For me, applying for university felt like a long and often confusing process. Many of the open days blurred into one and there were so many questions I was told to think about; campus or non-campus, 3-year or 4-year course, catered or self-catered halls, the list goes on. No matter how much information and advice you are bombarded with, whether it be from parents, teachers, guidance counsellors, or the seemingly countless leaflets and brochures, it is difficult to pick out the useful parts. It is for that reason that I have compiled this list of my 5 most important tips I would give to anyone about to start uni.
- Before you even arrive at your chosen university, you must decide where you want to live, and in the majority of cases, you will live in halls of residence for your first year. I have expressed this piece of advice to every one of my friends that had a gap year and therefore started uni a year later than me: ‘apply for catered halls’. Firstly and most obviously, this means that you do not have to think about cooking, and most meals are provided for you. Secondly and more importantly, I believe that catered halls are a far more social experience and by the end of the year I felt a sense of community and knew a good proportion of the people in my halls. This is something that you don’t get with self-catered halls as you are often confined to spend time with your flatmates who, unfortunately, you might not get along with.
- In the months leading up to the start of term, it was drilled into my head that I needed to engage myself in clubs and societies. Having never really been involved in clubs at school, I did not feel like it would be any different at uni and so didn’t join any. This ended up being one of my few regrets, seeing how much many of my friends enjoyed their respective societies and sports teams.
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- Working with your peers is a very important part of any degree and is also key in a professional sense. When doing group tasks and projects, although it may be more fun to work with your friends and it is still important to do so, working with others can often be more efficient as it offers different viewpoints and opinions, and is perhaps more similar to a professional environment. Another upside of this is that you get to know new people and even make new friends on your course.
- This next piece of advice will apply more to some universities than others, in particular London uni’s and others in larger cities. Doing your degree in a big city is, in my opinion, a great thing to do as it is an exciting experience full of possibilities. However it depends on what you are looking for in a place to live, and what sort of person you are, and so is not for everyone. I am lucky enough to go to university in London, one of the worlds most abundant and stimulating cities. Cheap student nights are appealing to start with and are a good way of meeting people and finding your feet in your new home, but it is also important to explore, discover new places and even interests you did not know you had, and make the most of your limited time in your university city.
- At the start of term I had an appointment to meet my personal tutor, the assistant director of a research lab within the university and I will pass on the advice he gave me. His exact words were “Don’t give it 100% in the first year” which was contradictory to what I had expected. This must be taken with a pinch of salt and he went on to say that many students work themselves to death in the first year and noted, as in my previous point, that it is important to explore the city, have some fun and make friends. Although it is essential that you do work hard, considering you are paying £9000 for the year, it is important to strike a balance between social activities and work, and you can save the ‘working yourself to death’ for the second and third year.
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