Sunday, 15 January 2012

What UCAS doesn't tell you about university

Having settled into uni, I thought this would be a good post for those who are going or thinking of going to uni in September. Now this is not to try and change anyone mind or to put anyone off going; It was the best decision I ever made, but there are things I wish I knew before I went.

I cannot stress this enough! Even if it says that rooms are not given out on a first come, first serve basis it wouldn't hurt to put your request in quickly. As soon as the option came up for me to apply for halls, I did it immediately and I was lucky enough to get good accommodation close to transport and to the uni itself. I can't guarantee that you'll get what you want first time, but if you leave it too late then you can end up with nothing (I know too many people who have had to do long commutes in their first year and believe me it's draining especially when you have 9am lectures).

#2 Buy your university items throughout the year/summer instead of leaving it all last minute
I cannot stress this enough. Not only does it spread the cost, but it gives you enough time to pick up pieces you may have forgotten. I know this as this is the mistake my brother fell into. I bought all my things throughout the summer whereas he left his until a couple of weeks before we left which left my Mum stressed out and panicked to make sure he was fully equipped. Don't forget you'll have to do a supermarket shop just before you go too so save yourself the stress and bother...and allow your parents a chance to breathe!

#3 Make the most of your friends during the summer
As much as you will all promise to visit each other, you won't as often as you want to. You're a student, you're poor, you have deadlines. Your intentions will be good but the practicalities won't always allow you to do things. Most of my friends I didn't get to see until Christmas time so I made a conscious decision to make one of my new years resolution to see them more at uni. Believe me, as much fun you will have with your new uni friends, your friends from home will always be there for you so don't forget about them.

#4 Don't be a stranger on move in day
Get a door stop and keep your door open on move in day. It's the easiest way to introduce yourself to your new flatmates. If you keep yourself locked away, it could get awkward post move in day. If you're really eager to get to know your new flatmates, offer going to the closest pub/bar/restaurant for an informal get-to-know each other evening. Everyone else will be living on their own for the first time and will be going through the same emotions as you will so having that support system in place will come in handy when you're feeling low.

#5 Freshers week
You will see the true side to the new people in your life. If you make the most of it, you will adore freshers week (freshers fortnight at some unis which is AWESOME) but you have to embrace everything that comes with it. This means going to the freshers fair (grabbing some freebies), going to the department mixers (they're definitely worth it) and trying out your SU. If you go to uni in London, your SU's may not be as good as some of your friend's further afield. The reason why is because you're in London. There is ALWAYS something to do! So many clubs, bars and student only events on various nights that it doesn't matter how good your SU is, just enjoy the city you're living in!  

#6 Lectures
As tempting as it may be, don't skip lectures. It's not worth it. Although some lecturer's will put their lecture notes/slideshows online, they will tell you more than you will get from a slideshow. Also, be careful when it comes to recording lectures. Many universities require a recording permission form to be signed before using recording devices (usually due to a disability) so no 'I'm hanging' excuses! If other people can make every lecture so can you. I know I can't talk (three 9am starts, gimme a lil' break) but I am trying to be much better. 

#7 Wikipedia will ruin your degree
Is it worth it being lazy and going to wikipedia the night before your lecture/seminar? No. As accurate as it can be sometimes, wikipedia pages get edited and messed around with on a daily basis (I have previously made up so much stuff about Charlemagne when doing my A level coursework on there so be careful Medieval History students!) so don't risk it. Whatever you do, DO NOT REFERENCE WIKIPEDIA UNLESS YOU WANT TO DROP A SIGNIFICANT AMOUNT OF MARKS! You think I'm joking? Ask any lecturer and they'll tell you the same.

#8 Don't be too precious with your shopping
You won't be able to afford the same presents, food & clothing as you previously could (unless you have a job/healthy amount of savings). Don't beat yourself up about it, everyone understands that you're a poor student! One of my friends after rent only has £50 left of her student loan. Whatever you do, don't be too precious with food. Value food is not dirt and can sometimes be the same as the name brands for a fraction of the price. You cannot afford organic, finest food so don't try to stretch your will have other bills you didn't expect to pay.

#9 Try to buy second hand books if you can
Otherwise you will spend enough money on books to get a small european country out of debt. Some courses you can't as it changes yearly (thank you law!) but if you can buy your books cheaper from past students/uni shop then do it! You'll thank me later...

#10 Keep on top of your assignments
It is so easy to fall behind, thinking you have enough time to do it but bear in mind you have other obligations to keep such as laundry, cooking, cleaning, shopping etc. Get it over and done with and it will free up your time to do as you please.

#11 Give it time before you visit home
If you go home too early before leaving, you WILL suffer with home sickness. You'll probably be home sick regardless but it will help you immensely if you put off going home for at least two-three weeks, you'll be able to cope better when going home isn't feasible e.g. during exam times. Your family/friends/boyfriends/girlfriends will understand that you're there to work and shouldn't put any extra pressure on you. Plus it gives them more time to miss you and treat you when you're home!

#12 Family will always be there for you
I can honestly say that my family have supported me in more ways than just financially. Just talking to my Mum for 5 minutes reminds me why I am working so hard for this degree. They will keep you grounded and will reassure you regardless of what is troubling you. Don't lie to keep them from worrying about you either. Let them know now so that they can help.

#13 If you're in trouble/somethings happened, go to your university to talk to them
Be honest. The more straight forward you are to them, the better they can help you. Most lecturers are willing to support you however they can and will continuously check up on you to make up you're not struggling. However, don't take the piss. The moment you do, you've lost that support and trust which can be very damaging. For example, if a Law student is found guilty of plagiarism, they will not qualify. The Law Society will not tolerate dishonesty in the profession, therefore ruining your future career plans. Lecturers aren't stupid. They were students before too and have probably pulled the same stunts as you before you were even born. Respect their intelligence before they publicly embarrass you in the middle of a full lecture.

#14 Student Finance will drive you up the wall!
The tearful phone calls home, the screaming matches down the will happen! Especially when you have siblings at uni too, they will invariably mess up your application. You will get payments late. They will get your details wrong. You won't have enough money to survive on realistically after rent. Get over it. We've all had issues with it at least once. You just need to take a breath and know that things will eventually get sorted. Shouting to a poor representative down the phone won't make it happen any quicker. 

#15 Your sleeping pattern will be screwed
This is a given...I started writing this at 4.45am.

#16 Pranks will happen
Embrace them. You don't wanna know what we've achieved in the past four months!

#17 Don't take yourself too seriously
Or you will fall victim to #16! You think I'm joking? Believe it. Doesn't matter what degree you're doing, you will be taken down a peg or two if your flatmates think it's necessary.

#18 Halls washing machines
They like to break down more often than not. If you're lucky, you may have halls with more than three washing machines per 231 students (take note Greenwich) otherwise you will scream with frustration when people take forever to take their clothes and command the use of one machine. Have a look at nearby laundrettes on the occasion you desperately need to do a wash. Otherwise, run home for a weekend with all your dirty washing and use the laundrette of Mum.

#19 Fire alarms will ruin your life
Especially at the ungodly hours they usually decide to have a drill. You can't do anything about it. Just deal with it. Happens at whatever university you go to - prestigeous or not!

#20 Have fun!
University will be the best years of your life. Enjoy it! Get drunk, take silly photos, be hungover in your lectures (not all of them!) and try new things. You won't get this freedom again once you get settled in your career and start a family so make the most of it while you have it!  

This list isn't exhaustive and if you want more advice comment below and I'll answer any questions you have about uni in general or starting a law degree.


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