Three Things I wish I had known before starting University

We’ve reached that point in the year where people have graduated in the summer in a flurry, albeit virtually due to government restrictions. September now marks the month many start university for the first time and others start the application process for university. I write this with these groups in mind as I hope I can relay some wisdom to them in order to help them make the most of their university experience.

  • Mental Health Matters

When I say university can be tough, I mean TOUGH in all caps. Reading can pile up and the occasional pest of essay writers block means writing an assignment is not a simple thing you can add to your to-do list and then quickly tick off. Rather, you have to chip away at it over gruelling hours of intense thought and typing. In the midst of all this it’s definitely easy for your mental health to take a back seat. From personal experience sometimes it seemed like every time I took a break i.e. listened to music, took a nap or decided to read something non-academic I was wasting time which could potentially be used to study. From that comes guilt which deters you from doing such relaxing activities often.

Stress can eat away at you for such reasons so it’s important to attend a university that has the mental health of its students high on the agenda; counselling services, leave of absence policies and available resources or stress reducing activities i.e. sports, Pilates, arts, baking etc are important to things to have on campus, for example. If I had known about this in advance, I would have definitely added mental health services to my list of criteria when choosing a university and I would advise prospective students who are shortlisting universities to do this too.

  • Any Placements available? 

I did a philosophy degree so I didn’t see much universities offering this option and I may be wrong but placements don’t often get offered with humanity degrees like the one I did. They’re unfortunately often only for practical based subjects like STEM degrees. But whilst on the search for my first graduate role I realised what a difference one year of work experience (which is what you get on a placement) could make. It would particularly help when trying to tackle the now very common issue of employers require 1-3 years work experience for entry level roles. Or…employers could just be more realistic with expectations and become more willing to invest and train graduate employees, but I degress…

  • University can be lonely.
Photo by Jopwell on Pexels.com

I think this realisation kicked in more in third year if anything. Particularly if all your friends are studying different courses or live away from you this can cause difficulty in frequently aligning your schedules to meet up. This becomes more of the case during exam season where everyone tends to cut themselves off from people more than usual in order to minimise distractions. It puts you in a weird position where you tend to savour social interactions and become more grateful for them. I remember watching late night dramas or having conversations about philosophy and politics with my flatmates in second year and those are honestly some of my more treasured memories. You go away feeling lighter, feeling happier and feeling closer.

Friends are what help to shape the university experience since its purely not enough to attend and attempt to survive with a ‘I only came here to study mentality’. When they say you get what you put in, this applies well to friendships at uni. Where I met most of my friends is through my course and through random societies – socialising with people within these two groups is the best way to bond with people who have similar interests/passions to you.

That’s it from me! I hope this was helpful; people often tend to romanticise the university experience and although yes, it can be rewarding it definitely has its difficulties too. This shouldn’t put you off but it’s always worth having such knowledge so you dive into the experience well equipped and well informed.

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