12 things we wish we had known as university students
We hope you find these useful- this article was created in honour of International Student’s Day by one of our current graduates on Colt’s graduate scheme.
- Keep an open mind
This can be applied to so many different things – from the people you meet, to the experiences you take, to your future plans, don’t immediately close yourself off to something – you never know the opportunities that may arise.
- The gap between A-levels and university is large
Similarly to how there’s a large gap between GSCE and A-levels, there’s also one between A-levels and university- not just in terms of difficulty, but in regards to how material is taught. In school, even between GSCE and A-levels, there is not that much difference, as learning will be in an interactive classroom setting; at university it is lectures and seminars, and you are expected to go home and do additional work, without being told what it is. Discovering how to learn on your own, i.e. learning how to work out what you need to do, and the best way to understand the content , is a skill that will carry on beyond university into all aspects of life, in particular to work, where you will not always be told exactly what to do and when.
- The art of balance
This is one that many people, even into their final year at university and beyond, struggle with, but it is a skill that you will be able to maximise for the rest of your life. Being able to exert self-control, and manage your time effectively, will not only make your life easier, but will have a positive impact; e.g. not missing all of your lectures, or not leaving all your work to the last minute will help your results, and mean you can go out with your friends (or watch TV guilt free!)
- Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, or to take risks
Everybody makes mistakes, but what is important is making them count, i.e. learning from them. University is a time when it is almost certain you will be making mistakes, but it is also when you will have lots of support and help available for if you do. Don’t let the fear of making mistakes or failing stop you from taking risks- you never know where they will lead!
- Learn the difference between healthy stress/worry and unhealthy stress and anxiety
One of the things that is a given in life is that at some point you will experience stress, and up to a certain point this is natural, and can even be reasonably useful- such as when it reminds you about that essay you need to stop procrastinating! However, when it goes beyond this, and you feel overwhelmed, or like you are burning out, then don’t ignore it- make sure to take care of yourself and your mental health, and seek help.
- Take advantage of all the opportunities available
University is a unique time where not only will you have free time, but you will also have many different opportunities available to you, with most of them conveniently placed close by. Whether this be sports, clubs, volunteering, academic or career help and advice, it is unlikely you will have all of these same chances in one place nearby again, or have the time to do them. Similarly, make the most of the student discounts and long holidays!
- Money management
Despite the student loan looking like an extremely large sum of money when it first lands in your account, it has to last you the whole term, and it will quickly get spent. Saving money by finding cheaper alternatives will help with this. A good example would be textbooks: it’s always a good idea to see if you can get them second hand or reduced price (e.g. on Amazon or from an older student at the university book fair) or alternatively to borrow them from the library. Depending on your course, you may also find that online journal articles and papers anyway. This could save you a couple of hundred pounds- money that could be spent on other student staples, such as two for one pizza!
- Learn to cook at least a few meals
This is one that everyone will tell you before you leave for university, but that’s because, annoyingly, it is actually good advice. Not only will this save you money, and be healthier than a takeaway, but your friends will be impressed too. If you are like me and you don’t like cooking, then learn to make a few big batch recipes that you can then eat for the rest of the week- you can take these in for lunch or freeze them as well (although it’s still a good idea to keep a frozen pizza in there as well for those days you really can’t bring yourself to cook!).
- Don’t be THAT housemate
Every house has one- the person who never takes out the bins, who leaves their dirty plates in the sink for a week, who thinks the food in the fridge is communal, who never offers to clean or sort out the bills but still complains about it all. Try to be a considerate housemate; it will reduce the number of arguments and passive aggressive messages in the group chat, and will generally make your life easier.
- Have friends outside of your housemates
This is not to say don’t be friends with your housemates- for many people their housemates are among their closest friends, and this makes living together a lot of fun. However, if there are any arguments or there is any tension, you will be grateful for a chance to get out of the house for a few hours. It’s also good just to not close yourself off to other friendships, plus if you have hobbies, lectures, societies or social activities that your housemates aren’t interested in, you have other friends to go with you.
- Don’t judge your experiences based on those of others
In general, but especially at university, it can be easy to compare yourself to others, or to what you expected university life to be like, and feel bad about your own life and achievements based on that. This seems especially true when you see how much other people are going out, or hear about how much studying they have and haven’t done. However it’s important to remember that everything is not necessarily right for everyone, and it is more important to focus on what is working out for you.
- Don’t get too stressed about your path after university
Many people, especially by their final year of university, begin to panic and get themselves worked up with worry about applying for jobs and graduate schemes. Whilst it’s important to think about where you think you might be going, there will still be time after university to look, and there is not just one path to a goal: the same job could be reached in a variety of different ways. It is better to keep yourself open to options and opportunities, and take the time to work on completing an application well, even if this means focusing on your studies whilst at university, then getting work experience or doing a temp job for a few months afterwards whilst completing applications.
Claire Curle is Future Talent and CSR Associate at Colt