Is my first year at uni important?

One feature of many university courses in the UK is the zero weight given to results in the first (or second) years of study. Some take this as an opportunity to do other things with their time than stressing about securing a profile of top grades. This can work – exploring a range of new interests and friends in my first year of study gave me a great platform to apply for jobs that I would not have felt qualified for on my academics alone, and opened my eyes to different ways of thinking and achieving. But there are risks, not least from those who end up failing part of their first year and are left revising for re-sits through the summer. Here are some things to bear in mind when approaching your first year:

If youre applying for internships in your penultimate year of study, first year grades will likely be all that the employer sees.
Neglecting other, non-academic, experiences while at university can put you in trouble – if you are looking to enter a career outside of academia.
In deciding whether to accept you for an MSc/PhD, entrance committees might use your first year grades if you are a borderline case
Much of the knowledge acquired in your first year will form a basis for your whole degree
First year grades are not always a strong predictor of final grades
If youre studying in the UK, your degree course will likely be three years long first year grades is a third of the marks that entrance committees will see: against international candidates who might have four of five year courses this could impact your chances
For many people, finding a passion that will determine their careers is a key feature of university, and the first year is a great time to start. This might be through drama, starting a business, improv, film making, production or anything else can lead directly to work after graduation.

From my experience, the best students engage fully with their courses throughout their degree without stressing about each and every grade. Those who get too caught up in retaining that perfect academic record often find themselves struggling more and more as the pressure and workload builds up through the degree which research tell us impairs our ability to concentrate and learn. A good balance of full engagement and a healthy range of interests outside of the academics can stand you in good stead for applying to any number of jobs through your degree and after graduation, as well as maintaining a solid academic profile that can set you up to excel in your final years.

Additional resources:

Choosing the Right Path for University
Growing Up At University
First Year Engineering Courses

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