Ten tips for university

27th August 2014

The exams are finished, the university or college choices have been made and now the only thing you have to do is wait for the small matter of results day! Whether you get the results you want or have missed them slightly the chances are you are off to college in September to start a new exciting and, maybe a little scary, next part of your life. The home comforts will be gone; leaving your dirty clothes in the corner of your room for your mother to come along, pick them up, wash and iron them and the miracle of finding them all clean and hanging in your wardrobe, these days are over.

But of course there are the compensations, you can stay in bed as long as you like without being shouted at, you don’t need to give a running commentary of where you are or what time you are going to be back.

As you will very likely not be going to the same Uni as anyone else you know then it is a great chance to reinvent yourself.

  1. If you have decided to live in halls, or if you haven’t yet decided, then this is by far the best place to begin, don’t worry whether it is the oldest or ugliest block on the campus. Very often this can engender an esprit de corps amongst its students. But do try to get an en suite room, it really saves you having to time your dash to get to the bathroom before the person up the corridor sets up home in it for the next couple of hours!
  2. Your room is an extension of your personality, so maybe less is more when you move in. Unless you want people to know immediately where you stand on politics, music or anything else, best to leave the political posters at home and let you fellow students make up their minds about you from talking into the early hours. Another tip, keep your door open (take a door stop) and encourage people to drop in, the more people you meet the better.
  3. If you play the guitar or any other instrument, that is a must to have in your room, it will obviously mean those who play music gravitate to your room and it is a marvellous ice breaker in those early hours and days in hall. But please don’t bore anyone with your angst ridden songs that you wrote back in the lower sixth! You are turning over a new leaf and now is the time to influence and be influenced by other musicians. Likewise a cricket bat, rugby boots or hockey stick propped up against the wall will be a prompt for conversation and friendship building.
  4. So you have moved in. Your parents have left, if they brought you at all, and you are on your own. Fresher’s Week is a week of fun and excess! Make sure you check out the Fresher’s Fair and not only if you have a genuine interest in certain activities. You can join the relevant groups but also look around the other societies, there may be things there that you had never thought of doing before that may open up new possibilities. Also there are lots of freebies going, so anything useful, grab! Often companies will be there, giving out money off vouchers for anything from local bars through to supermarkets.
  5. Buying ‘rounds’. Everyone or at least most people will be on a tight budget so be careful when offering to ‘buy a round’. If you do, it is always a good judge of character of the others in you ‘round’ if they reciprocate. Beware those who don’t! Try all chipping in for pitchers of drinks if you can, this means everyone will be paying the same and it can be cheaper.
  6. You are here to study. Yes, I know there are lots of bars you need to get to know and sports to play and afternoon soaps to watch, but there is no getting away from the fact that there is work to do. So get yourself informed on timetables, locations of rooms and lecture halls. Go to the induction at the library, hopefully you will be spending a lot of time there. Also find the time that you work best, if going to study in the library at 6am is your thing, then go for it, the library will be quiet and you can get stuck into your essay without any disruption.
  7. Reading, don’t expect to read everything it is much more productive to read a few texts thoroughly rather than skim everything,; don’t forget it is not how much you know but how much you understand. Texts and references are far more accessible now a days thanks to the internet with online academic journals and articles, get used to making a note of references as soon as you read something useful or interesting, nothing is more frustrating that the last minute rush to get your work in and not being able to remember where you read what.
  8. Get to know your lecturers. At this level, a few comments in the margins of your essays are not good enough. You want to be able to discuss your work with the staff and see how they think you can improve. They are also hugely knowledgeable and often have a varied and interesting career which you can learn from. They are also often respected in their fields and have some great contacts as well for things like work experience or careers advice, Uni is costing you a lot of money so get your moneys worth! Also attend lectures and seminars. Ok, I know that the 9am lecture is pretty unattractive, especially when you only got to bed three hours before, but again you have paid for these and attendance can go towards your final mark and you never know you may learn something! Your Mantra should be ‘play hard, work harder’.
  9. Budgeting is difficult but a vital part of the learning curve. At the beginning of the term you will feel nicely ‘loaded’. However if you don’t set yourself a budget then you will find your overdraft rising horribly towards the end of term. Many students look for jobs to help them out financially but don’t jump into one. Settle into your course first and then see what time you have available without jeopardising your academic study. Look at ways of making your money going further second hand books is a good tip and not too many Chinese takeaways.
  10. Try to get a balance in your life, meet friends, play sport, play music, meet likeminded people, argue, debate, find out who you are and what you stand for but most of all have fun as three years will go in the blink of an eye!

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