I was originally going to do one of these sort of lists at the beginning of the academic year, when everything is new and fresh and exciting – but then I thought it’d be better to use it as a motivator for when the honeymoon period has worn off and the hard work starts.
Uni is tough. Not just in the step up from whatever courses you took before starting, but also in the fact that you’re (possibly) away from your parents for the first time, there is, generally, a lot more responsibility on you as an individual. New places, new people, new experiences. It’s OK to admit that it’s hard, it’s also definitely OK to admit that you might not be doing as well as you thought, or even that you’re doing better than you expected. I’m two-and-a-half years into my degree now, and I’ve certainly picked up a couple of major life lessons, plus a few lesser things that are definitely going to help me when I eventually have to stop being a student and become a ‘functioning’ member of society.
1. Uni is hard.
You actually have to do work
Asking for help is OK.
I’m not gonna beat around the proverbial bush here. I was ‘lucky’ enough to not have to do much work towards my SAT’s or my GCSE’s (other than french) to get good marks. It made me complacent through my A levels, and my first year of Uni. Complacency is really not a good trait to adopt. University is a vast amount of self study and additional research. Required reading for lectures gives you a frame to build around, extra info gives you the flesh, the marks and the good grades. Unless you’re doing an incredibly structured degree, that is. Coasting through modules/lectures/seminars won’t do you any good, really. It might seem ‘geeky’ or whatever, but remember in the end that you’re paying to further your education. Don’t waste all that money!
If you’re struggling though, or have lost direction, then a really good thing to remember is that you can ask for help. I still struggle with this, I really do, and if you’re like me in that sense, then just remember that these lecturers and tutors do want to help you learn, they don’t want to have to give you 3rds when you’re a 1st or a 2:1 candidate! Asking for clarity on issues you’re having problems with is perfectly fine. And you’re not bothering anyone. Honest.
2. You have to motivate yourself.
No one is going to keep bugging you about that essay apart from the little voice in your head. No one. It’s on you to research it, write it and hand it in on time, to all the places it needs to be submitted to. No one is going to chase you if it’s late. No one’s going to tell you to read those books sitting in a pile on your bookshelf either, or tell you to hand your homework in. Or go to class. How you manage your time is all on you at University. And it’s hard to strike up a balance when you want to do ALL THE THINGS.
If you’re a top procrastinator though, there are a bunch of methods you can give yourself a routine and rewards to combat distraction problems. Parental locks on internet pages, giving yourself a to-do list, incentives for completing things…
3. Going to University doesn’t mean everyone is suddenly really mature
And it can be really frustrating. In some cases, it’s like giving a bunch of six year olds alcohol. This doesn’t have to affect you though, in any way, as
4. You don’t have to be friends with everyone, or even like everyone.
it’s a good idea to be civil to everyone though
you don’t have to be friends with people even if you were in ‘the beginning’ a.k.a at the start of term.
You come into contact with an actual ridiculous number of people when you study in an institution that’s the size of a University. Not just from your home country, but from all over the world. And usually, this means that there will definitely be a handful of people you just don’t gel with, for whatever reason. And that’s OK. You don’t have to be everyone’s friend – fake friends can be incredibly emotionally draining. It is a good idea to be at least civil to everyone you meet, even if you know from the start that you won’t get on. It eradicates the chance of ‘bad blood’, it’s better to be on terms you can work with, in case you have to work with them at some point, than start off at each others throats. Also, Uni is huge! You don’t have to socialise with people you don’t like. No one is forcing you to.
I think the 2nd point is one of the most important on this list. If you find yourself in a ‘friendship’ that is hurting you in any way, that you don’t feel is right, or is in anyway making you upset, then you have every right to get yourself out of that situation. And you especially don’t need to feel bad about it. As you go through Uni, people start to show their ‘true colours’, or sides of themselves that weren’t visible during the first few weeks of term, or the one or even two years. It is sad that this happens, but if something is making you upset, you have every right to get yourself out of that situation because…
It’s not just the ‘healthy food’ though.
5 The most important things are your health and your happiness.
No really. And I’m not just talking physical health here (which is also super important. Eating regular, balanced meals is important. Living off pizza and takeaways is not good for you), but also your mental health. Stress is a massive part of being a student, and universities do recognise this! They also recognise that unexpected things can happen, or that you can get seriously depressed by situations – be it academic or social. It goes back to my earlier point of being brave enough to ask for help, in any situation, or even before that: being brave enough to accept you have a problem. There will, I promise you, there will be someone you can talk to somewhere in your campus. It might take you a couple of people to get the right person to talk to, but they will be there, and they will do everything they can to help. If you’re not happy, you may find that everything becomes ten, a hundred, a thousand times harder, really quickly.
It’s also OK to feel unhappy sometimes, not everything is perfect and massive pressures and changes happen in a relatively short space of time, whether you’ve just started uni, or are in your 2nd, 3rd, 4th, final year, or even doing a Masters or a PhD.
6 It’s OK to find out that you’re doing the ‘wrong subject’ or that Uni isn’t for you
There are a lot of social pressures to go to university, even if you’re undecided. I still find it absurd that the majority of British school children are made to make decisions about the rest of their life when they pick their A-levels. Because really, that’s when it starts, isn’t it? The number of times I said that I wanted to ‘keep my options open’ for university applications, which meant that I had to have at least one science subject and maths, just in case I wanted to go down the medical route. You’re potentially setting yourself to follow a path to a career at a very young age (16 for me) that you have no guarantee you’re going to even like. It’s perfectly fine to turn around, once you get to Uni and say that this isn’t what you thought it’d be, or that you want to be at a different university or that university isn’t even for you.
Sometimes it’s a ‘stick-it-out-and-see’ kind of thing, sometimes you just know. Some are a lot easier to do, like changing subject, Uni’s or both in the first few months. I wish there wasn’t such a horrific stigma around dropping out. At the end of the day, your health and your happiness is most important.And why spend £9k a year on somewhere doing something you’re not happy?? I also wish that there wasn’t such a palava over people taking degrees that people deem useless or ‘odd’. If I had a pound for every time I’ve had someone ask me what I plan to do with my degree, or why I’d choose it over something ‘useful’ instead, I’d never. Have. To. Work. Again.
I’d be very, very rich.
And on that note, I think I’m going end this post here. As always with my more ‘serious’ posts, if you want to talk to me, you can message me at my contact email address. I don’t promise that I can find solutions to your problems, but I will listen, as that is always helpful, and offer advice when I can.
If, for whatever reason, you don’t want to talk to me, and you’re having trouble, are upset, suffering or panicky in any way at all, please please please talk to someone about it. It will help, even a small amount.
24-hour advice and counselling on any emotional issue.
Citizens Advice Bureau – www.adviceguide.org.uk
Advice site offering basic information and advice about your rights.
Drinkline – 0800 917 82 82
Help and information if you’re worried about your own or a friend’s alcohol consumption.
Samaritans – 08457 90 90 90 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Non-judgemental emotional support for those experiencing feelings of distress or despair, including suicidal thoughts
Nightline – local numbers available at www.nightline.ac.uk
National organisation of Nightline student helplines.
Get Connected – 0808 808 4994
Provides young people with initial support, determines what help is needed, and then connects to a relevant local helpline via a three-way conference call
On the topic of whether University is good value for money, ask again in a year and a half. Much love and support to those who want and/or need it. Hopefully my next post will be something fashion related 😉