By Julia Lascar, MSci Physics & Philosophy, Department of Physics
Dear first year,
I’m you, but older, wiser, tired, and heavily caffeinated.
Well, I’m probably not exactly like you, but I do remember how it was to be in your situation. Everybody’s probably told you already that university is so much more different and harder than high school — and they’re not wrong, really. There’s some great stuff ahead of you, some awful stuff as well, and you might get a nervous breakdown or two. I don’t have the wisdom to turn uni into a super-breezy-chocolate-squeezy experience, but I can give you some tips I wish I’d heard back in the day. Here it comes.
- Get a routine.
Uni makes it so easy to live like an isolated creature of the night. You don’t have many hours of class, and there’s so much to do in a new town with new friends and new parties and Netflix. So easy to completely forsake the routine you had in high school and start waking up at 2pm on a daily basis… Heed my words: Don’t. Though you may only have ~15 hours of class a week, it is expected that you work a lot more. So force yourself to wake up in the morning, go work at the library every weekday, and keep your weekends to cool down. It’s easier to set into a routine right from the beginning than it will be when you’re in your final year and panicking, trust me!
- Procrastinating Is Hell and Cramming Is Useless.
I was a serial crammer in high school. I would start working a week or two before exams, and still get pretty good marks. Not only does this technique not work in uni (you will either fail or get disappointing grades), it’s also a useless way to retain knowledge. The information you learnt in a frenzy the night before your maths exam is not something you’ll remember your whole life (in fact, you’ll be lucky if it lasts the summer) — and some of the material uni teaches will serve you for many years to come. So keep up with work! It will make classes more enjoyable anyway.
- Uni isn’t the idyllic social fest people make it out to be.
It’s okay if you don’t meet your best-friend-forever in your first week of uni. It’s okay if you don’t meet your soul mate there, either. You may be lucky enough to meet them, but don’t stress over it if you don’t. And on that note:
- If you had good friends in high school, keep in touch with them.
I’m still close to my two best friends from back in the day. It’s the best feeling in the world. When I felt lonely at uni, they were here for me.
- Seize opportunities!
An internship? Apply! A Student Rep role? Sign up! A society committee? Get on it! These are all great ways to experience new things, pump up your CV, meet new people, and learn new skills! And if you’re thinking: ‘But I’m not good enough / I’ll never get in’ etc., don’t. You’re worth more than you think. My best projects were some I thought I wasn’t qualified enough to partake in. Instead, tell yourself: ‘I’ll be so much better by the time I’m done!’
A graduating student