What I wish I had known before going to uni

sneak peak: advice for anyone going to uni or college

Dear 17-year-old me and my 17-year-old friends,

It's that time of year again when replies to university and college applications are coming in and people are getting ready to move on out. In the hope that it might help some of this year's cohort, here are some things you could do with hearing before you head off into the world for what will turn out to be a very interesting three years. Listen up.

Do the extra reading
Let's start with the actual purpose of going to uni - the degree. The lecturers and seminar tutors will suggest extra reading. It will be easier if you do actually do the extra reading. What will be easier? Everything. Not joking - everything. Including in first year, where "nothing counts".

Don't hole up in your room working 24/7 and having no fun, but if you do the work and you make an effort with the extra reading, you will find your whole degree easier and you will absolutely get extra marks in assignments by dropping in these nuggets you've learned.

First year may not count, but second and third year will be a whoooooooooooole lot easier if you try hard from the beginning. Plus, if you try hard from day one, there will never be a point where you decide to start doing the extra reading and all of a sudden your workload is drastically different from what you've got yourself used to.

Join all the extra curriculars
I agree, it's a shock to the system having to fork out dolla just for joining a club when you could just rock up to things at school, but if you can, do it. Extra curriculars after education aren't really a thing, so make the most of the opportunities now.

I looked at the list online before going to uni so I had an idea in my mind of what I wanted to join, then went round the freshers fair and joined all of those and about 30 more as well. I overstretched myself in trying to actually commit to, I think, nine activities every week - this was not my brightest idea. Try out a ton of stuff, then pick what you want to keep up with, and stick to them.

This is the perfect time to be a beginner at cool new things - rowing, cheer, pole dancing ('pole exercise' *eye-roll* just call it pole dancing it's not a big deal), lacrosse, student newspaper, etc. There are so many, try a whole bunch.

Speak to people
You are all as nervous and uncertain as each other. Everyone is desperate for someone to speak to, so just suck it up and be the one to start the conversation. HOWEVER, word of warning, ask people's names and make sure they know yours early on, otherwise you risk being several months into a friendship with someone and not actually knowing each other's names (actually happened to me and a couple of my friends, of course).

Equally, if you go to uni with people you already know from school, make an effort to branch out. It can be very comforting to have familiar faces around, but you don't have to *only* hang out with your familiar faces friends. Making friends is easier when everyone else is also making friends.

(Although I wouldn't know about the familiar faces point as it was only me and lovely K at York together from our school, so if we hadn't branched out we would have only had each other lol gone are the days of huge friend groups but wow I am so thankful I had her there too.)

Go to your lectures and seminars and PUT YOUR HAND UP
Not only will this be useful for the very obvious reason of ~learning things~, it also means your lecturers and seminar tutors will be more willing to help you. Firstly, they will know your name which gives you context rather than being some random. Secondly, if there's something you don't understand and they know you've been to their lectures/seminars, they will know that you are confused in spite of having attended classes, rather than because you didn't.

In virtual uni times, this will probably mean emailing in your homework or something similar. Yes, homework is optional at uni. No, that's not because it doesn't matter - it's because they're trying to teach us how to be self-motivated.

You don't have to be annoying about it (Hermione), just make sure you contribute. You're paying enough to be there, after all - may as well try.

Explore your city
"I went to York last weekend, loved it."
"Oh, I went to uni in York!"
"Oh really? Did you go to the Minster/walk the city walls/visit the Jorvik museum/take a guided tour of the Shambles/other well-known thing about the city?"
"Yes! The Minster is so beautiful isn't it? Some really cool bars and pubs in the Shambles too." OR "Um, no actually, but I am familiar with the uni campus and the infamous prawn crackers we weren't supposed to eat in the now-closed Willow nightclub..."

You're in a fun and exciting new place, make the most of it. Plus, studenty cities generally have loads of excellent student discounts so make the most of that too.

Don't worry if you don't have the most amazing time
People will tell you uni is the best years of your life. That may be true. It may not. Either way, there will be lots of people feeling the same. There are so many variables that we have zero control over - the flatmates you get thrown together with, your course content, whether or not you start chatting to a future best friend in some queue, non-uni factors in your own life, all sorts.

You may love it, and with any luck you will because loads of people do. Just remember that if you don't love it (me), that's fine too. You might want to change courses, you might want to take a year out, you might want to leave altogether, you might want to grin and bear it - if the experience is not what you wanted it to be, that's okay.

Learn to cook some staples
Yes, including for catered accommodation. Most catered accommodation covers breakfast and supper Monday to Friday - for lunch and at weekends, you'll be fending for yourself. Before you head off into the world, do some practicing at home so it's less daunting when, having waved off your farewell party, you're having to start fending for yourself for the first time. Get confident with a few staples that:
- are easy
- have affordable ingredients
- freeze well
- don't take forever to make (don't hog the kitchen)
- are lunch box-able
- you can make without having to follow a recipe
- don't create too much washing up
- you could scale up for e.g. a dinner party
- can be adapted for friends with different diets
- you won't get sick of!

Stay true to yourself
People often use uni as an opportunity to reinvent themselves - this can be great! But it can also be not great - you don't have to dramatically change your personality/sense of humour/accent/style/whatever just because everyone is new.

Freshers week is very weird because people are trying to establish, within one week, the image of themselves that they have built over several years with their friends from school. This means it can feel very intense, particularly at the beginning, but don't worry - PEOPLE WILL CALM DOWN. Things will mellow, people will ease into their normal, comfortable selves, and everyone will take down the façades and stop trying so hard to be a more defined version of themselves.

Stick to being yourself rather than trying to be who you think people will want to be friends with, and you'll have an easier time all round.

Have fun
You've got endless holidays, you'll all complain about having to get up in time for even one single 9am start, you're truly independent for the first time, and you can go on nights out whenever you want with pretty much no hangover and no long working day ahead of you. On that note, you'll really really miss the holidays. Don't take anything too seriously, you're still a teenager for more than two thirds of your time at uni, so just have fun!!! (Spoiler: none of this applies to medical students, sorry.)

a modern university atrium with students milling around
no idea what uni this is but it looks very swanky indeed

And there you have it, younger self and younger friends. And now, lil sister, it's your turn. Can't wait to come and stay with you now that you're (nearly) a fully-fledged adult who is allowed to have fun officially. AT LAST!!!!!



  1. Well said, 100% agree

  2. I guess that this report is really interesting to get familiar with. Everything you shared here is very important to be kept in mind.


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