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My Biggest University Regrets

a cartoon of a university student in a graduation cap and gown, smoking a cigarette, surrounded by work

Life is full of regrets. I try to live my life without having any regrets, but that has become near-on impossible over recent years and events. But luckily for you, if you are currently at university, I have made these mistakes so you don't have to. I am more than aware that we all learn from our own mistakes, but maybe you could learn from mine without having to make them yourself.

1. Not making friends

For various reasons, while I was at university, I did not utilise the opportunities I had to make more friends. University is meant to be a time where you meet your people because for the first time in your life you are in a place where everyone is there because they want to be, you have people on your course who you clearly already have something in common with, and there are societies you can join where you will find people you have something in common with. I did really try when I first started. I spent a number of hours on the first night in my student accommodation where all of my flatmates were there getting to know them. I tried to get to know my coursemates. I did an induction session at the netball society. But the issue was that moving to university is a massive change in anyone's life and due to this and various other reasons, my mental health really suffered. I let my anxiety get the better of me and ended up alone for a lot of my time at university. I also didn't give enough people a chance and convinced myself that they didn't like me so even when it was obvious they were trying to get to know me, I should have done that more and made more of an effort and not let my anxiety get in the way of making friends.

2. Not doing anything about my mental health

Throughout my time at university, it was very obvious to me that my mental health was really failing. Despite various emails from the university that were sent out to every student regarding getting support, should they need it, I completely ignored these as I was too scared to actually admit I needed help. Any time I was going through a really bad patch, once I started to come out of it, I would recognise that I needed help but then I would become completely fine and convince myself that was the last time I would ever go to that place and because of that, I wouldn't need any help. I couldn't (and still can't) be more wrong. I needed the help then and I need the help now. I have no idea what university mental health support is like, but when that support was regularly being offered to me, even just to talk with my personal development tutor, I should have taken it and maybe things would have been different.

3. Not taking part in societies

As I mentioned in my first regret, I only went to one induction session at the netball society and never went to any others. But I never actually took the time to look at the other societies my university had to offer. I really wish I had taken the time before I started to properly look through the list of societies my university had to offer, or even create one of my own if there was none I liked the sound of, instead of only focusing on one society and hardly giving it a chance. I had gone completely on my own, whereas most freshers went with one other person, and I guess I was expecting to make friends straight away when these things take time. I also never thought about looking into societies once I progressed through university, which is always an option and it's not a matter of you can only start going to a society in first year, as you can start at any point during your time at university. Societies are an amazing way of making friends and I wish I had made more use of this resource.

4. Spending hardly any time with my Personal Development Tutor (PDT)

For those of you who have never been to university, a PDT is essentially like the form tutor you had in school, where you can go to them about anything to do with university. You are meant to have regular meetings with them to discuss your progress and what your plans are for the future; as well as going to them whenever you have any concerns or if you just need someone to talk to. With my PDT, I missed the first meeting because I couldn't find the room (genuine story, me and this other girl who also had the same PDT were wandering around for ages trying to find the room we were meant to go to and despite asking various people who worked there, we couldn't find it so gave up) and I emailed her to explain the situation and she never replied. At this point, despite her working in my department, I never met her until second year and she didn't really seem all that interested in individual students, which would explain the no response to my email. As I also had the issue of not really having anything to go and talk to her about, I never really made an appointment with her and it was only because one time I couldn't make it to her lecture and emailed to explain and also happened to mention that I needed a meeting with her to discuss my current placement that she actually responded (but this is after me sending multiple emails to her and having no response). I know I should have emailed my course leader to ask her if she could help me with the situation but didn't as I was worried either nothing would be done or that my PDT would have a go at me over it (she wasn't exactly the friendliest of people). The other thing about PDTs is that they are meant to write you a reference once you leave university and enter the world of employment, but due to my lack of meetings with mine, she can't really write me a reference as she doesn't really know anything about me as a person. I also guess that even if I did email her now asking for a reference, she probably wouldn't even reply. But if you're currently at university, make use of your PDT and make yourself known to them and other members of your department so you can get your glowing references once you leave.

5. Putting more value on my work over friendships

When I was at school, I was the type of person that would put those around me before my education. It was only during the last few months of my A-Levels that this changed to making my education a priority, but everyone around me was also making it a priority so it was never that much of a big deal. However, I personally found university a little easier than my A-Levels, but I guess this is because I never had any exams at university, whereas my A-Levels were full of exams and those are what I struggle with the most. Whilst education is important, so are friendships. I really wish I had been more of a person who got the balance right between having a social life and getting my work done. There were so many times during university where I was asked if I wanted to go on a night out and I would always turn it down because I believed my work was more important, even though it wasn't an immediate thing that needed doing and I could have still gone out and got the work done in time. I think if I had put more time into those friendships, I would have a lot more memories regarding my time at university when I currently have hardly any interesting stories to tell.

6. Skipping classes for stupid reasons

We've all been there where the thought of a 9am lecture when you have to endure a cold and rainy half-hour walk to campus is completely off-putting and so you decide to turn your alarm off, go back to sleep and catch up on the work later. But I would always let my anxiety get the better of me when it came to lectures and seminars and wouldn't go in for a variety of reasons, such as not wanting to do group work; not liking the lecturer; and not liking the one or two-hour gap between classes, where they would be too short to warrant going home and back and if they set us work to do during this hour, it would never take as long as they gave us so we would always be sat around waiting for ages, so I would just go home. I should have been more present in the moment and taken the time to actually go to class and only missed a class if I was ill or had fallen behind on the work and felt that I needed that time to catch up. At the end of the day, you're paying £9250 on tuition alone each year and even though we all know university isn't worth anywhere near that amount of money, you might as well 'get your money's worth' by consistently attending your classes.

7. Not using my contacts enough

I'm not sure whether you have (or had) the same experience as me, but we would always have guest lecturers come in, either who were lecturers themselves in the same or slightly different field to what we were studying for, or they would work for an organisation related to our field and would come in to talk about the work that they do. I never took the time to make a note of any of these people's contact details, which I guess was partly because I didn't really know what I wanted to do after I left university and partly because I just couldn't be bothered. Top tip: if you ever have someone come into your university to give a talk, go up to them and thank them afterwards or maybe send them an email thanking them and to ask if it's possible to find out a bit more about what they do. You could even show an interest in volunteering for or getting work experience from their organisation. This helps get your name out there from a very early stage, hopefully creating more opportunities for you and once you've graduated you could even reply to the chain of emails asking if they have a position for you or even just some form of work experience/internship they'd be willing to give you to help you gain more experience. Networking is the most important thing you can do in your career, so get networking early on and you'll have already moved forward in your career before it's even begun.

8. Not doing the things that scare me

I know this now, but it's really important we start to get comfortable with the uncomfortable. I definitely think my anxiety held me back in lots of areas and I, for some reason, convinced myself that people from my school had told everyone at my university that I was quiet and weird and that they shouldn't bother with me (obviously that's complete and utter nonsense). When you start university, it's more than likely that you know no one there, so you can be whoever you want to be. I think while I was in school I became a very quiet version of myself and even though there were many occasions where I wanted to be the real me but felt like I couldn't in case people thought there was something wrong with me or that I was trying to show off and be the person they didn't think I could be. At university you can become the person you are deep down inside and this way, you are bound to find your tribe.

Hopefully, in reading my university regrets, these will prevent you from making the same mistakes I made. There is a part of me that wishes I could go back and do the entire thing again knowing what I know now, but if we did everything perfectly all of the time, we would never grow and evolve. Making mistakes is an important part of life and without them, we would never learn. I may have made those mistakes and have those regrets, but all that means is that as I move forward with my life, I can learn from these mistakes and try and better my life in many ways as I move into my career.

I would be interested to know from those of you who have previously been at university if you have any regrets, and if so, what were they and what did you learn from them? Please leave them in the comments below.

If you are currently at university and have any questions about my experience or need some advice, please feel free to either leave them in the comments below, email me, or send me a DM on Twitter or Instagram.

What is one piece of advice you wish you had been told before/during your time at university?

Love Beth xx

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