Preparing for university? Here are our top tips to make the most out of the experience
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Michael Fraser, who now lives in Brookmans Park, grew up in St Albans, Herts. Having recently finished a history undergraduate degree in Swansea University, he shares his tips for getting the most out of your university experience.
Going to university is a hard experience. Trust me, I've just finished going through it. It isn't easy but it is manageable. You will feel overwhelmed initially, not only from the increase in the amount of studying you need to do but from how you now have to cook and clean for yourself. It's not easy. However, with a few tips, you'll find the experience much better. So here they are:
Limit the time you use your parents
Now, I recognise the primary audience of this article has already selected their university so I'm not going to recommend simply finding a university that your parents can't get to in a day. If you've already done this, well done. But if you're somewhere your parents can get to in a day, this next bit is for you.
Don't limit the amount of time you talk to your parents. Don't do that. Instead, limit the amount of time you ask them for help. Perhaps once or twice a term. Why? University is all about learning independence and how to manage your life. I'm not saying that if you need mom's help on how to cook a chilli or dad's help to remember how your laptop backs up stuff to your laptop, which should count. Instead, what you must limit is when your parents come and see you to help you. This will greatly help you to learn your independence since it acts to throw you in the deep end: you will struggle initially but
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Do see your parents
Don't be horrible. Your parents will miss you and you should visit them, or let them visit you. This is a good thing firstly because it will be nice to see them. Second, in something you must always remember, is that it will give you a few days off. Even if you see them for a day, that's a day you're not spending studying and a day your mind can relax. It is a nice thing for you and a great thing for your parents. Win Win!
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Don't ask for more money
Doesn't matter if you're getting a maintenance loan or an allowance from your parents, never ask for more money. You have to learn how to budget and if you don't get it right and end up eating baked beans for weeks, that is a problem you caused. I know this sounds harsh but it will act as a shock to the system. Budgeting isn't easy but trust me, once you get into the hang of it you will be able to do it in your head. I got so used to budgeting that I wrote about three times in the cashbook my parents brought in the space of my second and third years because I was so used to budgeting in my head.
My advice for budgeting would be to set yourself a series of limits: I can spend this much today, I'm going out on Wednesday so I need to cut back on these days of the week so I can afford it. Money will be tight but it will be manageable. Make sure to budget, and a great way to force yourself into budgeting effectively is to prevent yourself asking for more money. Of course, if you do run out ask for some more but unless it is a dire emergency (i.e I cannot afford food and will starve unless I get some) and you can survive until your next payment comes in, don't ask for more money.
Remember you're there to study
I'm not saying you shouldn't party. Just don't party every night. Ususally there will be a couple of 'special nights' a week at your local nightclubs with some discounts. Use those but don't go out clubbing every night, and try to avoid clubbing if you have an exam or lectures the day after.
Don't skip lectures or seminars. This is why you are at university in the first place; you are there to study. Sure, if you are on death's door you can skip it but always make an effort to turn up, or email the lecturer after to see if you've missed anything important.
You will likely end up getting a summer job at the end of your second year, usually staying in the place you study. Quit when you go back for your third. Trust me, it will be of great benefit. Even a small shift will eat into the time you should spend studying. Yes, working a paid job will be great at and the money will be good to have, but it will eat out your time from studying. It is likely all you will be able to get is low paid work, so if you choose to keep the job you'll end up with a bad degree and a bad dead-end job.
Remember you're not there solely to study
This isn't me being hypocritical. My point here is that to remember you do not have to spend every second of your life that isn't bathing, going to the toilet, looking or sleeping with your nose buried in a book. You can take time off. Go clubbing, but also join societies.
Societies are great. No matter what you enjoy you will find a society around it. Don't just join societies that will let you sleep with the opposite gender (or same gender. Not judging). Join a society about something you enjoy. You'll meet new friends, have a few laughs… the important thing to remember is that you do not have to spend all your time studying and can do other things. It will be of great benefit. Speaking of which…
Your mental health is not an acceptable sacrifice for a grade
This is the most important point I'm going to make here. You must never put your mental health at risk for a grade. Yes, there are going to be times when you are straining your mind to write those essays. It will be hard work for sure. But your mind is a muscle and if you strain it beyond its means, yoy will damage it. I've been there and it is not pleasant. There is nothing wrong with simply taking a day off, provided you can afford to take it. Or failing that, a couple of hours. Step away from your keyboard. Go to the toilet. Listen to some music. Catch a few episodes of that show you like on Netflix. Take a minor walk. Get some food. It will all be of more benefit than I can put into words. Your mind is a muscle and thus you have to reat it like you would treating working any muscle: running it at high speed for hours on end is a bad idea and you will do damage to it. It's not a pleasant experience.
I hope you find this useful. This is not a conclusive list of the advice you need for university: I instead decided to provide the information I wish I had known before I went off to university. Best of luck to you, dear reader, and I hope you have a very good experience.