Heading to uni for the first time is a big deal…
Not only are you away from your family, your friends and familiar ground, but you’re swamped with a huge amount of pressure to make it the best years of your life.
The stress of making new friends and the fear that uni won’t live up to expectations can exceed any excitement you may have.
As someone entering their third year, here are some things to think about to make sure your first year is the best it can be!
1. It’s cool, everyone thinks of dropping out at some point.
Ok, maybe not everyone, but you’d be surprised at how many students will admit to seriously considering throwing in the towel.
I was overwhelmed with the difficulty and volume of the work I had to do in first term. Wasn’t this supposed to be the year that doesn’t matter? I was not prepared to have to work hard, and I was certainly not prepared for the change in teaching style. The shift to independent learning can feel like being thrown into the deep end.
It can be easy to allow this initial shock to make you feel like a degree wasn’t a good idea at all. You may think you aren’t smart enough, or not mature enough to do your best at uni.
While it may be worth considering whether you’ve picked the right course, it’s overwhelmingly more likely to be a simple case of culture shock.
I recommend putting time into your studies from the start. Yes, first years do have more flexibility (and energy) to go out clubbing a few times a week, and there may be a lot of pressure on you to spend most of your time socialising, but even an hour a day dedicated to organising yourself and your notes can help you from feeling overwhelmed by the academic side of things.
2. It really is ok to not go out every night.
Look, first year Lauren loved to party as much as the next fresher. I wanted to bond with my new flatmates and course buddies with the help of cheap alcohol. I wanted to explore every inch of nightlife my city had to offer. I just wanted to feel a part of uni culture! Going out is great fun!
But, you know what?
Not going out can be pretty great too.
There’s this bizarre worry amongst first years that if you don’t go out that one time, all your new mates will bond without you (or forget about you completely!) , you’ll miss a hilarious moment that turns into a golden anecdote amongst your friends or you’ll miss out on making eye contact with the love of your life over the vomit stained floor of a club.
None of these things will happen.
The same stuff that always happens will happen and then everyone will forget about it.
If you need some alone time snuggled up watching repeats of Daily Politics (not that I do this at all!) – don’t sweat it. There’s always next time.
3. You will find your people.
I was very lucky in first year. Most of the randoms I plucked up the courage to speak to in freshers week have ended up becoming some of my best mates. But, I’ve also had great friends enter my life later on, when I was least expecting it.
Freshers week isn’t the be all and end all of making lifelong friends.
It’s perfectly normal to hang out loads with certain people during the first couple of weeks and then drift apart when you realise they’re not your cup of tea. Not having your “group” within a month of uni does not mean you’ll graduate alone with no one to take a selfie with.
Universities are huge. Your people are out there.
Remember, great friends can come in all shapes and sizes, and may not necessarily be like the friends you had at school. Don’t dismiss anyone before getting to know them properly.
As long as you stay open to the people around you, take part in your community though societies and lectures, and stay positive – you will attract the people you want to spend time with.
4. As scary as they might seem, your lecturers are there to help you – use them!
Not to blow my own trumpet, but I was a pretty gifted child at school. I did great in all my subjects, I passed my exams with straight As and I felt pretty confident in my abilities.
Imagine my shock, then, when I rocked up to my first lecture and found out I was actually not the most intelligent person in the world!
I really struggled in a certain module and just couldn’t seem to get my head around it. The one thing I really needed was help from someone who knew the subject inside out. But, I never had to ask for help before. I literally didn’t know how to go about it! I struggled in silence and it comes as no surprise that I didn’t do great in the exam.
If you are finding a module tough and have put in a lot of effort trying to figure it out yourself, don’t be afraid to shoot an email over to your lecturer. They get emails every day and will not think it’s weird at all.
You’re paying a huge amount of money to be sat in that lecture hall so you might as well get all the help you can.
The pain of asking for help is nothing compared to the pain of getting your results back and knowing you could do better.
5. Think of the bigger picture!
University is, essentially, a bunch of previously cooped up 18-21 year olds all learning how to fly the nest with no guidance and a large amount of booze.
Given this combo, it’s no surprise that uni will be a character-defining rollercoaster of adventure and drama for a large majority of us.
We’re learning about who we are. This can be fun. This can be messy. And it will almost definitely be hilarious.
But, the main strategy to ensure your first year (and subsequent years) are the best they can be, is to not lose sight of the bigger picture.
Uni is not the only time in your life you will have fun. It is not the only time in your life you will have the chance to meet new people. It is not the only time in your life you can learn new things or try out new career paths.
First year will be so much more enjoyable once you take the pressure off yourself. Have a great time but don’t force it. This is just one part of your long, and hopefully very exciting, life.
Hop on the rollercoaster, enjoy the ride and see what happens!