“Congratulations, your place to read History at the University of Leeds has been confirmed.”
For the euphoric half-hour, after UCAS sends the message you have been endlessly checking for, it feels like all your troubles are over.
Everyone from your granny, who has never even visited a university to your second cousin, Cara, who got a First, tells you that university will be the best time of your life. But, if, once the relief of getting into university has worn off, you start to worry that you won’t enjoy it, don’t be afraid that you are the only one who has ever felt this way.
Part of the excitement of university life is the departure into the unknown. It is bound to be disconcerting at first but remember that everyone will be new. If you get into your first choice university, you will have some degree of familiarity with the campus or the town in advance.
If you think you might have to enter through Clearing, do your research in advance of Results Day and hold your nerve to find a course at a university where you would genuinely want to study.
University can be a very intimidating place; you might find that you are not beaming with happiness like every face on the university prospectus. Everyone experiences highs and lows. University brings an increased onus on your personal responsibility for your studies but that does not mean that you are on your own.
As someone who was unashamedly filled with trepidation ahead of starting their life at University and learned to love it, I will share some tips on how to enjoy University life.
#1: Enjoy Freshers’ Week
Before starting University you might hold the preconception that Freshers’ week might well be the greatest week of your life so far, filled to the brim with guilt-free partying and drinking games.
Whilst some of this may indeed be true, for many people Freshers’ week is a nerve-wracking time spent in unfamiliar surroundings attempting to form friendships with equally unfamiliar people.
Fortunately, Freshers’ week acquaintances are unlikely to become your long term friends. If you find that the people in your accommodation aren’t really the kind of people you want to be friends with, then try and be as socially proactive as possible.
How to enjoy Freshers’ week:
- If you are living on campus, unpack as soon as possible to help you to settle in faster
- Attend the freshers fair, and sign up for clubs and societies
- Take full advantage of the freebies on offer during the week
- Budget your money carefully
- Be open-minded about who you socialise with. You’ll meet a wide range of students from across the globe during your studies. Push yourself out of your comfort zone and meet new people.
Remember, finding people you feel comfortable around is important to enjoying your time at university but don’t worry if it takes some time!
Whether you are in your first, second or final year of university, enjoying freshers’ week can help you to start the academic year on a high!
#2: Embrace your student journey
University life gives you the opportunity to be yourself. The stereotypical depiction of care-free young people enjoying a booze-filled joyful existence is one which many prospective students find off-putting and, luckily, it is far from the truth.
Universities are an inclusive, diverse environment and there is no pressure for anyone to conform to an outdated perception of how a British university student is expected to behave. A recent study claimed that 1 in 6 students in Britain is teetotal, and so universities now offer the choice to live in alcohol-free accommodation, so people are not made to feel excluded by their lifestyle choices.
University is a journey of self-discovery. You’ll face many highs and lows that will develop your character. A combination of looking after yourself, socialising and learning will help you to become more resilient and self-motivated.
At times, your student life may become stressful, but before you know it you’ll be attending your graduation ceremony and your student life will be a distant memory. Enjoy it whilst it lasts!
How to get the most out of your student life:
- Become a president or committee member of a society
- Get involved with volunteering and fundraising activities on campus
- Take a part-time job and get work experience
- Enjoy university life and take every opportunity offered to you
#3: Look after Your Mental Health
A recent survey performed by the Insight Network and student organization Dig-In revealed a worrying trend in terms of the mental health of higher education students, with just under half of all students (42%) responding that they had felt the need for professional help.
Whilst your time at university may turn out to the best years of your life, it is not unusual to struggle at times. Stress and pressure exerted by your work, finances or more personal issues can be difficult to manage.
Universities have a large number of trained professionals on hand to offer help; being as proactive as possible in receiving help is vitally important. Student representatives within the student union can offer informal support or advice with coping with the stresses of university life or help you to access the university’s professional help services.
Even if you are a more established student at your university the issue of mental health can arise during your time there. With The Guardian reporting the vulnerability of second and third years is significantly higher than freshers.
The recognition of the importance of mental health at university has been growing exponentially in recent years. Yale University’s now world-famous Happiness Course has been made freely available online.
Keeping a healthy mind at university can be improved by maintaining a healthy body. Making sure you manage at least three meals a day and keep up a healthy diet (rather than living off a variety of takeaways) whilst remembering to drink a lot of water can be a boost to your system. Likewise, regular exercise provides structure to your week and the endorphins released by exercise actively improve your mental state.
Universities often have fantastic sports facilities and joining a sports team or even committing to a regular exercise class is a great way of making new friends.
It can be difficult to enjoy university life if you are struggling with your mental health. If you are going through a difficult time, don’t suffer in silence, get help. Be sure to check out the resources below.
- Counselling for student mental health problems – NHS
- Student Minds
- How to cope with student life – Mind
#4: Manage Your Finances
For many students University is the first time they are fully in control of their finances, and being conscious of your spending is essential.
Conversely, lack of money in the bank can be incredibly stressful and hinder your ability to enjoy university life to the full. It can be tempting to go on a shopping spree the moment your student loan lands in your bank account, but being frugal with your money is a necessity.
You don’t want to miss out on social events because you blew all your funds on needless items. After leaving the comfort of your home surroundings, for many people, this will be their first time having to buy necessary items that seem to be magically replenished at home, such as milk, washing detergent and toilet paper.
Factoring in these sorts of items alongside your food into your weekly shop is important. Writing a shopping list of items can be a great way of making sure you don’t overspend.
Supermarkets in student areas tend to be quite extortionate, and every university seems to want to lay claim to possessing the most expensive Sainsbury’s or Tesco on the country.
Doing your weekly shop at a budget supermarket can be a sensible way of alleviating the pressure on your bank account. You may have to sacrifice some of the more recognisable brands but it will leave you with more money to put towards having an enjoyable time.
Supplementing your income by getting a part-time job, or working in the holidays, can also boost your career prospects by giving you vital work experience – but be careful to ensure that you can manage any part-time work alongside maintaining high standards for your studies. This can allow you to obtain a greater range of key skills, which will come in use when it comes to writing your CV.
It will be much more difficult to enjoy university life if you are struggling financially. Use this time to learn how to manage your finances efficiently. Remember, if you are experiencing hardship, do not hesitate to get help from your university.
#5: How to Enjoy Living in a Student House
Choose your housemates wisely and make sure that shared responsibilities for bills are clear from the start. Companies like Huddle can take a lot of the stress out of paying for shared utilities by ensuring the housemates pay a single fixed amount for all services each month.
Fallouts amongst housemates can be painful and disruptive to your studies. In third year, in particular, it is important to find housemates who are all preparing for Finals together or are respectful of the pressures of preparing for final exams.
If you can possibly manage it, try to keep at least one room in the house as a shared communal lounge (difficult in London where living costs are so expensive) and try to have a house meal once or twice a week or weekly shared house activities that brings the house together – even if this is just watching the football or a tv quiz or talent show.
#6: Enjoy your studies
It may get a bit lost in all the commotion that comes with starting university, but the main reason you are there is to study. Hopefully, your degree subject should be something you have a genuine interest in, otherwise, you are unlikely to enjoy your three years at university.
Don’t be afraid to change modules or even change your degree course if you discover that you are not enjoying your course.
If you are someone who relishes the chance to broaden your horizons, then a lot of degrees offer the chance to take on elective modules outside of the confines of your degree. So if you are feeling like you might be academically constrained by your degree then you can take on a selection from a huge variety of modules from the history of the guitar to brewing your own beer.
Broadening your horizons even further, many students choose to spend their third year either doing a year abroad or a placement year. If you are a determined student who already has ideas of what their future career will entail then completing an internship whilst at University is a good choice. The Graduate Coach has detailed what you need to consider when selecting an internship whilst being a student.
Studying will play a significant part of your time at university, so it will be hard to enjoy university life if you are not enjoying your course. Here’s what you can do to make your studies more enjoyable:
- Speak to your course leader or student representatives if there is something you do not enjoy about your course
- Raise any issues that affect your university experience
- Attend all of your lectures and seminars to keep up with the workload
- Go to your lecturer’s office hours when you have queries or concerns about your course
- Visit your university’s academic support centre if you are struggling with things such as academic writing, revising for exams, referencing or giving presentations
- Form study groups and revise with your classmates
#7: Plan for life after university
Adjusting to life after University can be a challenging task for many graduates that are not planning on masters or a PhD.
Whilst many graduates may have a clear idea of their vocation, others may be left wondering what path to follow and how to turn their degree into a career.
It can be difficult to shift your focus whilst at university from your immediate studies to your future career, but utilising the university careers department can be beneficial with regards to the various opportunities that they promote.
The truth is, that a degree alone is no longer enough, and to impress recruiters, you must be able to demonstrate your skills through work experience.
Get a graduate coach
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Get work experience whilst at university
We can’t stress it enough – it is absolutely vital that you get some work experience whilst you are at university.
A degree alone is not enough to impress employers and land a good graduate job. You will need to demonstrate your transferable employability skills throughout the entire graduate recruitment process.
Mastering your time management and being able to balance your studies with working and gaining work experience can really help you to enjoy university life.
How to enjoy university life: Summary
Thanks for taking the time to read this post on how to enjoy university life! University will present you with many challenges and opportunities. How you navigate your way through your time at university will refine your character and help you to learn more about yourself.
Whilst it is really important that you enjoy your university life, it is important to focus on the future and what you would like to do after you graduate. The graduate job market is extremely competitive and in order to stand out, you must work on your employability whilst you are still a student.
Students who take this advice seriously and work hard to boost their employability can find themselves landing a job before graduation.
The key to enjoying your university life is to get the balance right between academic success, extracurricular activities, socialising and taking care of your health and wellbeing.