University Tips

17 Aug 2012

A picture of Middlesex University, Hendon

On Thursday, A Level students around the UK nervously awaited their results. And as I scrolled down my Twitter feed seeing the many happy and relived students getting the results they wanted and finding themselves now on the way to Uni, I found it hard to believe it was just two years ago that I was in the same position. In October I will be starting my third year at Middlesex University, London, studying a Psychology BSc degree. It has so far been the best, most challenging and educational (yes, you actually learn in University) experience of my life. And it gave me an idea - To write a post with my tips and tricks for surviving at University. I know how nerve-racking it can be to move somewhere new, start a new course and meet new people. And there's lots of things I wish I knew when I first went to University. So here are my top tips for getting through University. 

Before the move
When I was packing for my move to London, I pretty much packed up my entire room. I was going to be moving into an eight bedroom shared house and I had a double bedroom, so there was enough room to take what I wanted. But it is so easy to over-pack. I took far too much and when you think about the things you accumulate over the time you live there, it all adds up, and can make bringing it back when you are back for the summer a really tiring job. 
  • Only take necessities - You will undoubtedly visit home at weekends or term breaks. Don't take every single body care, hair care, skincare and make up product you own (OK, I lie, take all of your makeup) Take one of each, enough to last you until your next visit home, then when you go home, stock up on stuff to take back. 
  • The same goes for clothes. I literally, no word of a lie, took my entire wardrobe. You don't need that much. You'll more than likely shop whilst there, so just take a few things. A few tops, bottoms, dresses, outfits for nights out, a couple of your favourite shoes and a couple of bags. You do not need your entire wardrobe. 
  • Definitely take a spare set of bedding - You'll be glad of them when yours are in the wash. And a couple of towels, again for the same reason. 
  • You only really need two plates, two cups, two mugs, two glasses, two sets of cutlery, etc. Same with pots, just take the amount you will actually need. When moving out and away to University sometimes you panic, "What if I don't have enough?!", but trust me, you only need a couple of things to keep you going. 
  • Before you move out, tidy your room - This may seem like an odd one but trust me, when you are travelling back home from University and you get home, the last thing you want is a messy room. Tidy up, when you go home you'll be glad of it. 
Meeting new people
There are tons of ways to meet new people at University. Whether you're shy, loud, easy going, whatever. There are so many ways to meet new people both on your course and with similar interests to you.
  • Your University should ideally have a website or forum to get to know people on your course before you go. Or even just anyone starting out new at your University. As well as this there are tons of forums for students and a great way to meet people on your course before you get there is to check out the University Facebook page. As well as a Facebook page for the University, they often have pages for the separate courses, too. 
  • Freshers week - Even if you are shy, try and get along to one of the events during freshers week. It is possibly the best way to meet people during the first term and there's lots of different things going on. You can also join societies about things you are interested in, which are usually advertised during Freshers week. 
  • Talk to people on your course - The best way, without a doubt, to make friends is to talk to people on your course. If you see someone sitting alone in a lecture or seminar, ask them if you can sit next to them, ask them their name, how they are finding the course. Talk to people. Most of them will be just as nervous as you, regardless of how lively and bubbly they may appear, because they don't know anyone either. It is also a great step for when you have to do group work - It's always easier when you already know the people and are friends with them.
  • Flat/Housemates - Get to know them. You have to live with them, you have to get along with them. Remember though to give them their own space, just as you will want yours.
You will receive deadlines for all of your work at University. Some of them will be tough, some of them will be easier. Sometimes you'll just have a couple of deadlines to worry about, sometimes you'll have a dozen. You have to stay on top of things, otherwise it will get too much to cope with. Here's what helps me.
  • Keep a diary - You can buy academic August - August diaries, I get ones which have a whole page per day, so I can write down all deadlines. If you have all your deadlines written down, you won't forget any.
  • Write notes during the lectures - Even if you, like I often do, aren't paying the most attention, take notes. It'll help when you come to revise. On the same note, I like to type up all my notes after each Uni day so it's all ready for revision and I'm not rushing to get notes written up when exam period comes around, it's all already ready. The same with cue cards. You'll be glad of it when you come to exam period and you are already prepared.
  • Set aside time to read - It varies per course but you will really will need to get used to reading textbooks, where chapters can be anywhere from 30-100 pages long. 
  • Proof read everything - Read it once, read it twice, read it three times. You will get marked down for bad grammar, poor punctuation and for not citing the correct references. It is always worth triple checking.
  • If you are unsure about anything, ask - You're lecturers and tutors aren't just there to teach, they are there to help. Take advantage of that!
Money and social aspects
For a lot of people, going to University is exciting. You've just turned 18, you can legally drink and go out, you imagine wild drunken nights and student antics. But be reasonable about it and keep your priorities in the right order. A student loan and grant is not a huge amount, yes, but it really baffles me when some students claim they are constantly penniless, they have no money to eat, they have no money to go out. Last year at University I had plenty of money each week for personal spending, I never found myself skint until the very last week of my loan before the next one was due. So here is how I make my money last.
  • Takeaways - Their all well and good and a nice treat, but students who get a takeaway most nights of the week will quickly find their money disappearing. Go to Supermarkets, make food, and if you still want a takeaway treat yourself once a week. Think about it, at nearly £10 a time, it's an expensive way to eat, as well as super unhealthy.
  • Going out - I'm not a massive drinker anymore. I never really took to the getting drunk aspect of University. London prices are horrendously steep and it may seem a bit boring but I just preferred spending my money on other things, than drinking it away. If you are someone who likes to go out a lot, then set yourself a certain amount of money to take with you, don't take your card unless you will absolutely need it. And again, sorry to sound boring, but don't go out getting absolutely hammered on a 'school' night. You will regret it when you have to sit through a three hour 9am lecture, or worse, you have to do a presentation in a seminar. 
  • Money management - Each time I receive a payment of my loan and grant I write down in my diary how much I got. I then work out how much I need for textbooks, rent, food per week, bills and travel. Anything left is mine to spend as I please, which I divide by the amount of weeks it has to last. And I try my utmost (doesn't always work) to stick to that weekly budget. It is so easy to over spend when you're at University, but it's not fair to constantly turn to your parents for money, and it's not fun when you have none left, are hungry and panicking.  

So that's it, those are my tips. I hope someone will find this helpful! But most importantly, I hope everyone going to University this year will enjoy it. It can be hard, it can be stressful, but it can also be some of the best times of your life. Don't waste it.