Towards the end of last year, we dedicated a post to helping you negotiate the life-changing transition from high school to university. It can be a daunting journey from being a senior learner at high school to just another first year student among a sea of new faces and we hope our advice came in handy.
Now that the academic year is underway, we thought it would be a good idea to provide a follow-up article with some useful advice on how to, not just survive, but make the most of your first year at university.
Getting the most from your first year at university
Some of you have said goodbye to your parents or guardians and moved to a new city. Some of you are still at home but you’ve ditched the school uniform and you’re officially a varsity student. All of you have gone through a profound change and a passed a significant milestone in your lives. We hope that our post from November (i.e. high school to university) helped you to navigate the very first stages of your career at university and that you’re settling into your new life and routine. Now that the craziness of O-Week is over and the academic year is in full-swing, we wanted to provide you with some more advice to help you make the most of this year, both from an academic and a personal standpoint.
Everyone is different and each one of you will all have your own way of getting through the volume of work, keeping track of assignments and making sure you stay on top of things. But there are a few general tips that will benefit every type of varsity student.
- Attend as many lectures as possible
There are many reasons to attend all your lectures. A lot of courses will have mandatory attendance and you will have to sign a register and attend a certain number of classes in order to get your DP. But even for those subjects where attendance isn’t compulsory, you should do your best to attend as many lectures as you can. Not only will you have the benefit of an expert lecturer explaining the course material, it’s a chance to engage with the subject matter and get your head around some of the more complicated topics. It’s also where you’ll hear about class assignments, important dates and exam tips. As much as you may need an extra hour of sleep, going to lectures will definitely increase your chances of getting the grades you are capable of.
- Acquaint yourself with campus
University campuses are massive and can be overwhelming at first and it’s important to get familiar with your campus early on in your university career. If you missed the guided tour during O-Week, download a map from the university website and familiarise yourself with all the lecture venues, computer labs and faculty buildings. It’s also good to know where the libraries are and when they’re open, where you can print important documents and assignments, and where the best spots are for lunch. Spend an hour or two wandering around when you have some free time, you might be surprised at what you find!
- Get to know your mentors and advisors
Most universities will offer a lot of support channels for students. If you’re in res, you should have an older student who is a mentor, possibly in your corridor or block, who will help you to navigate the formative but sometimes difficult moments in first year. They are like an older sibling, ready to give you advice and impart their wisdom when you need it. You should also have access to a faculty advisor who will be an extremely valuable source of advice when it comes to choosing your subjects and ensuring you get the most out of your degree. Try and visit these mentors and advisors on a regular basis, that’s what they are there for.
Varsity isn’t just about the academics. It’s also a fantastic opportunity to expand your horizons and learn more about yourself and the people around you.
- Budgeting and student discounts
This is probably the first time you have had a proper allowance and it’s important that you are careful with your money. It’s tempting to spend it on fun stuff but there are lots of other expenses you will need to manage. That’s why it’s a good idea to proactively budget your allowance so you don’t find yourself short at the end of the month or semester. Create a simple spreadsheet with your main expenses, like food and toiletries and transport, and then see what you have left over for entertainment. Try and always keep a small reserve of money for emergencies, or to treat yourself after exams. You should also take advantage of the many student discounts that are available – make sure t always carry your students card and ask about discounts for students.
- Take care of yourself
It seems like an obvious piece of advice but it’s worth emphasising. University is different from school – the workload is more intense and stress levels are higher, you have much more freedom to go out and party, and you are in an environment where it’s your responsibility to look after yourself. Take care of your health by sleeping and eating properly and make sure you take at least one rest day a week. There are campus health facilities to help if you’re sick and psychological counselling services if you need someone to talk to. There are also sports clubs and gym facilities for exercise and socialising . Make sure you’re safe when walking around campus or back to res at night and ideally have at least one friend with you. If you’re alone, ensure that someone knows where you are, even if it’s just a quick message to a friend. And while you’re at it, keep an eye out for your fellow students too, university is all about the community.
We hope these simple tips will help you to get the most out of your first year at university. It’s a fantastic time of your life and one you will never forget. Enjoy and best of luck!
Awesome article. Very light to read and helpful for the students in terms of advise.