New linen has been bought, pictures have been packed, and half your bedroom has been stuffed into every available suitcase and box you can bring with you. It’s that time of year, and the first term of university has officially started.
When we think about starting university, things like turning up for lectures on time or having a healthy meal plan for the week aren’t exactly the first things that spring to mind. University is the start of a significant new phase in our lives, an introduction to independence. We’re no longer in high school where everything is explained clearly, and teachers are continually checking up on you to make sure that you’re staying on top of the required work. For most of us, we aren’t living at home anymore either. So all these new ‘adult’ realities have come into play such as buying groceries and feeding yourself, doing laundry and making sure that your space stays relatively cleanly and hygienic.
Sure, starting university is an incredibly exciting time. There are going to be moments where you feel like you’re living in a movie (wild parties do exist, and so do all those fun clubs and societies or going out with friends to sit and ‘study’ in a coffee shop like you see in all student advice blogs/magazines). But it’s not going to be an endless celebration either with no responsibilities. University is an incredible adventure, and I have no doubt that things like ‘you form your greatest life-lasting friendships at uni’ or ‘it’s the three years where you have the most memorable experiences’ are true (even though I am just starting), but sadly you can’t expect it to be the most incredible years of your life if you don’t put in an effort to make it that way.
So, in the spirit of making the most out of your uni years, from someone who has experienced uni for a grand total of two weeks, I’m going to be going through a list of top tips for making a great start to your tertiary education years. Starting off on the right note can have such a positive impact on your experience, and set the ball rolling for even greater things to come, so that’s why I’ll be going through these tips with you today. Hopefully, they not only make your first few weeks at uni a little easier, but they also give you a great foundation that sees you through an incredible uni experience that you can make the most of and genuinely enjoy.
Start creating good habits from the beginning.
Oh boy, I can already feel the eyes rolling at me. Trust me, I know I sound like a parent, but they aren’t said for no reason. Making a conscious effort to practice good habits from the start is a great way to ensure a great start to uni and a successful term with minimal stress (sadly, I can’t promise no stress).
Even if your classes are online because of COVID, make a point to still wake up and watch that pre-recorded lecture at 9am. Show up for all the lectures and seminars you need to. Try (emphasis on the word try here because I know having a few wild parties or all-nighters with your friends is part of the experience – and not a bad thing so long as it isn’t every night for the whole term) to have a healthy sleep cycle – this means waking up in the am, preferably closer to 9am than 11:59am and going to sleep at a decent hour. Yes, it may seem boring or like it’s crushing your free, independent vibe (and I’m really sorry if I’m doing that) but you can start creating good habits and still have a fun first few weeks. Go enjoy your night out, but do it on a night when you don’t have a 9am lecture. If you can, try to sleep early every now and then and challenge yourself to make a home-cooked meal instead of ordering takeouts. These habits may sound really dull now, but they don’t have to be and don’t have to spoil your fun, and if you implement them then you’ll definitely have a more positive uni experience in the long run.
Manage your workload
Now I’m not saying you need to be Hermione Granger and have the entire reading list done before the start of term or complete every optional task the second you get it, but managing your workload at least to some degree is a good idea. Making a point to stay on top of your workload from the start is definitely a good idea because that way you start on the front foot and don’t risk falling behind. Of course, we all have days where we just can’t muster the energy to comb through those 30 pages of reading, but making a to-do list and work plan, and making a conscious effort to stay on top of your workload is something you’ll thank yourself for when assignments arrive. Map out your workload, so you know what’s due when that way you don’t need to feel overwhelmed by it all and have plenty of time to prep for everything. Prioritise your work too so that things don’t slip between the cracks, but remember to take a break when you need. Plus, by making a plan for managing your workload, you’ll be able to see that there’s still plenty of time for a more-than-active social life, provided you stick to your plan.
Backup your stuff!
So here’s a fun sob story for you. In grade 12, one of our portfolio tasks for music was to write a composition, which would count for 10% of our final exam mark. I’d just finished the last section of my piece when, for reasons beyond my comprehension, the software I was using on my laptop self-corrupted, and you can guess with my technology history what happened … the composition was gone. The result was many many hours of relentless sobbing and ice cream, but I was able to recreate it and submit it without any more significant problems.
Take my misery as an example and always, always backup your stuff! In fact, don’t just back it up once. Back it up multiple times. In multiple places. I’m talking on your laptop, on Google Drive, in the Cloud, on a USB stick and external hard drive (and email a copy to yourself just in case). Yes, this may sound extreme and way over the top but every time you think about cutting this step short, imagine how it would feel to just lose your final essay that counts the most for your mark the night before you need to submit it. Nothing is worth that sort of stress and pain.
Try everything you think you might enjoy
University is a brand new landscape for you to test out, explore and enjoy, so don’t let opportunities pass you by because you sat in your room and weren’t sure whether you should try something out. According to all the more experienced students I’ve spoken to, they highly recommend making the most out of especially your first year by just trying everything. If you’ve always wanted to take up rowing, now’s your chance! Or maybe you’re a closet poet, or haven’t found an outlet for your overwhelming love of Harry Potter, Disney or hummus – I guarantee there will be a club or society where you can unleash this passion. You never know what you might come to love, and you certainly won’t know if you don’t try, so take the opportunity to just test everything you find interesting. If you don’t like it, then that’s okay you can just leave, but if you do, then you will be able to make new friends and chat to people who have the same interests as you. If you’re in doubt, try it out! (I should make that a slogan …)
Plan out a budget
If you haven’t had much experience working, or being in charge of your own finances, then this part of university might be incredibly overwhelming. Whether you’re self-financed or on a student loan, setting yourself a budget is still important, so you don’t end up in an awkward situation in the future. Take half an hour or an hour and look at what money’s coming in, and what you’re spending and make a weekly budget. You may need to make some adjustments along the way, but if you have a plan from the start, it’s one less thing you have to stress about, and you’ll know that you won’t have to scramble just to make meals at the end of the month.
*Top tip is to ask for student discounts no matter where you go because you’ll be surprised what certain places have to offer that they may not advertise and any chance to save money is always a win!
Make a meal plan
This may sound like something you shouldn’t have to worry about until you’re in your 30s, but you’ll be surprised how much a meal plan can save the day. When you have a meal plan, you can think ahead in terms of groceries and avoid buying things you don’t need/too much of something, which will save money. Plus, thinking ahead means you won’t have to scramble to cook at the last minute or have to race to your morning lecture without breakfast (unless you oversleep, meal prepping can’t help you in that department). Another great part of meal planning is you can do batch cooking to save yourself time during the week. For instance, I did a biggish grocery shop on Sunday morning. I cooked a meal for four people, and then divided the portions up, ate one that night and put the rest in the freezer. The next night I did the same thing. Not only did I use up all my ingredients without wasting, but I have meals for the entire week and don’t have to try to cram in cooking around all my other commitments. You can do the same sort of thing for breakfast and lunch (like I make overnight oats when I wash my dishes in the evening, so my breakfast is ready to go in the morning). This is not just a mom hack – meal planning and prepping is the way to go because it will save you time, money and, most importantly, stress.
Just say hi
The start of university can be very overwhelming, especially if you don’t know anyone going to the same school as you. There are so many new people everywhere, so the thought of just being friendly and introducing yourself to everyone may sound like one of Hercules’ twelve tasks. It’s perfectly normal to feel nervous and overwhelmed, but I promise that most people are feeling exactly the same. The best way to get through your nerves is to just say hi. Introduce yourself, ask what subject they’re studying or something. I can’t speak for everyone, but I certainly appreciated how friendly people were and just going up to someone and introducing yourself can be a great way to stop your nerves in progress and start making friends.
Academics aren’t everything.
Your academics are important. Please don’t get me wrong. You are at university obviously to learn, grow academically and hopefully get a degree at the end of your three/four years. However, that doesn’t mean that your entire life at university has to centre around school and work. You don’t need to spend all day every day studying, compiling notes and reading (you can if you want to but don’t do that all the time). It is more than manageable to do well in your classes and still take part in clubs, sports and societies and have a social life. Don’t let your academic focus (which isn’t a bad thing!!) stop you from experiencing all the rest that university life has to offer.
Remember all the healths.
There’s a reason why Freshers flu is a known thing. Health and university aren’t two words that typically mix, but it is so important to remember. In university, there are hundreds if not thousands of students interacting with each other every day, hours and hours of studying to do, the pressure of doing well in assignments or just managing your time – all of these things can have negative aspects on your healths. Please don’t forget about these things – your physical health, mental health and emotional health. Try to get some exercise in, eat fresh and healthy foods to keep your immune system strong, but don’t forget about your mental and emotional health. Take the time out to do something just for you. See your friends, take breaks and schedule in time to relax, and don’t forget to practice self-care. You can’t enjoy your uni years if you don’t look after all aspects of your health.
Don’t be afraid of being yourself.
I know that there are many ideas about university that might make you feel pressured to act a certain way or do certain things. Stay true to who you are. You don’t need to be an extrovert or the most outgoing person to make friends and enjoy the experience, and don’t feel obliged to go on nights out because you feel forced to (more often than not you’ll regret it, and that’s never fun). Also, if you aren’t a big drinker (I know that drinking is a much bigger thing at university), that’s perfectly okay! Trust me, I’m not a big drinker, and you’re not going to be ostracised because you opt for fruit juice instead of a cocktail. You’re not the only non-drinker on campus, and I’m optimistically going to say that the people around you should also be nice enough and mature enough not to pressure you into things you aren’t comfortable with. Embrace who you are and don’t be scared to stay true to yourself because I promise you people will love you for who you are and you will definitely make friends who connect with you and love you just the way you are (*cue the Bruno Mars song for some mood music to finish off the post).
And there you have it! I know today’s post was a little long (oops), but this was quite important to me, and so I just decided to write out everything. I was super nervous about starting university for many many reasons, and it is just as chaotic and overwhelming as you think, but if you have a positive attitude then it can be a fantastic kind of chaos, and you will definitely have a fantastic start. Speaking from experience (my very limited experience but still), having a good attitude and making an effort to start off on the right note, like implementing these tips, has made the start of uni such a great and fun experience and certainly not the stressful and unpleasant experience I was expecting.
Anywho, thank you all so much for reading this blog post! If you enjoyed it, please don’t forget to like, comment, subscribe and share with your friends!
You can also follow me on social media.
And check out my other university posts here.
Lastly, what tips do you have for making a great start to uni? Is there anything I’ve left out? What sort of experience have you had and what do you wish someone would have told you when you started?? Let’s chat in the comments section.
Lots of Love
Blondey on a Mission xxx