DON’T PANIC. Yes, this is a big step up, but so was everything that came before it. GCSEs were a big step up from lower school, A Levels were a big step up from GCSEs. If you’re going in to 2nd or 3rd year then 1st and 2nd year were big steps up too. You’ve got this.
Look After Yourself. Your wellbeing is so important, and getting ill is horrible at university – especially near a deadline or an event you were looking forward to. I would recommend keeping a few things stocked up:
Cold & Flu sachets (Yes Fresher’s Flu is real, yes you will get it, no matter how hard you try not to)
A multivitamin (Raid Holland & Barrett/Boots – these can be expensive but they’re worth it, especially if you’re not eating very healthily; you need as good an immune system as you can get)
Female hygiene products and anything else that helps you through your period (if applicable)
Antibacterial hand gel (no one likes sticky tables in bars)
Rescue Remedy (if you get stressed/anxious and aren’t medicated this may help, even if it’s just a placebo effect)
Lip Balm (trust me on this, Vaseline is a life saver on sore noses as well as chapped lips!)
Any Personal Prescriptions – even if it’s an inhaler you don’t use regularly or a skin cream you only need during flare-ups, it’s worth making sure you have any personal medication in case you do find that you need it.
Know your basic medical history and register with a GP. Even if you think you won’t need it and don’t have any repeat prescriptions or anything, it’s best to register so that you have a doctor near if you need them.
Along the same strain: Be Safe. At my university we had several tragedies over the 3 years I was there. Your university will probably send you an email about meningitis, but be sure to know the symptoms beforehand. Don’t be afraid to talk to someone if your mental health is failing, even if you’ve never been diagnosed or felt like this before. Don’t take anything if you’re not sure what it is, and if you get any adverse effects seek medical attention. If anything bad does happen and you end up in hospital, don’t hide anything from them – you may be embarrassed or have done something illegal, but these people are more concerned about keeping you safe and potentially saving your life than getting you in trouble or judging you.
Of course, I can’t talk about being safe without talking about sex. It should be a no brainer, but if you’re going to have casual sex or sex with someone whose history you don’t know, use a condom – it’s not just pregnancy you want to prevent. Even if you use condoms every time, be sure to get tested regularly if you have more than one partner – it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Have fun but be sensible.
Prioritise and Organise. Your wellbeing should come before anything else. After that, the order you prioritise things is up to you, but I’d recommend putting university work high up there- it is the reason you’re there, after all. Organisation is so important, regardless of what year you’re in, and it’s especially important if you have a lot of ‘extra-curricular’ activities such as jobs, societies, volunteering etc. Write things down, even if it’s just on post-it notes somewhere you can’t forget; you don’t want to double book or miss things.
There is always, ALWAYS, time for a nap. A break could be the difference between you handing in something that reflects how sleep deprived and coffee charged you are and something that you’re actually really proud of. Stopping and taking a breather, even for just a few minutes, isn’t going to cost you.
If you do your best, no one can argue with it. There are times when you hand something in that you’re so proud of and are sure you smashed, then it comes back and you only just scraped a 2:1. This is a horrible feeling, but you still know that you did your best and that’s what you’ll be thinking when you finally get to put that cap and gown on.
People drift; let them. It sounds harsh, and it sucks, but people tend to weed themselves out at university. High school friends, fresher’s friends, even some friends later on. If someone isn’t making an effort with you, you don’t have to make an effort with them. It doesn’t mean you can’t be friendly, but it allows you to spend time on those who spend time on you.
Don’t forget to be yourself. This is the time to learn about yourself and grow into the person you want to be. Don’t be ashamed of who you are, and look out for societies for the things you love if you want to find like minded people.
Don’t feel like you have to live up to the stereotypes. Not a drinker? That’s okay. Don’t fancy having casual sex? That’s okay. Of course Fresher stereotypes are there because they happen, but you don’t have to do it all just because it’s ‘the done thing’. Prioritise your happiness over being cool, and trust me – whether it’s drunken antics or eating cereal out of a mug, you will have plenty of ‘student experiences’; you don’t have to force it.
Second & Third Years:
Time is on your side! If you get a grade you’re not happy with, don’t panic. You’ve got plenty of time to bring it back and smash it the next time. One grade doesn’t make or break an entire degree. You’re going to be okay.
Dissertation, AKA plan like your life depends on it. Ok, so this is the big one. Everyone who came before you is telling you that you should’ve started it before you even learnt to read, that one kid you’re secretly in competition with already has a first draft and has written an entire encyclopaedia’s worth of notes on their subject and you’re still struggling to pick which pen is worthy of writing your masterpiece. It is huge, I can’t say it’s not, but you CAN handle it. Make sure you set plenty of time aside to work on it and plan everything out over and over again. When it comes to a dissertation, hoarding is your friend. Keep every single note you write for it, even if you think it’s crap and you’ll never use it (okay, maybe throw away the sheet of doodles you did instead of working that one time you said you’d do all of your research in one day) – you really do never know when these things might come in handy. Do plenty of research, reference and keep record of everything, and try and write about something you care about. Take a deep breath. You’re going to be fine.
I’m so jealous of everyone going back to/starting university soon and wish you all the best of luck. You’re going to have a great year.
If you’re a graduate like me – what tips do you have? Did I miss anything important?
See you soon,
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