The Ups and Downs Uni Doesn’t Prepare You For

Feb 17, 2021

For most students, university is the first opportunity to deal with new life challenges independently and as an adult.

On top of the everyday stresses of living with strangers and managing coursework, it’s likely that you, like a huge number of your peers, will have to navigate some bigger issues along the way. At the very least, you’ll be balancing your physical health, mental wellbeing, new relationships, and money (or lack thereof).

They’re tough problems to face while you’re a student. Even if you avoid them while you’re studying, it’s likely you’ll experience them all in your first few years after graduation.

If that sounds scary, it doesn’t have to. Knowing where to find support is the best way to solve these challenges as they appear – it’s just one of those valuable skills you’re unlikely to find in a lecture hall.

Dealing With Physical Injuries

What happens if you get badly hurt while you’re studying? It’s not something anyone wants to imagine, but accidents happen – whether you’re playing sports, crossing the road or stumbling downstairs on a night out.

What can you do? Injuries on campus should be reported to the university’s Health & Safety department as soon as possible. This is the starting point of any evidence you might need if you make a future compensation claim. Don’t downplay your injuries to protect your ego; get them checked out immediately, and use photos, videos and a journal to keep track of them.

UK universities have a duty to safeguard their students. So, as the Leeds Student Magazine puts it, if you’re injured on campus, “quite simply, somebody hasn’t done their job right, and you shouldn’t suffer as a result of that”. Claiming compensation is about financially supporting you while you recover, so that you can continue your studies.

Remember that you deserve quality medical care too. If you’re still in pain after surgery (or if your injuries are wrongly dismissed), don’t let it slide – you only get one body!

Medical negligence solicitors, McCarthy & Co, advise that a successful claim “will need to prove that medical staff breached their duty of care”. This is why it’s important to take pictures, write a diary (with dates) and keep correspondence relating to your incident.

Monitoring Your Mental Health

Big lifestyle changes can trigger mental health issues. The 2018 University Student Mental Health Survey found that over a third of students had needed professional help for a serious mental health problem, but that “more than three-quarters have concealed their symptoms due to fears of stigma”.

What can you do? Talking to someone eases the burden of the mental health challenges you’re facing. You may not be able to confide in your peers, but a professional will be able to help you unpack how you’re feeling, and to regain control of your thoughts.

One route is to look for support services provided by your university, which are confidential and usually completely anonymous. Alternatively, you can make an appointment to explain your concerns with your GP, or find a counselling provider for yourself, as long as you’re registered on the NHS. Find an NHS psychological therapies service near you.

Making Friends & Managing Loneliness

Despite being part of a huge collective, university can be incredibly isolating. The University Student Mental Health Survey, found almost 80% of respondents identified with loneliness, and 33% said they were often or always lonely.

What can you do? Building relationships takes a bit of courage. Start by reaching out to your student unions to find relevant interest groups, like Discord servers for gaming, sports teams to keep fit, or craft events to find fellow makers. Breaking the ice is easier when you have an activity in common and, if you’re a beginner, it’s been suggested that “people like us more for asking for help”. Volunteering and part-time work are also great ways to stay connected with others (and will boost your CV).

You won’t strike gold every time you make conversation at the gym or invite a classmate to the bar after your lecture. Socialising is just one of those things that takes consistency and a bit of a thick skin – but secretly most people are hoping to be included.

Tracking Your Finances

Do you break into a sweat watching your account balance yo-yo? Reclaiming control of your money is easy, empowering, and will put you on the right track for adult life (especially if you follow our next tip, too).

What can you do? Use a budget calculator and budget tracker to add up your income (student loans, grants, wages, family contributions etc.) and subtract your fixed outgoings, like tuition, rent, phone bills, travel passes, gym memberships. Track what you spend on food shops and nights out, and then you’ll see how much money is left over for other fun stuff.

There are lots of ways you can cut back on spending as a student. Find the ones that fit your lifestyle the best, and take your student discount card with you wherever you go! Finally remember that the more often you check your bank account, the less scary it will be.

Keeping Up Socially

It’s easy to get swept up in buying new clothes for a night out, or noticing your housemate’s top-of-the-line headphones. A major challenge of student life – and grad life – is resisting the urge to splurge.

What can you do? If you use other people as your benchmark for “success”, you’ll find there’s always someone ahead. Cut up your credit cards and challenge yourself to live frugally, and you’ll find it’s much more satisfying and stress-free.

Need a nudge? Consider this: an American study found that it’s not lottery winners but their neighbours that are likely to go bankrupt after a win. Specifically, for every $1,000 dollars of winnings, it becomes 2.4% more likely that a nearby neighbour will declare bankruptcy. Buying things to keep up with others is a losing game.

Questioning Your Course

There are lots of reasons you might be getting cold feet about your course, but there are also several ways to handle it. Although it can be daunting, it’s really good practice for deciding to leave a job later in life.

What can you do? The wisest advice comes from Prospects.ac.uk: “take stock of your options before making this big decision”. Although it’s usually possible to switch to a similar course, it might not be necessary. Depending on the field you want to go into, a conversion course or master’s degree could give you the relevant experience, without the pressure of starting over.

Plus, employers aren’t just looking at the subjects you studied. Boosting your CV, being prepared for interviews and demonstrating your employability in other ways are what will make you stand out as a candidate.

Remember: It’s OK To Ask For Help

Every student goes through at least one of these challenges while they’re studying – so you’re not alone, even when it feels like you are. The most valuable skill you’ll learn is to ask for help and use all of the resources available for you to succeed.

Featured photo by Vlada Karpovich from Pexels

Written by Gemma Hart
Twitter: @GemmaHartTweets

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