The first year of University is one you will never forget. It is non-stop, exciting and can be very hectic at times. This guide is one that focuses on how to maintain a healthy mind, body and soul throughout your first year, in attempts to not lose yourself in this new life. All of the advice is given as a suggestion and should be taken and adapted, depending on your own personal experience. However, the fundamentals of university seem to resonate with most people, regardless of the campus, course or type of person they are. Below are the most important aspects that should be considered when thinking about how to survive your first year at university and give yourself the best headstart for second and third year.
- At first, you should try to say yes to everything– you never know what will happen or who you could meet. Doing something different and out of your comfort zone can lead to new opportunities or friendships. This year is all about trial and error. Take every chance you get to try new experiences- there is no pressure to stick with everything you try- you can quit something that you don’t enjoy, everything is subjective. However, once you get an idea of who you are and what you like, learn to say no! You cannot take on too much, because when the final term hits and you suddenly have coursework deadlines, exams, the stress of moving out and finding a second-year home, you do not need to be still finding time for all of the other commitments you made at the beginning of the year when you had less to think about.
- Get a job: This is merely a suggestion, and for those who think that they do not need the extra money- that is perfectly acceptable, however, there is so much more than just financial gains that can be made from having a part-time job at University. Having a job can create order and structure in your daily routine. It is too common for students to become complacent and unreliable, and this is usually because it is the first time in their lives that they are not being held accountable for attendance on the same level as you would be in school or at work. Therefore, having a part-time job keeps you in the headspace that time is valuable and you have to be responsible with it. Also, when you are at University, it is very easy to lose yourself in this student-bubble life. Too many times, students can become consumed in the University lifestyle. So, another factor in favour of having a job is that it keeps you with a foot in the real world- this can help massively when the stress of studying, exams and coursework gets too much because you can put things into perspective. As well as this, it can broaden your friendship scope to not only be the people that you live, study or go out with.
- Sleep pattern: This is going to be tough but you must try as hard as you can to stick to a good sleep pattern. I say this speaking from experience. There is no way that you are making that 9 am class if you are staying up until 6am binge-watching Netflix. It cannot be stressed enough how hard it is to reset your sleeping pattern once you have almost become nocturnal. The main problem with having a backwards sleeping pattern is that it means you are less likely to attend classes and do what you should be doing in order to attain your degree. Understandably, not everyone is the same and a lot of people claim that working or studying in the evening/night is easier for them, however, this does not mean that every night needs to be a late one. As mentioned previously, the importance of a good routine is crucial for University and making sure you stay on track and maintain a positive mental attitude.
- Stick to your timetable: It is so much easier to stick to a good and healthy plan if you start as you mean to go on. If you place the highest level of importance on your studies (albeit classes, lectures and seminars), it will benefit you so much more, make sure you do not fall behind. It is much harder to pick yourself up after weeks of not going to class then it is to catch up on the odd lesson missed for a valid reason. Studying is a mindset, it is important to remember that you are a student first and foremost, so you need to make sure that your degree is your main focus.
- Make the most of your resources: On average at Universities in the UK, courses can cost you £9000 per year- you need to make the most of this. Ask questions to lecturers, make meetings to go through plans of essays, speak your mind if you are in a seminar and do not be afraid to ask questions. It is really helpful to also make friends on your course. These peers can be your allies. You can help each other when it comes to planning and preparing for big assignments, or revising together. They will also keep you in check for attendance and staying on top of the workload. Getting a University degree is expensive and for most, it is something you will only experience once in their lifetime. Therefore you need to make sure you are getting your money’s worth and using the resources that are ready and available for you. Especially the library!
- Start assessments early: You don’t want to get into a bad habit. Even though usually the first year of your degree doesn’t count academically, when applying for placements, employers look at your results in the first year to try and gauge your personality type- are you the kind of person that tries hard and works relentlessly even when it is not expected of you? The more seriously you take this year the more likely you are to continue this behaviour for your second and third-year studies when it really counts.
- Having time to switch off: It can be hard to find a balance at University sometimes. Between academic work, working a part-time job, sports clubs, societies, and maintaining a healthy social life- it can be difficult to find time for yourself. But it is probably the most important thing to do. If you don’t have time to reflect, plan ahead, or just relax and switch off, you run the risk of building up too much stress and imploding when it comes to the end of the term. So place importance on ‘me-time’. Your mental health is too important for you to let it slip in the midst of trying to keep up with everyone else. Look after yourself first and make sure you allocate some time to be alone with your thoughts and be peaceful.
Your first year at University should be fun and challenging but you shouldn’t make it harder then it needs to be. Stay focused and hold yourself accountable for your actions. Finding a balance between work and play is key. This year sets the tone for the kind of student you will be for the rest of your studies. Get yourself into a routine that can be implemented and followed throughout your time at Uni. But most importantly, enjoy yourself and make the most of your time!
-By Caroline Wilson