As a recent graduate of university, it is fair to say that I experienced a lot during my three years at university. It is safe to say that my experience was definitely a lot more unique than others, due to me experiencing the last half of my time there doing online learning due to Covid-19.
However, one year that wasn't impacted by the pandemic was my first year of university. One thing that stressed me out about first year was that I had no idea what to expect as I didn't have any siblings or friends who had gone to university before I did.
This post is part of a three-part series I am going to create over the next three weeks, where I give you a little insight into what each year of university is like (although I am obviously aware that some courses have more than three years, however, having only experienced three years of university, I can only talk about those three years). This post is going to focus on your first year of university and what you can expect from it.
Before you start university, you've got a lot of things to decide. Are you going to move into halls or commute? How much student loan should you take out? Which freshers events are you going to go to? Are there any societies you are particularly interested in joining? And that's just to name a few. You don't have to decide on them straight away, but it's helpful if you already have some idea, particularly for the first two questions.
When I was in first year, I stayed in halls and then commuted for my last two years. I think that halls are a great way to meet new people and to be a part of a student community full of a variety of different characters. I do wish I had made more of my opportunity of living in halls, but for various reasons couldn't. I do definitely think if you are going to university that you should experience living in halls (or, at least, living away from home) for at least one year as this gives you the perfect opportunity to learn adult responsibilities, such as cooking, cleaning, paying bills, learning how to budget, etc. However, living in halls can be quite expensive. I was on the maximum student loan and the rent for the halls I was living in cost two-thirds of my student loan, leaving me with not very much to cover everything else I would need the loan for and this is part of why I chose to commute for my remaining two years. I guess it just depends on what is best for you and what you would prefer. Don't feel like you have to live in halls when the option to commute is there, just because your friends and others make you feel like you should move out. A lot of the student population are only eighteen when they begin university and for most of them, it's not the right time for them to move out of their home (I was definitely one of those people). You may move into halls, realise it's not for you and decide to move back home and commute. OR, you might decide that moving into halls is definitely for you, move out, and make life-long friends with the people you're living with. Whichever you decide to do, just make sure it's the right decision for YOU.
For the amount of student loan you decide to take out, I have actually already done a blog post on my old blog all about this. I personally took out as much as I was allowed, which I would DEFINITELY recommend if you are living in halls as you are going to need all the money you can get. However, if you are commuting, you may not need that much. I know some people who didn't take as much as they were entitled to out as they didn't want to take more than they needed and were very aware of paying it back (even though it's more than likely you won't end up paying it all back due to how the system works). Because I was aware of this, I always took out as much as I was entitled to as I know I will never pay it all back so figured I may as well take what they predicted me as needing. I would definitely recommend doing this, but again, it's completely up to you.
Freshers events and societies are great ways for making new friends. I know many people who made friends during freshers week and never spoke again (hi, it's me, I'm people). However, I also know many people who are still the best of friends with the people they first made friends with during freshers week. You can go to all of the events. You can go to none of the events. You can just go to the events you like the sound of. Do whatever you feel comfortable with doing. However, it is definitely really important to try and push yourself out of your comfort zone, especially in those first few weeks, as this is the best opportunity to make friends and to try new things. University is about firsts in many ways and this may be your perfect opportunity to experience some of those firsts, such as your first time going clubbing or your first time drinking a dirty pint (definitely don't recommend).
It's the same with societies. Societies are one of the best ways to make friends in my opinion as you're going to be surrounded by people who you know all have at least one of the same interests as you. I definitely didn't make the most of my university's societies as the only society I was interested in joining was the netball society. I went to one session and felt it wasn't for me when really I should have pushed myself more and tried to interact more with the people there to try and make friends; which I probably could have done if I had stuck at it for a bit longer. It's definitely worth checking out which societies your university has on offer before you go to the freshers fair, as on the day it can be quite overwhelming as there are so many people walking around and so many stalls. I think if I had properly done my research on my university's societies, I possibly would have had a much more enjoyable university experience than the one I actually had.
It's also really important to try and make some friends on your university course too. Even if you think you're not going to have anything in common with these people, you already have at least two things in common, which are the fact you're at university and the course you're studying. Making friends with the people on your course will definitely make your entire university experience more enjoyable. Sometimes you have to be in university for hours on end and may even have long breaks in between classes that aren't long enough for you to go back home or to your accommodation and it can get boring if you're just sat there by yourself for ages. Try and engage in conversation with the people you're sat next to. Maybe compliment someone on what they're wearing or if you have a break, say you're going to go to get food and see if anyone wants to come with you. They might decide to come with you; they might not. Someone may even invite you to go with them to get food, in which case, say yes. This is one of the ways for you to make friends and it's really important to put yourself out there and get out of your comfort zone during those first few weeks. Who knows? You might even make friends for life this way.
For the majority of university courses, your first year grades don't count towards anything. Yes, you need to have at least a pass in order to be able to progress onto second year, but your grades shouldn't actually count towards anything. I don't know why this is, but I guess it's so you can get a feel for what exams/assignments are like at university without having the added pressure of them counting towards your final grade. A bit like a mock exam, I guess. However, this does NOT mean you can completely ignore the work you have to do and only make a start on it the day before it is due. It will be much more beneficial to you in the long run if you treat these assignments and exams as if they count towards your final grade. This way, the feedback you get will be much more accurate on the stage you're currently at and how you can progress in the future. Plus, your tutors can see what stage you're at and this will also be beneficial to them as they will be able to see the areas in which you may need help, which will make it much easier for them and you in the future.
The most important part of first year is to just enjoy it. This is probably the only year of university you'll have where you can properly enjoy it without having to stress too much about work and deadlines (although that doesn't mean you can ignore those altogether). University is your first step into the big wide world. Sure, it's not for everybody, and it's okay if it's not for you. I'm not entirely sure university was for me either and if you decide to drop out after first year (or at any point in any year, for that matter), that's okay. Just remember to push yourself out of your comfort zone, put yourself out there and have lots of fun in the process.
If you have any other questions about first year, please feel free to email me, or you can DM me on Instagram or Twitter. And if you have any questions about second year, which is the subject of next week's post, please feel free to comment those down below and I'll try to put the answers in next week's post.
What advice would you give to any first year students?
Love Beth xx