What University taught me

2 August 2018

It’s that time of year where a lot of University students have graduated and post-16 sixth forms and colleges in the U.K have broken up for the summer. With a record number of students (1 in 3 school leavers) starting university in September 2017, this post is all about, you guessed it...University. 

For me, university was one of the best experiences of my life (cliché I know). It is crazy to think that this time last year I officially left student hood –  graduated from The University of Manchester with a degree in Economics and began working in London. My university experience taught me so much, so if you’re currently a student or starting the roller coaster of life that is University in September, have a read of the 12 things I either learnt at University, or I knew before and were enforced to me at University.

I mean, they don’t call it The University of life for no reason.  

1.  Student money is not free money

When I was at uni, there was no text message that could beat Student Finance telling me my student loan would be in my bank account within 3-5 working days.  Not even Dominoes texting to tell me they had a meal combo on offer could beat this...Okay that's a lie, that Dominoes text was one of my favourite things. 

Thankfully, I went through my fair share of part time jobs at uni, so wasn’t entirely dependent on my student loan. However I was in that position when I knew my student loan was coming in and really had to constrain myself not to blow it on something I didn’t need or could afford on my own. Sadly, student finance is not free money, for most people like myself student loans may not even cover your rent. Student life can be expensive! You have your rent, day to day living expenses and study resources - and that’s before even looking at travel, the luxuries or going out expenditure. Budgeting is key! 

2. You’re a consumer

One thing that can mess up the budget is books. I remember in my first week of uni, I spent £300 on new textbooks.  Rookie error - £300 gone. If you need books buy used ones from Amazon. Amazon prime will also become your best friend whilst at Uni, with special discounts for students and fast delivery. Your uni lecturers will always try and encourage you to buy brand new ones, in most cases because they have contributed to the book. Shiny new textbooks can cost anywhere from £60 upwards each. 

3. Mental and Physical health is important

When I started university, I thought fresher’s flu was a complete myth. I thought my mum and everything else telling me to stock up on Berocca and tissues was just their way of telling me to look after myself. ‘Yeah yeah, it’s just a seasonal cold’ I’ll be fine’ I said unknowingly and naively. 

But they were right – within my first week I caught fresher’s flu and felt sorry for myself every minute of the day. Uni is the place where your health can take a back seat. Early on in first year, I got myself into the habit of going to the gym twice a week, swiftly increasing to three times a week and staying at that frequency for my entire uni duration. Weirdly enough, it's only now I’ve started working where my gym routine has gone from 3 times a week to once a week (maybe, when I’m not exhausted)…but that’s a whole other blog post to come. 

 I think most Universities are great at having the resources and facilities to help with both physical and mental wellbeing. As well as the toll on physical health through the copious amounts of Dominoes and alcohol uni brings, it can also massively affect your mental health and wellbeing. It’s difficult to keep on top of things, take time for yourself as well as dealing with the general bumps along the uni ride - so if you’re starting uni in September or if you’re currently on summer holiday and you need assistance dealing with stress or anxiety, there are always loads of resources available, sometimes they just aren’t made aware of all the time – no one needs to suffer on their own.

 4. It does counts

The whole first year doesn’t count thing is a myth. 

You’ll be told by everyone that first year doesn’t count and you only need 40% to pass. There’s no other word than bull that comes to mind when people tell me this. Okay, so it may not go towards overall grade, but your grades from first year will be on your official transcript as well as be the first thing employers ask for if you choose to do a summer internship or placement year before your final year. 

For me, I got the highest overall result out of all my three years in first year, falling a bit in second year (second year was tough), rising again in third year. First year sets a lot of the grounding needed in terms of subject material and study pattern to do well in the rest of your degree, so it kind of does count.

5. Time is everything.

My time at uni was spent learning more about a subject I was passionate about but also learning how to manage my time wisely. 

When you first get to uni and your lecturer sets your first assignment with a deadline two months down the line, you exhale a little bit and think ‘okay, cool – got plenty of time to do that’. We all do it! And that’s where the 3am early mornings with multiple coffees come in.  Whenever you get an assignment, there’s no harm jotting down ideas and starting initial research on the day you get it, rather than leaving it until the very last day before it's due. Also, a good planner never goes a miss when at uni – my planners of choice were The Happiness planner and Career Girl Daily planner.

One point to add to that is referencing. No-one, literally no-one told me referencing would be the bane of my life. Whatever subject you’re doing, you’re going to have to reference. Referencing is like a whole other degree. No-one really teaches you how to reference like how you’re taught to do a calculation in math. It’s long and tedious and can unfortunately be the difference in the classification of your degree. I’ve learnt some lecturers are very eager when it comes to referencing, and some not so much. 

Take my advice and learn how to reference properly in the first couple of months. Harvard or Stanford, once you’ve grasped a style and your university body approves of it, then stick with it. And it's probably best not leaving all your referencing until the end of your assignments. This is a bad idea – it takes forever!

6. Chase

Don’t be afraid to chase your tutor for feedback. This is something I only learnt in the second year of my degree, when I got a mark below my usual average  - which was probably too late. You pay upwards of £9000 a year…. Ask your tutors questions to your hearts content – it’s what they’re there for. 

7. Take time 

As crazy as it sounds, I used to pity the people at uni that didn’t take time to relax and recharge after a stressful period. 

There is no better feeling than the one you get after handing in all your assignments and sitting all your exams. I've been through it, and I know schedules and deadlines may be tight but please, please, please don’t let yourself get straight into the next thing – take time, even if it’s 1 hour to relax and celebrate your achievement.

 7. BNOC a.k.a Big Name on Campus

You won’t get to know everyone or everything, and that’s okay. Universities are big places. I went to one of the largest in Europe…so getting to know all your lecturers and tutors on a personal basis is unlikely if you’re in a lecturer theatre of 500+ people.  

I really benefited from expanding my network outside my course.  Don’t be afraid to run for a Course Representative or be an active member of a society. If there’s no society out there that caters for your interests (slim chance), you can always create your own. Universities often have a Fresher’s fair where you get bombarded with societies and clubs, and you will often end up joining EVERYTHING. Take it from someone who signed up to literally almost every society in the first week of uni (yes, even the…. cheese and wine society). I was exhausted for the first month trying to go to all the events. 

It's obvious that attending lectures are very important, even when you think you can afford to skip a lecture, it’ll be that time where the lecturer brings out the attendance list to be passed around. With that said, some modules even mark your attendance i.e. sitting in a 2-hour lecture theatre once a week, sipping coffee and occasionally contributing the odd comment, towards your general mark.

8. Work experience

Start getting work experience as early as possible. 

 I was fortunate to be surrounded by driven people from the get go at University. One of my first friends I made at our course social took me to a careers event held by a company within our first two weeks of fresher’s year (amidst all the fresher’s nights’ outs). From there I got a good understanding of what the top graduate employers in finance, law and business were looking for, allowing me to shape my network and use every opportunity to my professional advantage.  Networking is so important as a student. It can impact job opportunities once you have graduated, as well as the possibility of getting a spring week/work shadowing placements and internships throughout your University years.

9. Friendships fade

Think you’ve made the closest group of friends in your first month of uni and are planning to live together until the day you die? Okay, slight exaggeration. More like planning to live together during second year, find the perfect house, sign the contract before Christmas break, then you fall out in the new year …what do you do now? I’ve genuinely heard the story of so many people making accommodation plans with their so called true friends very early on, falling out and then being miserable for the remainder of the year. That’s why it may be best to slow things down and avoid planning who you’ll be living with in your second year straight away. Get to know people properly first. With that said, University is the place where you will meet some of the most incredible people ever, who will always be friends for life. 

10. What is a sleeping pattern?

Seriously, what is it?

11. Planning is key.

I was speaking to someone currently in between their second and final year of university, and they mentioned how it was so difficult to balance everything - every degree is different, as is every person but one little thing I did to avoid everything getting on top of me and not being able to balance everything, was to plan. 

Planning is key. Even when those impromptu nights out come along and you're faced with going to a 9am lecture on 3 hours sleep - you can always juggle. If anything, university taught me how to juggle like a pro! My biggest tip would be to start things early. I was that girl in the library starting an assignment or revision as soon as I got the task. And that way, because you've started earlier you don't have to feel guilty about going out and having a life outside your course. I love a good timeline, so at Uni I was in my element – I had colour coordinated planners and timetables with all the activities I had to do. Every evening before I went to bed, I would make a to do list for the next day and wake up the following morning, with a clear idea of what I needed to do and when.

12. Stay positive 

The most important point. 

You will graduate with a good degree. You will come out the other end. University is hard, and it’s meant to be - but you will be OK.  Not to sound like Eyal from Love Island, but I am a very firm believer that Uni is often the defining point of life where you come to terms with who you are as an individual. Hundreds of thousands of students graduate university each year in the U.K, so, why won't you?

Outfit details 

Dress - Missguided 
Shoes for the pictures - Office
Shoes for practicality when walking to and from the stage not hoping to fall - Mothers 

Congrats to all those that have graduated and good luck to those waiting to hear their university places have been confirmed on results day!


© What Maya Wears. Design by FCD.