Extra Advice on Starting University
Starting your university career is an exciting time. A new chapter of your life has opened up! Many of you will have a good idea of what to expect from having seen friends or relatives embark on their courses - others will be discovering it all from scratch. There is an enormous amount of information to take in and remember, and the pace can become hectic at times, with loads on offer socially as well as attending lectures and getting to grips with facilities such as the libraries. Here are some tips to help you through it:
- Try to pace yourself and build in some time every day to just chill out rather than bouncing from one event or gathering to the next constantly. It is important to get enough sleep but also to relax with music, TV, the paper, in a hot bath, whatever you like doing? this will give you time to reflect and assimilate all your new experiences. You may need to make decisions about your course, or who you are spending time with, or what else to get involved in - so give yourself a breather every day.
- Being nervous is all part of the process. Remember everybody is finding their feet, however cool and confident they may appear to you. All around you are people of different nationalities and backgrounds, but the one thing everybody will have in common is not wanting to be rejected for just being them. If you are anxious about that - you are totally normal. And if you haven't found your lifetime friends in the first fortnight, you are not the only one! When you have made a few friends and found enough networks to belong to, eventually you will feel settled and secure. Don't beat yourself up if you are not always at your ease socially, or say or do something silly. Learn whatever lesson is there for you then forget about it and move on.
- Don't do anything you don't want to. Whether that's spending more money than you've got or even just going out all the time if you're tired. Also it's important to avoid risky situations even if you are having a brilliant time.
- Speak up about any problems. Tackle minor things the minute they come up. Explain what you want clearly and calmly and give people a chance to change before losing your rag. It's much harder to get your point across if you have ignored the problem for a few weeks first! The university chaplains and the Counselling Service, as well as personal tutors and student-run telephone helplines, are all there to help, so remember you are not alone. All these people will listen and keep what you say confidential, and point you in the right direction if you need further help.
University life demands a high level of self-organisation because you have so much freedom. Getting the right balance is the trick, and this will differ from person to person and course to course.
When you have worked out your timetable of research or lectures, seminars and tutorials, you may be suprised to find that you have quite a lot of free time. Take control of this time and organise it carefully. Time that is not organised can disappear very quickly, leaving you rushing to catch up on your work or even running out of time altogether. While at university you will begin to learn the essentials of time management:
- Make weekly or monthly plans that set out your study targets for the week or month ahead. Schedule time for doing your reading, and work out roughly how much you want to read in each session. Plan time to research and write your essays or prepare subjects, so that you do not have to stay up late doing them at the last minute.
- Do not plan to spend all your extra time studying - remember to leave some time for extracurricular activities such as hobbies, sports, seeing friends or simply relaxing. If you do not take time to enjoy yourself, your work will suffer.
- Revise your plans if you need to. As you progress through your course, you will get a better idea of how much time you need for different activities. Use this information to adjust your schedules and keep them realistic.
Living and working in a new environment can make studying more challenging than usual. After your initial excitement about starting a new course wears off, you may start to worry about your progress. This is natural, however there are steps you can take to stay in control of your studies:
- Seek regular meetings with your tutor to review your progress and discuss any problems.
- Form a mutual support group with other students to discuss common challenges and share useful ideas.
- Ask a student counsellor and the academic staff in your department for support and advice. Talking to these people can help you take a more realistic approach and put your problems into perspective.
Just remember that whatever concerns you may have, there is someone at your university who can help. All you have to do is ask. If you do feel you are having difficulties meeting a deadline for example, speak to your tutor. They will often be sympathetic to the circumstances and may be able to help in offering advice or a practical solution.
Back to First Week at University