I graduated university almost 2 years ago and I have to say it was the best experience of my life. Those 4 long years taught me so much about myself and about others. I learnt to be independent. I learnt about friendship, loyalty and being your own best friend. But with all of this, there are a number of things I wish I knew BEFORE I started university. And these are the things I want to share with anyone starting university, or in their first year already!
The video above is a link to my YouTube video, where I explain the list of things I wish I knew before starting. For a written breakdown, continue reading!
You don’t have to stick with the same friendship group/people that you meet.
Now, this might sound ridiculously obvious to most of you, to begin with. But, let me just say, first of all, starting uni is such an overwhelming experience altogether. You’re suddenly greeted by people of a similar age to you, from all over the country/all over the world. They all have different interests and different personalities – some may gel with yours and some may clash. And you’ve got to be insanely lucky to meet the ones you gel with on your very first day, even the first week!
Uni very quickly becomes a very lonely place too. Particularly if you’ve moved away from home for the first time. So it’s only natural for you to latch onto the very first people you meet, in hope of finding that comfort and having company again. But, just because you find a great group of people off the bat don’t let that stop you from making effort with others.
You will meet people in some many different ways at uni, whether it’s through societies, your course, through other friends. And with any friendship/relationship, people’s true colours show over time so it’s definitely important to make an effort with everyone you meet and go into every situation with an open mind.
Uni is the ultimate test of your character
Especially if you’ve left home and are away from your parents, this will apply. You no longer have a curfew, anyone nagging you about work or any aspect of your life. You’re completely left to your own devices and it’s your choice how you spend your time entirely.
This means that your motivation to succeed and your resilience to keep going when things are tough are going to be tested. I found that I got to know myself a lot better whilst I was at uni too because everything I did was my choice. There were no external factors really swaying my decisions, other than my own conscience. I also defined my own morals and values and how determined I was to stick to those. Uni is a huge test in many ways, but one of the most testing things you can experience is peer pressure. Indirectly or directly, peer pressure is a huge part of uni life. I think how you deal with this determines your own strength and has really grown me as a person.
As someone who doesn’t drink, I struggled a lot with socialising and being around people who only talked about alcohol and clubbing. Let’s face it, all uni students really care about is student nights’ out and having fun without any parents around. For some, it was very easy to give in to the pressure to ‘fit in’ and go with the majority. For me, it was more important to stay true to myself and my own beliefs. I was still able to have a lot of fun, but I did so in my own way and without compromising on any of my own values.
The extent of drinking culture at uni
This point nicely leads on from the previous one. Drinking culture at uni is something you cannot get away from no matter how hard you try. There’s no way to avoid it, you just have to find a way to cope with it. If you’re someone who drinks, then this won’t be an issue for you in any way. But as someone who doesn’t and never has had alcohol, then just know it’s going to be tough. But you’ll get through it. It’s not impossible to find people who don’t get drunk every night, but they’re a rarity.
To be honest, the drinking culture doesn’t really stop when you finish uni anyway. Workplaces also have people obsessing over alcohol and going to the pub, so view uni as a test for what’s to come. It doesn’t really go away, it’s something you learn to deal with in whatever way you choose. Some choose to give in and join in, but others choose to accept their differences.
I’m not judging either way, everyone has their own free will but I do find it sad when people only do things to fit in with others. If you’re doing something because you want to, that’s another story. But don’t ever feel like you have to take part in something just because somebody else is or a group of people are. That goes for anything in life, not just getting drunk.
Uni is NOTHING like school/college
There are no cliques or ‘popular’ groups etc. at uni. Everyone is on an even playing field and I wish I had really understood that more before I went. After having such bad experiences throughout school, I was very wary of going to uni and wondering whether it would be the same or not. I went into the experience with my guard up but I wish I had known that I didn’t have to.
Uni is the perfect opportunity to reinvent your social life. If you were typically the shy person with no friends at school, it doesn’t have to be like that at uni. There are so many different types of people, you’re bound to find a group you get on well with if you’re open to it.
Use your 1st year wisely!
For most courses, your first year doesn’t count towards your final grade. If that’s the case for you, use that time to the max! Make sure you explore as many different societies, activities, sports, adventures – anything you want to do, get it out of your system in 1st year. I took first-year really seriously and was very worried about my grades, out of habit from my school years. But I wish I took the time to be a bit more carefree and enjoy my time, do more extracurricular things etc.
Having said that, I actually did a lot in my first year and had a great time so I don’t really regret anything. I just know I could’ve done more and should have done.
Of course, it’s definitely important to stay on top of your studies and work hard throughout the year, but the years get harder as you go on. So be mindful of that, and enjoy the free time you have, before it’s gone!
Everything will work out how it is meant to.
As simple as that sounds, it’s so very true. If you want to get the grades you came to uni for, you’re going to have to put the work in. But please don’t worry yourself into the ground and cause yourself stress over it.
Uni is an absolute rollercoaster and there’s so much more to it than the grade written on a piece of paper at the end. The skills you learn through the things you do outside of your course will impact your life after uni and it’s important to make time for these too.
There’s a lot to learn at uni, about yourself, about others and about the world as a whole. So don’t fill your time worrying and stressing over grades, and make the most of all the opportunities you have career-wise and socially.