1. Treat your first year as your carte blanche
You may- like me -feel that you are obligated to pick modules and courses that strictly adhere to your career aspirations but that is not the case! Use your first year to get a feel of different courses that may interest you as well as those that would be beneficial to you. I’m a publishing major. Yes, I spent my first semesters, every Friday in a Japanese Culture lecture that I found to be of no interest. Besides that, I also found out that I have a great interest in Film Studies; I even learned a thing or two that helped me ace a few of my essays in Publishing Media. Moral of the story; no effort is wasted in first year when it comes to your modules. The only time I’d ever say someone is wasting their first year is when they are not taking advantage of opportunities first year has to offer.
2. No, your first year doesn’t count but be mindful
In many universities, it is only the grades you receive in your second/third/final years that actually count towards your overall classification. Now, this is all fine and dandy but just be mindful that first year could just be a smudge of your university experience that you just wish to wipe out or it could potentially be the blueprint for your final years. What I mean by this is that you could do absolutely horrible in your first year but there is always ample chance to redeem yourselves. Alternatively, you, like me, can take your first year as a learning experience. My first year really showed me what my weak points were and allowed me to focus on strengthening those weaknesses. Don’t get back those exam results or those marked essays with Cs and Ds on them and think ‘”oh well, it’s only first year” because I am not exaggerating one bit when I say that it only gets a lot harder!
3. Find a lecturer, subject or academic adviser that you like and build a rapport with them.
It is really unfortunate that in many cases, students go through their whole university experience without building a rapport with the people that teach them. University is a completely different ball game to sixth form or college. You do not always have the luxury of an assigned tutor that you can touch base with everyday like you did in school. I’ve only spoken to my now academic adviser about 3 times and I am just finishing my final year! Whether it is a subject adviser, a lecturer or academic adviser, make sure you build a rapport with at least one of these people. These are the people you will need to seek out for things like references, job recommendations, questions and queries and academic support. This is not to say that there aren’t an array of allocated people you can go to for a specific issue or query but it is always better to know that you do have some sort of a mentor in your corner that knows you and that you feel comfortable to talk to.
4. No, you do not need to be a party animal to fit in
Freshers was daunting for me, I was never a drinker or a partier, in fact I’d never been to a club before starting uni. I therefore thought it would be harder for me to make friends but that turned out to be furthest from the truth. Please do not feel the need to attend freshers if you do not want to, yes it is a good experience to meet new people but it’s not for everyone and that’s more than okay. You will have several opportunities through out your experience to meet new people from your flat mates (shall you have any) to the people on your course. Most of my now friends are people who shared the same courses I did in first year, I’ve even met some good friends in my final year.
5. Get to know your flatmates
One thing I will say in terms of meeting new people is get to know your flat mates, be open, be friendly and don’t shy away from interaction with them. You need to get comfortable with the people you will be living with because inevitably, you will be sharing a flat with them. You will not enjoy a year of living people you re not comfortable with being around. Now I’m not saying that you have to be best buddies but just simple things like showing your face around the flat often and saying a quick hello when you see your flatmates is a way to break that barrier between you and new flat mates. Also, the “So what are you studying” and “so did you have a lecture today” questions can get so repetitive and tedious but they are nonetheless great ice-breakers. I kid you not, these questions have been the start of beautiful friendships for me.
5. If you are not comfortable with your academic adviser, request a new one
This one is going to be short and simple; if you are not comfortable with your academic adviser (or subject tutor as some universities like to call them) then request a new one. In most cases students are allowed to request a new academic adviser, perhaps one that is more suited to them and the subjects that they study. My academic adviser was someone who had only ever taught masters students and had no real sense of the phrase ‘first year student’; you can probably just imagine how much of disaster that was for me. So, if you’re on the same boat as I was, then jump off and swim to a new one. Request. A. New. Academic. Adviser. Please, for your own sanity.
6. It really does only get harder
The difference between your first year and second year (or second year and third year) is no joke. Trust me when I say, that the difference will come at you like a fright train out of nowhere. First year is a walk in the park compared to your final years. Even if you were straight A student in your first year DO NOT expect to maintain that average by putting in the same effort. Double those efforts, in fact triple those efforts if you wish to maintain those healthy grades. I won’t lie to you, I was easily an A/B student in my first year which caused me to be complacent, so much so that I thought I would easily graduate university with a first class honours (key word ‘THOUGHT’ you guys). I’m not saying that good grades are not attainable because they really are, you just have to ensure that you are continuously working VERY hard at achieving them.
7. Start thinking about work experience by the time first year comes to a close
Please do not listen to anyone who tells you that you do not need to be thinking about work experience so soon because they are lying to you. Ideally, you should start thinking about work experience by the end of your first year. Experience looks great on your CV, having work experience by the start of your second year already puts you steps ahead of your peers. My first course related work experience was in between my first and second year, I cannot be more happy that I took part in it. I know of people now, who have no experience and are struggling to find work experience in their third year in between their studies. Leaving it till your third year is just plain risky. This is doesn’t by any means suggest that having no experience means your job prospects are 0 to none, it just means that building up your resume from early years puts you ahead of the game and that’s where you want to be!
This piece of advise can be related to any university student but mostly media students like myself. Another way of building your resume and getting yourself noticed is by being a self-starter. I have been publishing content online since I was in year 11, I had my own blog as well as several other digital magazines that I contributed content to. You would be surprised at how many companies within the creative media, publishing and journalistic industries are interested in seeing your published content online before considering you as an applicant. Many times I am asked to send in a piece of my work and my CV as opposed to a cover letter. This is something that is super easy for students to get involved in, granted you don’t mind writing. Writing isn’t the only option, have you considered vlogging, photography, graphic design? Anything to make your digital footprint visible to employers is great!
9. Be a self-starter
Now is a better time than ever to consider being a self-starter. I don’t necessarily find it ideal that the status-quo of today’s youth is to go to university in order to get a corporate job. I feel like more should be done to promote entrepreneurship in young people. Look at your hobbies, what can be done to turn this hobbies into a job? Perhaps even a paying job. Again, I use myself as an example (sorry guys, lol). I have enjoyed writing and reading, I’ve had my work published online which led to me being paid to write articles for different online magazines and self-publishing my own fiction novel. This is not to brag but this is to tell you that pursuing entrepreneurship -turning a hobby into a job whilst getting your degree- is all very possible. If that is something that interests you then don’t be afraid to pursue it. You’re university students, you have resources at your hands that many other people do not have; take advantage of them.
10. Take advantage of freebies and discounts
Consider university to be the world in between your carefree youth and hard knock adult life. Yes, life is probably easier in university than it would be in adult life (I’ll get back to you a few years down the line to confirm or deny this notion) but your yester years of weekly allowances, mumzy ringing up the GP to book an appointment for you, having dinner on the table when you get home and only worrying about transport money are long gone. What’s most important to understand is that you will be paying for your own living expenses and fair enough a lot of us are fortunate enough to receive loan and grant but that sometimes isn’t enough. You need to budget. Don’t be like I was in my first year that went home every half term and holiday broke as a joke. Budget your money and take advantage of freebies and discounts. I cannot tell you how many times my club card points from Tesco have saved me from going home to pot noodle and boiled eggs. See what perks your bank is offering in regards to student accounts. For instance, Santander gives students who bank with them a free 16-25 railcard that will literally save you hundreds a year travelling between home and university (if you use the train to travel between university and home).
Unidays – Student Discounts
Santander– Student Account with perks including a free 16-25 Student Railcard
Tesco Club Card – Get vouchers and discounts when you shop with Tesco