Top tips for starting university

Hannah Schofield-Newton

September 23, 2013

Settling into university can be challenging.

The ultimate worry of making sure you find friends is always at the back of your mind, let alone the worry about how you’re actually going to get on with your course.

Flyer after flyer is being pushed in your face trying to get you to join societies and you are experiencing an information overload. People are telling you that freshers is just easy and fun but you’re finding it pretty intense, and rightly so.

Here are some top tips to help you get through those first few weeks of term:

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Try not to worry. Remember that everyone is in the same boat so they will want to make friends quickly.  At university, you have the opportunity to meet lots of new people, in your hall, your course or through any clubs you join so it is highly likely that you will meet your kind of people very quickly.

Finding your way around. Universities can be huge spaces and they can be very hard to find your way around, especially if your university is spread around a town or city rather than on a campus. Universities will provide maps so make sure you get your hands on one of those and look out for signs and student reps to point you in the right direction. There should be plenty of people around to help you in your first few weeks so don’t be afraid to ask.

Join clubs/societies. Universities have an endless list of societies so go to a freshers’ fair and find out about them. Even if the ‘flyer after flyer in your face’ is driving you crazy, try and be patient and talk to students and you will find something or maybe many things that will appeal to you. Then sign up to as many as you like and narrow it down later. You can’t do it all but being a part of some clubs, whether they are something you are familiar with or something that is new to you is great experience and helps you balance your studies as well as make new friends

Contact hours. So it might seem strange that you only have between six to nine contact hours a week (or maybe less), whereas others have about twenty five. But everything should balance out. If you have less contact hours then you will have more reading and assignments to complete whereas those with more contact hours will have less. Either way no subject should feel undermined by the amount of contact hours they have. The classic arts vs science rivalry will probably occur but it is important to remember that this is just ‘student banter’. You chose your subject for a reason and that is all that matters; don’t let anyone put you down about it

Organising your time. If you have less contact hours then it can sometimes be hard to organise your time as all of a sudden your day seems to disappear having only had one lecture and one seminar. So… note down your timetable and try to do bits of reading/preparation in between commitments either at the library or a study room so you don’t have to spend your whole evening doing this

Lectures and seminars. Find out what your department’s policy is on these. Of course it is best to attend everything – get your money’s worth from your degree. But you especially don’t want to be caught out by missing something that is compulsory as this will be recorded and could lead to consequences. If you have a genuine reason for missing academic commitments then contact your department tutor beforehand so you can be excused

Note taking from lectures and seminars. Try not to write everything down as then you won’t really take in what you’re listening to but instead try to make notes that are in short form which you can understand. If you are provided with a hand-out beforehand then take this with you so you can underline important points and write extra detail when needed

New English 9-1 GCSE

Going out. Freshers’ week has loads of opportunities to go out and you will be spoilt for choice on what to do. Have fun and enjoy it but don’t worry if you fancy a night off. You might still have commitments in the day and so try not to completely exhaust yourself or miss your lectures/seminars. Introductions are important to attend as you will be given information which will help you for the rest of term. Of course, you should enjoy your nights out and have fun, even after freshers’ week has finished, but just remember to manage your time effectively

Remember you’re on a budget now. Be sensible with your money but don’t panic if you spend a lot of money in the first few weeks. There will probably be a lot of activities put on to begin with which cost, as well as paying for membership to clubs. So the first couple of weeks tend to be more expensive, just remember to budget from then on. If you’re a bright spark, in need of some extra money, why not try tutoring? We know this great socially responsible website called Tutorfair.

Don’t worry if Freshers’ week isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. There is a lot of build up about freshers’ week but although it can be good fun, it can also be very tiring and you might experience some normal teething problems when starting uni. For some, you might be living away from home for the first time as well as starting a new course so don’t worry if you don’t find freshers’ week as amazing as people say. University is a fantastic experience and you will agree but perhaps not straight away.

Ask for help if you need it. Although you are no longer at school, it is still absolutely fine to ask for help whether this is on academic or pastoral matters. It is fine to contact your tutors if you are unsure of something or equally if you think something personal is affecting your work. Most tutors have office hours when they can see students so use them or email them. There will also be pastoral services available run by staff as well as other students so use them! That is what they are there for and nobody will judge.

So starting university may be a bit of a whirlwind but you will have fun. Just remember… ‘Don’t let your degree get in the way of your education’.

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