Five things I wish I knew when I started uni

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By Simran Kaur Takhi

As a second-year student, I took a moment to reflect on a few things that I wish I had known and done differently in my university life so far. Before and during my first year, I was so caught up in the excitement, nerves and sheer stress (from academic and lifestyle transitions) that I didn’t think about the best ways in which to approach things in my early days of university.

That being said, I’m sure these feelings, and the lack of planning, are just something associated with ‘freshers’ in general and so, here are some of the things I wish I knew about before starting university:

It’s okay to not get the marks you want

After speaking to a few of my friends about how they found the transition between first and second year, I realised that we all had something in common – the regret of fretting so much about our marks, particularly in the first few months of starting university.

This isn’t to say that one should be completely lax when it comes to assessment marks but it’s important to keep in mind that the first year is all about learning how to adapt and coping with new academic requirements. It’s more important that skills such as critical thinking, referencing and essay planning are acquired so that they be applied in the second year, when assessments contribute towards the degree. After looking back on some work I submitted during my first year and being horrified, I realised how far I had progressed academically and I’m sure this would be the case for many students.

Make use of careers services

Only recently did I discover and benefit from my university’s careers services. CV checks, help with finding employment and advice on preparing for assessment are just some of the ways in which the careers service can help students, completely free of charge. Finding employment, gaining that all important work experience placement and acquiring skills that will be useful in subsequent years of study are the things I wish I got under my belt during my first year.

Don’t expect to make good friends straight away

Like a lot of young people, one of the things that excited me the most about university life was the prospect of making new friends. However, this is something that took me longer than I had originally anticipated. Some people fall into friendship groups naturally and very quickly. Some find that the friends made during their first weeks are only featured in their distant memories. Society events, meeting mutual friends on nights out and having to work in groups as part of your course will all provide opportunities to expand on your social circle but good friends will be made during different times throughout student life. What I now realise is that, as you progress through university life, there will always be opportunities to make new friends, meaning that there is no reason to be disheartened if, in the early days of university, everyone seems to have found a place within friendship groups whilst you haven’t. Forming friendships is an ongoing process that is different for everyone.

Ditch the student cook book

As a student who had to face the harsh reality of no longer having the luxury of parent-cooked meals, I panicked and bought several student cookbooks which just ended up gathering dust.  Why? Because there are hundreds of student friendly recipes out there, catering for various dietary requirements. The BBC Good Food website has a whole section dedicated to student friendly meals. And besides, student life is all about making mistakes and experimenting with what you have. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t, but it’s all part of the joy of learning how to cook when you’re a student.

Be aware of mental health services

It is very common for students to experience mental health issues during university. According to a survey by YouGov, one in four undergraduates report having mental health issues. Admittedly, in the period where I did need help, I completely dismissed the idea of the university being able to provide a variety of good quality mental health services for students and although I did benefit from them, I could have done with this help much earlier. It’s always worth browsing online to see which services are affiliated with the university as these will often be accessible for students.

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