University can seem like a really daunting prospect, I went at an older age and transferred courses, as did Lauren. Everyone has different paths, and different stories and I wanted to debunk some myths as well as relax you a little about what university is really like – and it’s not all beer kegs and frat parties.
Friends / Social life
S: I think this is people’s biggest worry, I know that it was mine. Will I make friends? What if no-one talks to me. Who will I sit with? I promise you, have no fear. Every single person is in that exact same boat. In your first seminar you’ll end up sitting next to someone and talking and this will keep on repeating until you find a group that you’re settled with. I didn’t stay in halls and so I was worried about people already having tight-knit groups that I’d struggle to get into – really no issue at all. I started with criminology and transferred one week later to screenwriting, and both times I had people reach out to me to be friends. Everyone wants a buddy! Within two weeks you’ll have found your tribe. Most of my friends came from a part time job that I had too, it’s a new City and through societies, university and work, you’ll have so many opportunities to find your kind of people.
Don’t overwhelm yourself
S: Universities from the very get go want to push opportunities for you: on-site jobs, societies, clubs, being course rep’s etc, and it’s all great for your CV as they’ll keep telling you but do not overwhelm yourself all at once in first year. I didn’t join any societies. I had just moved to a new City, I had a part time job as well as trying to start my own side-hustle and business, and that was enough focus for me. Some people want everything possible out of their university experience, and some people like me just want to find the right balance, and both is ok. Create your experience how you want to, ignore the pressure. I can’t tell you how many times I was offered to be a course representative but I never wanted to take on too much and let my grades slack. Maybe use your first year how it’s intended; as a trial, see what works for you, how you manage with balancing, and then you can readjust for your second year.
Fashion / What do I wear?
S: So funny. The first week is like a fashion show; everyone wears their nicest glad-rags, and on-point makeup, then two weeks later everyone just wears hoodies and leggings. I promise you have nothing to worry about when it comes to keeping up appearances. Hoodies, comfy jumpers, cardigans, whatever is comfy will soon become your best friend. What I like about my university experience was that there wasn’t really any judgement at all towards anyone. It’s a very open experience.
S: If you want an easier life, being organised is your best friend. Juggling work and university was hard sometimes, but the way that I managed to stay on track with firsts was by being super planned and strict with myself. From the very first week of each module I made sure that I knew exactly what my assessment was, and read the grade boundaries so that I could use it as a checklist to make sure that I had covered as much as possible. Because you know from the very get go what your assessments are, it gives you the full eight weeks to focus on that. Yes you have different small weekly work due, but if you don’t lose sight of the main goal, you can stay on track. I use my Mal Paper notebook every week to record my five most important goals that week and it keeps me prepared. Plan plan plan! I always made sure that I was finished at least a week early too because sometimes things can happen out of the blue in life, and I never wanted to have to ask for an extension.
L: I want to tack onto the end of this point, because I think it’s really important for students, especially freshers to stay organised during their first year. I made the mistake of not deciding in advance what media I was going to use to create notes. I used my laptop and notebooks to make notes in classes and this went wrong when I realised that I had missing notes and couldn’t locate some of my work! I definitely advise that you make a decision before you go to uni so that you can keep everything in one place and easily accessible! If you are using a laptop, definitely utilise OneDrive or a memory stick to backup all of your data, just in case! I’d even recommend using a few platforms to store files, because I lost the majority of work on an assignment last year and had to restart, all because my cloud was full. Not to mention having this means there’s no messing around when you want to use a uni library computer to print things off!
S: I’m a real home-bird and I guess it took me moving hundreds of miles away to truly appreciate that. Yes, you will get home-sick, but you will also learn so many life lessons about yourself and being an adult and you’ll just be so grateful for your family. By moving away it’s brought me even closer to mine. We always speak on the phone, visit when we can, and I’m just so grateful for all of the time that I get when I go home to see them. Bring as many home comforts with you as you can, you want to make your space comfy and cozy to make it feel like as much as a home away from home as possible.
Too old for university?
S: I was nervous about this. I’d taken two years out of education for acting, and I was worried that I’d stick out as older, and it’d make it harder making friends – absolute nonsense. In my course there are only 15 of us, one is 30, three of us were 22, and the rest were 18 but there was ZERO issue. Everyone is learning something completely new together, people attend university at all ages and a massive well done to them. Age really has no factor at all!
L: Freshers week is going to be one of the best weeks of your university experience. Freshers is where people make friends and have fun and create their very first impression on uni life. It’s a great time to meet people, even if you’re not drinking, and the majority of universities are really good at putting on events that people who don’t like that sort of scene will enjoy. One thing I regret most about my first year uni experience is not going to any events during Freshers week. I’m not very confident or outgoing as I might seem to others, and I really struggle with social interaction. Going to parties and events like the ones held at my university was a no go, but looking back I wish that I had put myself out there, pushed at the barriers of my anxiety because all of my friends had a fantastic time and I missed out on some fun nights! The best thing you can do for yourself is to go out and have fun during this first week, and push yourself to do things that you might not do usually!
L: The best thing to remember during your first year is that this is a trial year. For the majority of courses across the country, the course has a trial year to help ease you into the swing of things, and this is so important! This is the year to make mistakes and try new things, experiment and experiment again because you’re not going to lose points for trying! As a creative writing student myself, I should probably love poetry, but for my entire life, I have abhorred poetry. My first year at university showed me that it’s not that bad, and that I don’t have to limit myself to one area of creative writing, I can expand, write poetry and scripts and all these new things! The best thing I did was experiment with different areas of my course, and all the while it was so easy to request help, to ask for advice and guidance. Most professors or tutors are always willing to help you, so never, ever be afraid to ask for help if you need it!
Living in halls?
L: Living in halls can be a blessing and a curse. Often, halls are a lot cheaper than regular accommodation, and some of them can be beautiful and lovely! Halls is where you’re likely going to meet your first friends, and it’s important that you try to remember that this is their home too, so no leaving dirty dishes on the side for weeks at a time, no leaving mess or rubbish in the hallways! Either way, it’s best for everyone in the flat to have a way of contacting others about issues and other things, so a group chat is always a good line of communication. I think this is super important, because then you can all learn to live in harmony with each other! I also definitely recommend that you all chip in to buy things like milk every week, because if you don’t there’s going to be a million cartons of milk, and a million containers of butter in the fridge, taking up space that you desperately need to utilise!
L: This is a very common piece of advice, but I just have to reiterate it, because I have lived a life with no budget, and it’s difficult. Budget, budget, budget! Meal plan, work out your monthly income and outcome and decide how much you need for food and other important things like toiletries. This is the best way for you to come out on top, with enough money to see you through harder months, to save for gifts and activities, especially if you have no job on the side. I’ve learned my lesson, and I definitely will be doing this going into my second year of university. It’s too difficult to live like that (trust me, if there was a way, I would have found it by now!)1