Top 10 tips for starting at university

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionFresh-faced and ready to go - it's the start of a new university year

The new duvet cover has been bought, posters are packed, a favourite teddy has been sneaked in and the car boot is crammed full.

It's that time of year when young people are heading off to university for the first time.

We asked graduates and older students for their top tips for starting at university.

1. Manage your workload

Kaylie Knowles, 24, studied at Nottingham Trent University, then did her PGCE at Derby University. She says staying on top of the workload is crucial.

"I got on just fine doing my undergrad at Trent, but my final year at Derby was a very stressful year leading me to four or five meltdowns across the year.

"All I'd say is prioritise your workload and make sure you take a break when you feel the workload is getting too much. "

2. Plan out a weekly budget

Mary O'Connell, 23, who did English literature at York University and an MA in Film Studies at King's College London, recommends setting yourself a weekly budget.

"Don't spend all your money on Freshers Week. If you haven't really worked before uni then you may not have seen that much money in your account before. But remember that it's still a loan that you need to be sensible with.

image copyrightMary O'Connell
image captionMary: Learning to manage your loan is crucial

"Plan out a weekly budget. You can use an app to track your spending if you want to get an idea of how much you're spending, because it's something we usually underestimate."

Sian Reed, 25, who studied marketing at Hull University, followed by an MA in sports journalism at Sheffield Hallam, agrees.

"My first top tip would be learn to budget. I know it sounds all serious but just because your student loan has come in, doesn't mean you should spend it all at once.

"Just take half an hour or so to sit down and look at what money you have coming in and what you're spending.

"It might mean making some adjustments like boosting your income or reducing your spending (ask for a student discount everywhere, you'll be surprised at the sort of places that offer it as they don't always advertise) but it means you can live comfortably."

3. Back up your work

Peter Rogers, 22, who graduated from York University last year, says it's a good idea to back up your work in more than one place.

"We all had gmail accounts through our university, so I used Google Drive to save everything which meant it was stored in the cloud.

"One piece of advice would be to make sure you save different versions of a piece of work as you go along.

image copyrightPeter Rogers
image captionPeter recommends backing up your work in more than one place

"For example, if you are writing an essay on the French Revolution, save it as 'French Revolution half' at the halfway stage, and then again as a separate version three-quarters of the way through, etc.

"That way if you do manage to delete a copy you will not have to rewrite from the beginning."

4. Make the most of the first year

Peter also says that the first year can often be a little lighter academically than subsequent years, so it's worth enjoying it.

"If your first year doesn't count towards your overall grade, make the most of the freedom that offers you," he suggests.

"I still look back and wish I had done a little less work (nobody asks me what grade I got in first year) and spent more time trying out activities, sports or just hanging out with friends.

"Obviously the academic side is important but that really amps up in second and third year anyway."

5. Don't be afraid to be choosy about friends

Emmeke Megannety 21, a second-year journalism student at Nottingham Trent University, says it's worth taking your time to find good friends.

"People starting uni need to remember that the people you meet in your first week will not necessarily be your friends for life.

image copyrightEmmeke Megannety
image captionEmmeke, 21, says friendships take time to evolve

"Don't think that you have to stick to people like glue just because you haven't met anyone else yet.

"Throw yourself into activities and societies, get a job, strike up a conversation with someone at the gym - you'll make so many friends throughout the year in the oddest of places."

Mary recommends joining all the societies that interest you.

"You don't just want your uni friends to be the people on your course and who you live with, so join a society to make friends there," she says.

"It's a good way to socialise cheaply, especially if you're not a big drinker. It also just makes the uni experience more fulfilling."

6. Look out for people

Sadly many students suffer with mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety. Recent statistics show 146 students took their own lives in 2016.

Peter says it's important to keep an eye on your peers and ask searching questions.

"I was, and continue to be, regularly surprised at the number of people who would look and act fine outwardly but were actually really struggling.

"I think the key here is talking directly, especially with men. I know if I were just asked 'How are you feeling?' I'd probably just skirt around the question with a generic answer.

"But if a friend asked 'Do you think your mental health has been affected by….?' we might be tempted to answer more honestly."

7. Eat a balanced diet

Matt Broderick, 29, a graduate from Queens University Belfast, says a poor diet can affect your mood.

"Learn to cook and go to class. I did neither of these things, or very, very little.

"I spent all of my money on really unhealthy oven food or nasty takeaways and barely went to lectures.

"I didn't realise at the time but I was probably depressed because I was living in an awfully cold and dark house, eating dreadful food and only really leaving the house to go drinking with the odd class or lecture thrown in.

"I wish I could hit the reset button and go to every single lecture, do all of my readings, eat better and spend my time more wisely rather than drinking away my student loan."

8. Learn to cook on a budget

Picking up on the issue of food, Mary recommends learning how to cook on a budget.

"Stop caring about brands just because you have them at home," she advises.

"For example, if you're making something like a bolognese then buy the 'basics' version of the chopped tomatoes. It's not an ingredient you need to have a special brand for - chopped tomatoes is chopped tomatoes.

image copyrightSian Reed
image captionSian says it's important to "stay true to yourself"

"Tupperware is your friend: Cook food in bulk then freeze it in meal-sized portions."

Peter adds: "Like many students I didn't really have anything other than rudimentary cookery skills before I went, and found learning to cook was reasonably enjoyable."

9. Stay in touch with friends from home

Mary says keeping in touch with family and friends from back home is a good way of keeping loneliness at bay, and a good chance to speak openly about any problems.

"Uni can be very lonely. Make sure you check in with your home friends who are also at uni and keep track of who might be having a hard time, and make sure you tell your friends if you find yourself struggling."

10. Stay true to yourself

Sian's other top tip for university is to "stay true to yourself".

"At university, students are usually living away from home for the first time which means no parents.

"You don't have to be an extrovert to enjoy the experience - don't feel obliged to go on nights out because you feel forced to (you will regret it in the morning).

"University seems to create a drinking culture so it's okay if you're not into it. Trust me, you will not be the only non-drinker on campus.

"Alternatively, if you do have a big personality, make the most of your student life, as life after uni is nowhere near as cheap."

Produced by Katherine Sellgren and Shamaan Freeman-Powell

Related Topics