5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting University

So you’re starting university, or maybe you’re going into another year. Well, you’ve come to the right place.

I’m sure you’ve got most things covered and well prepared, but I bet you hadn’t thought about a few things on this list. Read on to find out my 5 tips for making your first year the best it can possibly be.

Aren’t you lucky with all these fantastic stock visuals?

1. Use Plain Paper for Notes

Clearly this one doesn’t apply for humanities subjects where you always write in long, continuous prose.

However, in science subjects, specifically maths or physics, this one really made things a lot clearer.

When I first started out in first year, I used lined paper like everyone else. I just bought a cheap lined refill pad from Tesco.

However, I quickly noticed my notes were difficult to read, and didn’t flow that nicely.

The reason for this was that whenever I had to write an equation involving a fraction or an integral sign, or even draw a diagram, I had to stretch that over two lines.

This meant that bits of my equations stuck out over multiple lines, sometimes even making the equation unreadable for the line going through it.

When I switched to plain paper, I was initially sceptical; would I be able to write in a straight line?

The answer was yes. In only a couple of weeks, I was writing perfectly straight.

And the best bit was, I was able to easily fit in all of my diagrams and equations seamlessly into the page.

My notes definitely look better now that I use plain paper.

2. Join a Society or Club

Unfortunately, I decided I wouldn’t join any societies; instead I would focus solely on my work.

While this did allow me to perform better in my coursework, it meant I didn’t have much of a social life.

Also, this coursework counted for very little since the majority of my marks came from exams.

Since these were at the end of the year, there was very little need for me to have tried as hard for the rest of the year.

At the very least, I’d recommend joining your subject’s society.

This will broaden your friendship circle and force you outside of your comfort zone; this can be good since you’ll need to be doing it a lot when it comes to interviews for jobs and internships.

In addition, getting a feel for the society in first year puts you in a good position to run for one of the leadership roles in your later years — these look really good on a CV.

To be cynical, at the very least, joining a society gives you an option for people to live with next year if you can’t get along with your current housemates.

3. Go to Your Lectures

I know the feeling, it’s 7am and you’ve got a 9am lecture.You turn off your alarm and roll back to sleep; you’ll watch this lecture later on lecture capture online.

Or you’ve just come out of a lecture and you’ve got a 2 hour gap before your next one. Why wait on the university campus for two hours when you could just watch it tomorrow?

As good as this might sound for a one off, I can assure you that you’ll regret doing this in the long run.

It might seem like this is the perfect setup, but once you get behind on one or two lectures, it can be difficult to motivate yourself to watch them, especially if you’re at home.

By physically attending the lectures, you’ll have no excuse but to watch it in its entirety. And there’s a good chance you’ll understand it better too.

Another thing I’ve found is that sometimes the lecturers forget to turn on their microphones, which is incredibly annoying, and messes up your routine.

One thing I will say, if the lecture is incredibly boring and you find that you always lose interest half way through, then watching the lectures online can be a good idea.

When I had a boring 2 hour one, I decided to watch it in two halves and run it at 1.25 speed because he spoke so slowly.

4. Do a Weekly Shop

When I was in first year, going to Tesco was a big deal; a day out if you will.

Although it was only a 20 minute walk (I went to a campus university), it felt like an age.

Because of this, I ended up frequenting the local shops.

While this might seem alright once in a while, doing this regularly is a bad idea.

Often these shops don’t have the same range of stock, so you end up eating the same things over and over.

Also, the prices will be a lot higher, and you’ll find your money runs out quickly.

So trust me, pick a day, and go to the supermarket on that day, and buy for the whole week.

If you don’t have enough fridge space, then maybe twice a week, but definitely don’t just shop at the corner shop all the time.

And if you can’t be bothered, you can even get your shopping delivered to you, so there’s no excuse to be at the Co-op everyday!

5. Take Part in Studies

This sounds quite intimidating, but I assure you that it isn’t at all risky, it’s actually quite a lot of fun. You can also earn quite a bit of money doing it.

I’m not sure if this is available at every university, but I can’t see why it wouldn’t be.

Basically, there should be a platform where you can register for different trials that PhD students or researchers are offering.

You then turn up, take part in some sort of experiment, and then get paid at the end.

For example, I took part in a study where you were anonymously partnered with a random person in the room, and, via the computer, you both had to answer a question.

You then had to say how sure you were that you had answered quicker than your partner. If you got this right, you could earn more.

In the end, the study lasted about an hour, and I got paid £14!

Annoyingly, I only found out about this during my third year, but I was easily making about £30 – £40 a week depending on how much free time I had to spare.

Have a look at what opportunities your university offers and sign up today!

Thanks For Reading

Well, that’s it, my 5 top tips for starting university the right way.

If you enjoyed this article, check out my other advice here. I’m sure you’ll find something helpful.

If you have any questions, or you’d like some clarification, leave a comment or contact me here.

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