Instead of the age-old chats about ‘leave your door open’ and ‘get involved’, I want to get into the nitty-gritty of how to survive and thrive at Uni. Whether you’re a Fresher (savour it!) or a final year lady, here are some tips to get the most out of it all.
The part that most people are worried about is making friends. Trust me when I say that this is the time where you’ll meet the most new people ever! Everybody is in the same boat and it’s the optimum time to buddy up as these people are probably with you for life after you’ve shared Freshers’ Week memories together. Be open-minded upon meeting people: I have no qualms in saying that my flatmates in first year halls were hardly anything like my friends from home but, y’know, they’re a handful of the best now. Erase any thoughts of desperately trying to find a clan to rival The Hills’ girls and co. and focus on having fun. Don’t force yourself to make friends with people you just don’t click with. And never compare your situation with someone else’s.
Boring But… Be Organised
I’m just going to get this over with: the organisation and assignments. If you’re coming from A-levels, the workload is about 5 times tougher. I’m not going to beat about the bush. In fact, I’d hazard a guess that it’s the same for BTEC gals etc. (I did a BTEC alongside secondary school, ya see). It’s hard work, even if your University doesn’t count the first year towards your degree. Here’s my post on ‘fitting everything in’.
On top of the expected things like ‘buy folders’, ‘use highlighters’, my tips for organising yourself and organising yourself well?
- As soon as you humanly can, get your hands on a copy of your timetable for the semester, a planner (these are my personal favourites for Uni) and a really good calendar.
- If you’re lucky like I was, you’ll also get given all of your assignments and their respective deadlines at the same time. We also got an outline of which topics would be covered in each week’s lecture/seminar. Mark in all of your lectures, tutorials and seminars. Highlight them in colours according to module. Now plot in your assignments.
- Don’t forget to plot in your part-time job if you have one!
- Work out how many weeks you have between the date you’re given the assignment and the week you need to hand it in. Take a week off for proof-reading and editing purposes.
- Now divide up your assignments’ word counts by the week number. Make a note of how many words you’ll “need” to complete each week. This makes those 4000 word essays a doddle when you realise it’s about 450 a week!
- Word counts divided and University-time added to the diary, you can work out and highlight spare time that you specifically want to dedicate to work. Whether this happens or not is another matter, but a loose plan is good! A lot of the time, you’ll have odd 2-3 hour gaps between lectures. Be realistic too – feel free to highlight spare time that you want to reserve for resting before work or for pre-drinks for Oceana Wednesdays.
- A tip for assignments is to plan. Please plan, whether it’s an essay, a report, presentation, business plan, moodboard, editorial photoshoot or magazine, PLAN. I’ve done all of the above during my degree, plus many others. I really recommend buying one of those A3 drawing pads for kids from Poundland or somewhere. Make a mindmap and give yourself a paragraph (to start) for each topic/argument you want to make. These can lead to many other mini mindmaps within the section. Write down things like sentence starters you’ve already thought of, key quotes from a lecture, book/journal titles that you want to reference in the section. Add to it as you go along. I used to cut off a week of the beginning of my ‘weeks between assignment and deadline’ count for planning.
- For the love of God, reference as you go along. Alphabetise it after. Don’t fuss with that weird index card system.
- Bulk buy folders and hand-in presentation documents and prepare them in advance of handing assignments/projects in. I swore by these!
The Nights Out Situation
This section is aimed more at those who are a little more introverted and who possibly don’t enjoy regular nights out. That was me too. While I did indulge in a couple of bar/club nights, I mostly preferred to coop up indoors or throw mini flat parties (often themed a la Pokemon, Countdown, Dragonball or endless Ring of Fire rounds). We often also went to comedy clubs, for pub grub or the cinema followed by a sneaky beverage. Don’t feel like you have to go to those awful traffic light parties, bar crawls and the like. I’ve done both and I know which I preferred. Peek in your Fresher’s Week guide and I’m sure there will be many non-club options.
With the blogosphere going through an uncharacteristic health kick, this is a little easier than usual. Maximise your spare time by batch cooking and preparing healthy meals on a Sunday. This will mean you’re less tempted to order in throughout the week. Of course being on a budget means you don’t have as much to spend, but things like frozen chicken breasts from the supermarket help to up protein, make sure you always have eggs in the fridge, bulk make sweet potato mash and store in the fridge to be reheated for dinners. Additionally, buy smaller plates to control your portions.
Alongside THAT, pick up a yoga mat with your student loan. Reference my post here plus/or the Blogilates monthly schedule and set aside 30 to 90 minutes a day to workout and get the heart racing.
Network, Network, Network
Something that next to nobody told me about at Uni was to network. In fact, we were rarely encouraged to on our course (I studied a semblance of fashion journalism!) until the final weeks of our final year. Having been thrown into a sea of new people, each as possibly ambitious as yourself, there’s so much scope to network. Whether it’s something as simple as finding a new blog photographer, learning about what someone does outside of their course or walking to lectures once with the SU bartender (FREE DRINKS ALMOST), networking will do you the world of good outside of Uni. So many opportunities are just outside of your fingers’ reach, you just need to grasp it.
I fell into networking via my blog. One moment I was a naïve student, the next I was a fashion journalism undergraduate with lovely PR contacts, a wealth of fellow creatives to hang out with at events and breakfast meetings, fashion photographers that taught me about the other side of my industry and hard-earned (yes) invitations to the events that’d set me aside from the other undergrads.
Remember why you started.
When you find it difficult, take a small step back and remember what you want out of your degree. I went through a difficult week in my first year just before Christmas where I was done, I wanted out. But then I remembered that this degree was supposed to help me learn the more intricate skills needed for what I wanted to do, for what I do now. All the tiny hurdles will eventually lead you to a pretty awesome reward. Uni isn’t just about the degree, as corny as it sounds, it really is about the bits along the way.
TL:DR? Just be there. You’re already surviving 😉