9 Ways to Make your Transition to University a Little Easier
Leaving home and heading to university is hugely exciting but also pretty daunting. Bizarrely, it also seems to be the time when support for students suddenly dries up.
Recently, we read a fantastic article about some of the challenges facing students as they embark on this big adventure. Among these are the worries of graduating with big debts, housing issues and personal safety.
So, what can you do to prepare for these profound and sudden life changes?
To help you cope with all the responsibilities and challenges that go hand-in-hand with your new independence, we’ve put together some top tips covering everything from cooking to budgeting to making new friends. We hope you find them helpful!
1) Your home from home
From cooking affordable meals to dealing with landlord drama, you will have to deal with practical household matters at university that may be completely new to you.
So, unless you fancy living on dried food in a setting of Dickensian squalor, make an effort to involve yourself fully in the day-to-day running of your household or university halls.
Figure out the mysteries of the washing machine and revel in the triumphs of keeping your whites, whiter than white! Organise your room. Try vacuuming once in a while. Why not clean your own dishes?! Not only will this amaze your parents, but it could lessen the horrors of the shared kitchen. Nobody likes the grubby flatmate, so we implore you, don’t be that guy or gal!
Tackling some of these daily tasks with cheerful enthusiasm will create a nice living environment and reduce the shock to the system as you move into your first home-away-from-home.
University is a great opportunity to practice your culinary skills. As well as a money saver, carefully planning your meals and learning new cooking techniques can be hugely satisfying. It’s also a great way to impress new flatmates and prospective dates.
We think you’ll enjoy this student cookbook. It even has handy tips for household chores and a few drinking games thrown in for good measure.
TOP TIP: Check out your university’s website for advice on life in halls and private accommodation
For most of you, this will be the first time you’ve managed a budget covering all your outgoings.
The key is to do your sums for the coming term each time your loan comes in. The advisors at your student life centre will be able to help you with this, and we’re sure your parents would also be happy to give you some guidance! Your budget should include rent, bills, food, travel, course materials and, of course, some leisure spends!
With a little forward planning you can avoid those penniless weeks at the end of each term. Oh, and don’t get too carried away with overdrafts and student credit cards! All too many students get themselves into serious debt by hitting the plastic in their first year.
3) Independent study
One of the greatest differences between college and university is the independence you will have to decide how and when you want to study.
While this is tremendously liberating, it also means that you will need to be more organised, disciplined and proactive in your studies or you will start to fall behind.
You can equip yourself for this by adopting independent study practices while you are still at college. For example, during A-levels, create your notes, and spend time after the lesson consolidating them by summarising the material and incorporating information from other sources. Imagine your teacher has gone away. If you need to know anything, use the library or online resources.
Try to get into the habit of tackling your assignments without guidance from your teachers. Really think about your first draft. Challenge yourself to surprise your teacher with your unaided work, then review it with them. You may surprise yourself with what you can achieve without any assistance.
Of course, there will be tutors at university that you can speak to when you need guidance during your course. But they won’t be around all the time, and they won’t spoon feed you any answers.
4) Time management
There are many potential distractions at university; partying being one of the biggest! And with freedom from parental control it can be tempting to put less than 100% into your studies.
This will have a snowball effect. The more lectures and tutorials you miss, the more reading material you jettison, the more deadlines that slip by… the harder it will be to get back on track.
So try to manage your time carefully, placing an emphasis on time for study...
An important technique to master is the art of managing your deadlines. Set micro-deadlines within each project. For example, ‘first draft due by this date’, ‘book a tutorial for this date’ and so on.
Above all else, don’t leave submission until the last minute; always aim for the day before. Most university work is submitted online and the last thing you want on deadline day is to be fighting over a library computer or struggling with a dodgy WiFi connection. Don’t create extra stress for yourself and always leave plenty of time for proofreading.
5) Study support
At university, don’t expect your tutors to follow you around asking for your homework or to confer with colleagues on your progress. If you miss a deadline or fall behind, the onus is on you to seek the support you need.
Whether it’s a tutorial with a subject leader or assistance with study skills, be proactive and approach people. It’s easy to say “I’ll be fine” or “I’ll do it later”, but try to get into the mindset of drawing as much as you can from the resources available to you.
Lecturers are very busy: many of them have their own studies or research projects to stay on top of. You’ll find most of them ready to help, but you’ve got to approach them for the assistance you need.
TOP TIP: Your Student Union will also be able to offer support if you are struggling with your studies
6) Open days
Before you wave a tearful farewell to the ‘rents, you can get a feel for campus life by packing in as many open day visits as possible.
The sheer scale of a university campus can give you the jitters at first, particularly if you attended a small school or college. But observing student life from a safe distance will help you to get used to that fresher-sized-fish-in-a-massive-pond feeling.
Different universities have very different vibes. Some universities have relatively small student bodies, some are in built-up cities, while others have much more green space, and so on. The more campuses you visit, the more you will get a sense of what is the right culture for you.
7) Feeling out of your depth
There is absolutely nothing wrong with feeling afraid, anxious or homesick when you start university. Many first-year students avoid visiting home ‘too early’ in the year, seeing it as a sign of weakness. It isn’t. The sooner you drop the brave face, the better. Everyone is in the same boat, frantically paddling away; not waving, but drowning.
Be honest about how you feel. The chances are your course and flatmates feel exactly the same way. Accept that you will get scared and you will be nervous. By accepting that this is normal, it’ll be less daunting when the panicked moments strike.
To prepare, why not get out of your comfort zone in the summer before uni (or your gap year, if you decide to take one)? Travel to somewhere unknown or join a sports team or a volunteer programme. This will help you to gain confidence and give you a taste of what those first few months of university will feel like.
TOP TIP: If things do get too much in your first few months at uni, there are people you can turn to. Your first port of call should be the support services at your Students’ Union.
University is a big change, but it isn’t some kind of Year Zero requiring you to completely reinvent yourself and forget everything that went before.
If you played on a sports team throughout your teenage years, why not try out for your university team? If you sang in choir or were part of a chess club, why not join those societies? If you don’t particularly like drinking or partying, why not do something else with your time rather than trying to adapt to the norm?
Keeping up a familiar activity at university can be a relaxing break from study and provide a welcome sense of comfort and normality. You’ll also meet like-minded people: bonus! But most of all, be yourself. People will respect you for it.
TOP TIP: Make sure to attend the Freshers’ Fayre where you can sign up for your choice of university societies
9) Speak up
One of the most enjoyable aspects of studying at university is having the opportunity to engage in discussion and debate during seminars. Grab this with both hands, be inquisitive and try to contribute to class discussion. If your teacher asks for some opinions, don’t wait for someone else to speak up, get involved.
This will push you to engage not only with those around you at university, but also with your course material hopefully leading to a deeper understanding. It’s also a way of finding out where you passion lies as well as being a way to get to know people on your course.
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