This is the second installment of my ‘university advice’ series (click here to read the first one where I discuss whether or not to go to university). I have finally come to terms with the fact that I am no longer a fresher so hopefully some of my experience can be helpful to those starting out or just an interesting read (click here to read about my first year experience)
Dear 2015 Fresher
1. All those £10 cash withdrawals add up.
It may seem really obvious before you go to university but it really is something to pay attention to when you get there. You would be surprised with how much you spend. Thinking back it was probably those frequent small withdrawals here and there. I had a friend who actually thought her account had been hacked and launched an inquiry because she did not realise how much she was spending. You do not want to have to miss out on all the fun stuff just because you do not have money so make sure you manage it well.
Particularly within the first month where you will have additional costs (freshers’ events, textbooks, etc). Make a budget and stick to it. Not checking your bank balance does not suddenly make money magically appear, just because you cannot see your low funds does not mean it does not exist. Trust me – I found out the hard way.
2. Your overdraft is not free money. It does not belong to you. Only use it as a safety net
Most student accounts come with an overdraft, for example, with Santander I get £1,500 automatically attached to my account. When you check your bank balance and see all that money sitting there it is easy to get tempted but it is not your money.
I am not saying that you should not use it at all, as this is tax-free money which can actually help you build up a good credit rating for the future but be very careful with it. I have been so lucky that I have rarely needed to go into it ,however regardless of your situation do not spend your overdraft frivolously. Do not go into it if you have no prospects of being able to put that money back into your account.
3. “No vodka, no fun”
This is a direct quote from one of my flat mates during first year which I am sure was said in jest but leads on nicely to my next point. There is a very strong drinking culture at British Universities but do not be stupid about it, do not be that guy or girl who ends up outside the Student Union passed out in their own vomit. Have fun but know your limits and look after yourself.
However, just a reminder – although you come to university for new experiences and suchlike you do not have to lose who you truly are. If you do not want to drink – do not drink. You can still have just as much fun as anyone else. University and especially first year is the perfect time to make mistakes, question your values and truly decide for yourself how you actually want to live your life. However, do not be a sheep blindly following what your friends or your parents tell you to do. This idea of making your own decisions is applicable for all parts of your uni life.
4. Be safe
Whilst on the note of drinking, you need to make sure you make wise choices and are safe. This is not something that I have personally experienced but many of my friends who have gone to the big city universities have. This is something particularly to bare in mind during freshers week where you will be with people that you don’t really know. Similarly, make sure you look after yourself physically – ‘freshers flu’ is very much a real thing.
5. Have an open mind
You are going to meet so many very different people from different backgrounds so try not to be judgmental. University essentially reflects the world on a smaller scale therefore, learning how to be tolerant at an early stage will be really helpful in the future.
6. Be yourself
A lot of people go into uni with that ‘new year, new me’ mentality and I feel very uncomfortable with this. There is only so long you can keep up this false appearance and pretty soon people will see right through it all. Just be yourself right from the start and you will make the right kind of friends for you. That said, this does not mean you cannot aim to improve the person you already are.
7. Do everything
You are only going to be in first-year once so make the most of it. You do not want to get to the end and have regrets. Join all the societies that interest you and then get actively involved in a few of them. Not only can it help you in job applications but it is a really good way of meeting like-minded people and most importantly making friends.
8. If there is free food, go
There are so many events going on in the first week or so and they usually offer free food. In my opinion, you should not have to buy any food or even cook in your first week of university. If you organise yourself you can get food for each meal of the day. As a student you should never say no to free food. Well unless it is from a creepy man with a beard wearing dungarees in a white van but alas, I digress…
9. Keep a journal.
I have mentioned my university journal in previous posts and it is one of the best ideas I had. I started it the day before I moved into my accommodation and wrote all about my pre-university thoughts and then when I got there I wrote about all my first impressions and suchlike. It is so nice to read back and remember all the things you did when you first got there. You meet so many people and do so many things that it will all blur into one so it was nice to document it.
10. Don’t stop making an effort
There is like a three week window where everyone is new and anxious so are super friendly and welcoming and then it all plateaus. Therefore, fully make the most of that period and talk to as many people as possible. I have made so many amazing friends in first year and I am still really good friends with now. However, after the first few days when I had a good group of friends I stopped making an effort. If I had one first year ‘do over’ it would be this.
11. Keep in touch with your parents
I decided to leave my parents a cute letter behind at home for them to come back home to after I had left. You do not have to do this but try and think of something personal that you can do for your parents. Looking back, I wish I had gone further and done more. Similarly, before I left I made sure I was in a really good place with them. Leaving home is really tough on parents too so really make sure you make an effort. A quick phone call to let them know how you are doing is always nice!
12. Go to your lectures
You probably do not want to hear this but it really is important to go to your lectures. Even if you have just rolled out of bed and are still in your pajamas just sitting in the lecture hall listening, you will be surprised how much knowledge subconsciously goes in. This is something that really helped me when it came to revision.
13. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself
The very nature of university is different to sixth form. At sixth form I was used to getting over 80% in pretty much everything then I entered an environment where getting 40% was the new norm. Obviously do not aim for scraping the bare minimum but appreciate it might take a couple of months to get to where you want to be. Be willing to take advice and change as this will help you develop.
14. Don’t be surprised if you do not love it straight away
I have written about my freshers experience before and I really did not enjoy the first couple of days as much as I thought I would have. Every one reacts to university in a different way but stick it out and don’t get demoralised.
15. Do your preparation
Don’t go in with your eyes blind or you’ll miss out on so much. For example, if you have course books you need, check if you they can be bought on Amazon or if there will be a second hand book sale. Chances are in the book store they will be really expensive so you need to budget for that.
16. Practical points
Just some practical advice- do not pack your entire house and belongings to take with you. Even if you are lucky and have enough space for it like I did, it will eventually catch up with you. Moving out was one of the most stressful experiences. Get Netflix or an equivalent- you will be surprised at how much free time you will have. Do not order too much take out- hungryhouse is all I’ll say.
I am sure the minute I post this, I will think of more things I wish I had said but there is just so much that could have been said that I have just written the first things that came into my head.
It is just me, Dammy, and I wish you all the best.