How to survive (and succeed) at University

So University is perhaps one of the most daunting and exciting experiences you’ll ever have to face in your life. It’s exciting because it’s new and it’s also daunting because its new. With the new comes the unexpected. I have had a great time at University over the past two years. But it’s been different in more ways than I could expect (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing) But here are some tips to help you settle in, survive and succeed

1. Make your space a haven

So many people come into my room at University, especially in the first year, because it felt homely. I decorated my room, bought nice bedding, had all my favourite books, made sure it didn’t smell like alcohol, always had lots of light so it was never dark and dingy and always kept it tidy. This really helped me because I work so much better in a nice, neat and light creative space. Not only that but after a hard day it feels amazing to come back to something that feels like a little slice of home (this is especially important if you suffer from homesickness). Other people will feel like that too. If your room is nice people are going to come and chill here for a chat, to watch a movie etc. If your room smells, is dark, messy etc people aren’t going to want to hand out in your space and nor are you!

2. Get Involved

Yes, it does sound like you’ve heard this before. But getting involved in as much as you can, especially in your first year which doesn’t count towards your final grade, helps you grow social circles. I joined two clubs in my first year, (drama and cheerleading) and I have so many amazing friends in different circles who made University feel like home. In my second year I’m doing Cheerleading and MUN! Not only are there lots of clubs and societies that you can join but there are also some amazing (and cheap) trips that you can take part on. For example, I travelled to the Alps with the Snow society and made lots of new friends on that trip & I also visited New York with MUN. There are also going to be lots of volunteering opportunities around campus, for example, cleaning up the place, running charity stalls, helping the SU etc. I shudder to think about all the amazing people I wouldn’t know if I didn’t get as involved as I did in my first year. These were the people I bumped into around campus or got a coffee with who would always ask how I was doing and made me feel more at home. It can be really daunting to sign up for extracurricular for example, I had never done cheerleading before in my life and with the “bitchy” rep it was a bit scary. But I consider some cheerleaders amongst my best friends at University now and I discovered a sport I really love.

Cheer Comp in February

The NMUN Crew in NYC

3. Start your assignments early

I’m the kind of person that just cannot do a great assignment that I’m proud of in an all nighter. Leaving work to the last minute means I get shitty grades, feel tired and it also puts a lot of pressure on myself which really is not healthy. Therefore I would recommend starting your assignments early (especially when you’ve graduated first year and they actually count for something!). Usually you’ll be given your assignments at least two weeks before the due date. I always read up on the material and do heaps of background reading for around 5-7 days before I begin writing. This ensures that I know the text but I also know all the background reading and criticism. Therefore, I can make an informed opinion in my essay and also know enough to get creative with what I know and being creative in your work is the kind of thing that will get you top marks. Moreover if you actually are passionate about your subject then reading about the topic you’re writing an essay on is often really interesting and makes you appreciate the subject more. There are so many things I’ve learnt, not from my lecturers, but through my own reading. This is so rewarding and really makes you stand out as a good student.

4. Don’t be lazy

There’s no one in the morning to wake you up, get you ready for school, tell you to work your hardest. This is where you really find out just how self sufficient you are. You may not live with your classmates so no one else is responsible for making sure that you get to your seminars and lectures but YOU. Your mom and dad aren’t going to know if you skipped, so it’s up to you to make sure that you don’t waste £9,000 per year! There are a few people I’ve met in my years at University who have shocked me with their laziness. Yes, University is the last time you’ll get to spend as you wish, the last time you’ll get lie ins before you enter a job. But you’re also paying to get a great education which isn’t on offer to a lot of the world’s population so make sure you spend your time wisely and don’t slack. I’m not saying you have to attend everything, God knows I don’t, but try to attend most of your seminars/lectures/workshops. It really is true that the people who work the hardest and attend then most lectures get the best grades.

5. Be Organised

To help you avoid laziness you must be organised (having a lot of stuff going on socially also helps because you’re always active). I would strongly advise investing in a planner and calendar. You’re going to have assignments, odd meetings within your department and social stuff. More often than not things get rearranged (especially if they’re student organised meetings) so having a planner is really useful for making sure that you’re on top of everything and that nothing slips through the cracks. A calendar is also helpful for having a visual of what you’re month is going to be like. I’d advise buying one that has a weekly view then you can see how busy you are and plan ahead.

6. Don’t worry about silly things

For a little while in my first year I was super conscious about the fact that I was’t wearing make-up in front of my 7 other flatmates. I’d gone through high school wearing make-up because my skin was bad and I was self-conscious. Although I was on the tail end of bad skin issues by the time I started Uni I was still scared about what people would think about my appearance. Which may sound silly but a lot of people were worried about the same kind of issues. The only people previously to University who had seen me hungover, in a onesie, with no make-up and scratching my butt were my family and very close friends. However, at Uni your flat will be like your new family and you should’t be ashamed to be relaxed in front of them. After all, you’re going to see each other at your worst at some point.


7. Stay grounded & Keep in contact

There are a few people that you are bound to lose contact with in the transition from high school to University. The truth is, you never know what such a huge change is going to do to the relationships you have in your life. It’s important to retain hold of the people you’re good friends with or even in a relationship with. But sometimes you’re on a path that they cannot follow and you need to know when it’s time to say goodbye. There are some friendships you’ll have that don’t seem to end with an argument or whatever you’ll just stop talking without really realising it. With that said I always contact my family. I text my mom, dad and brother almost every day because regardless of what life throws at me they’ll always have my back. I also try and call or FaceTime them at least every three days. A lot of the time you’ll be very busy and may forget about the most important people in your life. But don’t, catch up and keep up. If you’re like me then you’ll be relying on your family’s financial support to help you through university. Make sure you let them know you’re grateful.

8. Do your reading before arriving

Yes, working is shit. Working is super shit when there are socials you want to go to but you haven’t done the reading for your next seminar. Every year I wish I had done more work prior to arriving at university (I do an English degree so I have a LOT of reading to do- but even if you don’t do English you’ll still have required reading and should be on top of it!). Your departments may email you a reading list of all the material you’re going to be studying in the following year. Or you may have to look for the reading on your departments website (this is what I have to do). It’s important that you look at the reading before you arrive as you’ll need to order all of the books you need. I would strongly recommend reading all of your material before arriving in the summer (which usually works out to a small book per week or less) because then you won’t have to worry about your reading when you’re trying to settle in or when you’re trying to make friends through extra activities. It sounds like a lot of work to be doing over the summer but it’s even more work and more pressure when you have to rush through it.

9. Stay Healthy

Don’t let your health suffer. Lots of partying, lack of sleep, alcohol and in some cases, even drugs is about to go down at University. But you mustn’t make these things too much of a habit (or a habit at all) because your body and your mental health will suffer because of it. Try to eat as well as you can on a budget you can afford to sustain. Also try not to drink too much, hangover’s fucking suck everyone who gets too drunk usually ends up making a tit of themselves. You don’t want to be a BNOC for being a dickhead.

10. Be Happy

Sometimes University may scare you, you may feel out of place or even homesick. It’s important to remember that there is someone on campus, probably lots of people, who feel exactly the same as you do. If you get really homesick, then go home for a little while, but try to stick it out. After a while Uni will become like a second home. Remember to continue doing the things you really love, even if other people don’t like them. Find something that makes you blissfully happy and run with it. Make University count. Although my University doesn’t suit me in some ways I wouldn’t change it for the world because I’d be missing out on meeting some of the greatest people I’ve ever met.

I hope these tips help anyone starting University in September! If you have any more tips please leave them down below!

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