library, take it out early and do not leave it to the last minute, because as the deadline comes closer, everyone is going to be racing for that textbook.
4. Practice budgeting
I hate to break it to you, but the term “student budget” is not a myth. As a student, you have to provide for yourself, and it can become an absolute pain. So, before university starts, practice budgeting. Go with your parents and see how much food costs and think about what you buy monthly. A good way to practice this is to work on a budget in this last month, before university. Little mini tips to save money: cooking is much cheaper than buying takeout, and so are pre-drinks. For more information, check out our article on saving.
5. Apps and Stationery
Coloured pens, highlighters, new gadgets that you’ve never heard of but must now have; there is nothing more satisfying than stationery shopping. I do, however, highly recommend doing this before university starts. And always buy spare. A lot of students don’t bring stationery to lectures, or lose something, and either buy stationery during breaks or constantly borrow. By buying and organising your stationery beforehand, it psychologically makes you feel prepared and will take a little weight off your shoulders. Also, people asking to borrow your stationery might be a super nerdy but friendly way of meeting people.
Furthermore, have a look at organisation apps to use during university beforehand. I used to record my lectures, and during my second semester, I found a free app that dictated and allowed me to make notes with my recordings. Doing some app and website research before university adds to your preparedness, and avoids the constant reorganising of your work.
6. Understand your working methods
Mixing “be yourself” and “apps and stationery” together, this next tip is to understand the way you work. Not everyone works best at night, and not everyone absorbs knowledge in lectures by writing things down. Don’t follow what your friends are doing; do what works best for you. If you concentrate better in the morning, sleep early and study in the morning, or if you remember information better by listening, do not feel pressured to write everything in the lecture down because your friends are. By understanding how you work, it also helps you feel more prepared, less stressed and prevents continuously trying to organise your work. If you need to, use the first semester as a self-learning experience. Try different techniques, and in the holiday, reflect on what works best for you, and you’ll thrive in your next years at university.
7. Routine and Timetables
University works on routine, and so the best way to feel prepared for the start of the year is to practice this. For this next month, start picking up and practising good habits for university, like waking up early. Especially after how crazy this year has been, a routine might help you feel like things are going back to “normal”. The best way to practice routine is to draw up a timetable. This helps you visualise everything you need to do for the day, and will help you balance everything in university.
8. Organise your life
When you move to halls, or away from home, there are small things you need to do. This includes registering with the closest doctor and change your billing addresses. My advice: make a list of what you need to do, and do it early. A lot of my friends forgot to register with the closest doctor, and when they got really sick or had to go, it became a bit of a mission. These may seem like such a minor things, but organising your area requirements before university gets too hectic has a long-term benefit and will ease the stress of the university life.
9. Don’t pack too much
You’re moving to a new place, what do you pack? It’s so easy to fall into the trap of packing everything, but just a tip, do not pack your whole wardrobe. We have a list of essentials you will definitely need. But, especially if you’re living in a university residence, the cupboards are not that big. So be careful! After all, more clothes mean more washing, which means more money spent. Also, the more stuff you have, the more stuff to look after, which means more stress. Honestly, in my experience, no one really cares what you’re wearing, and everyone re-wears outfits. You do not need thirty jackets; one really good one will do the job if you are going to pack excess of something, rather cleaning products than clothes and accessories.
10. Do pre-work
Especially for second and third years, you can never do “enough work” to help you prepare. My final tip is: during this last month, try and do a little pre-work. Whether that’s watching Crash Courses online, doing a little extra research, watching documentaries or completing a course through Udemy or Shaw Academy, extra work goes a long way. It also helps you get into the mindset of university and helps you develop a routine.
I know the thought of university can be scary, but university can be the greatest point of your life. Coming to university, I’ve met amazing people, experienced new things and made lifetime memories. My final piece of advice: these are the greatest times of your life, have fun, work hard and live it up.