Tips for Starting University and the Lessons I Learnt

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It is that time of year again (at least in England) with many going off to university for the first time or going back to university, some for the last time. I wanted to share some of my advice for starting university and even for those going back. I say ‘some’ because I realise that there is so much more I could say, and this post is already long enough! Please feel free to leave your own tips or questions in the comments below.

One of the biggest concerns is making friends; it’s probably one of the first times that you’ve been away from home and your family, so you want to find that same comfort, joy and support in a group of people nearby. Here’s are some tips for figuring this out:

  • First of all, everybody is in the same boat; everybody is looking to make friends. Just be yourself!
  • Join as many societies as you can, even just to try them out, and go to their social events. This way, you’ll not only be doing something you enjoy, trying out something new, or finding a new passion, but you’ll also meet a ton of like-minded people, who are in a similar position to you or who want to welcome you to the university.
  • Give people a chance, because everyone is in a new environment and might not quite be themselves. On the one hand, people might not turn out to be who you thought they were and that’s ok, but at the same time, don’t write people off straight away because they might just need a bit more time to adjust and to become comfortable being themselves.
  • With that said, don’t spend all your time with people who are negative or who don’t make you feel comfortable or that you feel guarded around. Take these people with a pinch of salt.
  • Don’t board yourself up in your room, but try and get out there as much as possible! If you are the one who keeps their door open or who says a friendly hello in the corridor or kitchen, people will be drawn to you and remember you as someone who has the potential to be a great friend.
  • If you are feeling homesick, don’t hide away. Give yourself time to adjust and take things slowly. But try to be around people as much as possible. My tip would be to make some plans for when you’re next going to go visit your family or something similar; by doing this, you’ll not only have something to look forward to, but you’ll also make the most of your time at university instead of focusing on your homesickness and the worry of being away from home.

Although the social life is probably one of the reasons university is called by many as the best time of your life, studying is also one of the most important parts of the experience; you are, after all, there to get a degree. Here’s some advice:

  • Study something you are passionate about and you enjoy! Some of you may be studying a subject you’ve never studied before, and not all modules, especially the compulsory ones, are always fun or interesting. Sometimes, you’ve got to stick it out because there are great parts to your degree. But if you find yourself really hating your degree, I would try and branch out as much as possible. Take a look whether you can swap into something else or whether you can pick up some modules in different subjects.
  • Take every opportunity you can and don’t dismiss anything without thinking it through properly! For example, at my university, we could take a year abroad, and I really wish I had done it looking back! Your subject area may also have lots of volunteering or extra-curricular opportunities to look out for.
  • Find a balance between your school work and your social life. I’ve seen the outcomes of both ways, but my best year by far was the one where I valued my school work, my extra-curriculars, and my friends equally. Sometimes you have to learn to sacrifice. It’s all about being responsible and learning to judge situations yourself.
  • Don’t be scared about failure and give yourself time to adjust to how the university grading system works and what they expect of you. And seek help! Get as much out of your tutors as you can.

When you go to university, you have a lot more independence and you rely on yourself much more. For me, this meant that I learnt not only to provide for myself and organise myself, but also to be self-loving, self-congratulating, and self-rewarding. I learnt to stand up for myself and to stand by what I believed in. When I left university in July, I realised that my experience was a lot more valuable and special than I’d realised at the time. If anything, please value any moment you have, even when you’re having a bad day or you’re missing home or there is something going on in the background; one day you’ll look back and either regret not having made the most of it, miss it, or smile because you did have one of the best times of your life.

Good luck to all of you who are starting university and to those of you going back! Go in there head first, make the most of it, and do your best! You can do it!

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How to deal with a bad grade

Whether you’re filled with self-doubt and no self-confidence, or you know that you didn’t spend enough time writing and revising, anticipation hangs in that moment before receiving a grade. And once its there in your hand, completely unexpected and foreign in the worst way, there is no better way of describing the feeling other than like the end of the world, however clichéd it sounds.

 

Sitting in the toilets of the English Department at my university, I cried whilst reading over the comments of the paper I had worked so hard on. There wasn’t any possibility of me spending more time on that paper than I did. Is this really what defines my best? Does this mark define my abilities? How can I ever do better than this in the future? At the time, my answers to these questions fell to the negative end of the scale. And that is probably because my head was clouded with self-loathing and my throat clogged the sadness. But once I got over that initial stage I had to ask myself one final question: was I going to let myself be brought down by this unlucky experience, or was I going to pick myself up, take some action, and really show that marker what I could do? I hope everyone in a similar position would pick the second option. So here is a little action plan to get you started:

 

  • I think its ok to cry at the beginning to let out all the frustration, sadness and disappointment you are feeling.
  • Talk about it with someone who you know will be supportive and comforting – they will make you feel better by listening and give you some good advice and reassurance.
  • Don’t waste your time crying about it, but resolve to take some action. You’ll kick yourself for wasting energy on it later; in a few years you’ll look back on it and think how trivial it actually is.
  • Book a meeting with your teacher or tutor about what went wrong. Although it can be hard to hear, it will help you in the long run because they’ll give you pointers on how to improve. In the end you might even see that you’re doing even better than you would have done if you hadn’t had this bad grade.
  • Don’t give up. Even if you’ve had a few bad grades, there is always time to change things around. You just have to believe in yourself and your capabilities and realise that things can be achieved if you put in the work.
  • Don’t compare yourself to others, but remember that other people are or have been in a similar position, and you are not alone. Everyone sometimes has a bad mark or day and its best to acknowledge it, deal with it and move onto better things.

 

“We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails.” – Unknown Author