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University can often be one of the most daunting experiences of your life, mainly because, for most of us, the decision to go to university comes straight after leaving 6th form of college. Even though it is still a case of being a student at an educational institution, it still represents a big change to your life.
I spent three years of my life at university and it was worth every second of time I had and every penny of my investment. But if you don't do right, things it can turn sour very fast.
Below I have compiled my top ten list for those of you who are considering university as an option of further education.
1. Take a gap year first.
The first bit of advice I have to give is to take a year out of education before you go to university. This will give you a chance to mature a bit and gain a bit of perspective on what you actually want to do in the long term, and what path is best for you. You can also get a temporary job in your gap year to get a bit of experience and money before you go to university. It will have to have something in the bank account, especially if you are moving away from home, speaking of which...
2. Move away from home.
There are a few advantages to staying at home by enrolling in your local university, such as the familiarity of the local area and the fact that you wont need to take out a maintenance loan if you are going to be living with family. But the university experience is far more than the course itself. Living on your own for the first time in halls, student housing, social clubs and making lifelong friends are what make university the experience what it is. People argue if getting a degree is the right thing to do tuition fees etc,, but the experience as a whole is worth the cost of admission.
3. Keep an 'open door' policy.
When you move into halls of residence, it's an opportunity to get to know new people. Many of them will probably feel nervous like you, which is why its ideal to keep you door open, especially for the first couple of weeks. Keep that door closed and you give the impression that you don't want to be disturbed, which means people wont disturb you. Keep that door open and invite people into your space. You will be much better off in the long run.
4. Join a club.
There are always many social clubs that you can join at the start of the university year. These can range from sports clubs to drama to arts and crafts to debates. It's another great opportunity to try something that you have never done before and gain new experience. Social clubs are often run by second and third year students rather than the university itself, so there is the opportunity to eventually take on one of these roles yourself. And it's another little something to put on that CV.
5. Work those social circles.
When at University, you have three social circles in which to make new friendships and memories with. The most important of these is your halls of residence. Get to know the people you are living with as best you can. Some of them you may end up sticking with throughout university as you go from halls to student housing in the second year. Then you have the other students on your course, who you WILL be working with over the next three years. So it is important to get to know them as well. The third is the social club that you decided to join. Joining a club is completely optional, but highly recommended as you will be meeting with people who enjoy similar things to what you enjoy.
6. Get an 'all included' bill when looking you student housing.
When you move onto the 2nd year, it will be your responsibility to find a new place to call home. Don't worry, it's a lot easier than it sounds to find a place. If possible, group with some close friends that you made in your first year and try to look for a house together. If not, then you instead get the opportunity to perhaps meet some knew people. Now it makes sense to go with who you know, but for my second year, I moved in with five students who I barely knew (H\having met them at the house viewing and then again for a drink a couple of weeks later) and were not only studying different subjects to me, but were, in fact, based at a different campus altogether. And yet, my second year ended up being my favourite year at university because they were awesome and it gave me the chance to add a whole new social circle. Back to the tip though; when looking for a home, you will want to go with a landlord that can offer you an all inclusive bill that covers rent, gas, electric and internet and can be paid with direct debit. It just makes life a whole lot easier.
7. Work while at University.
Most courses at university wont be 9-4 style routines such as the law and drama courses. This gives you the chance to find some additional part time work and earn that little bit of extra money. First years in particular should find work, if possible, as there is little pressure related to your degree when you only need 40 percent to pass. Now, I'm not saying you should neglect your course at all, but as grades in the first year are often not calculated towards your final degree, you don't get the same level of urgency compared to the second and third years. One thing that I found amusing was that my maintenance loan would always fall a couple of weeks short before the next payment was due. Leaving me unable to do much in that period. Having a part time role will add full time comfort to your University lifespan.
8. Learn to cook.
With living on your own comes a number of responsibilities to make sure that you are well off and able to live without unnecessary concern. Being able to cook is something that you will need to learn if you want good nutrition to go along with good education. Don't just go out to the local McDonald's for lunch every day, no matter how tempting it may be. Learning to cook your own meals gives you a chance to eat some good food and gives you the freedom to eat whatever you want to eat, if you can learn how to cook it. It also offers an additional social benefit as you can arrange to have meals with housemates and socialise in the communal areas (just make sure your not the one doing all the work).
9. Go shopping with housemates.
To go along with point number eight, go shopping with your housemates to get the food when you are going to be eating together. It gives you a chance to socialise in a more normal environment than just clubbing in the evening and if you are all eating similar food then you can pitch in for a whole house shop, which can save you money compared to buying only for yourself. I would normally buy plenty of food I did not need, such as cakes and chocolate when out shopping, but it's always cheaper going as a group regardless, and a lot more fun!
10. The First Year Shell
You should always try to have a few social circles open to you throughout University. Don't just cling to a small group of four or five friends, as you will find that many people change after the first year. This first year shell is a natural scenario in which everyone is in the same boat and trying to make friends and make the most of their university experience. Once you get to year two, however, people don't change as much as they simply revert back to their original selves. You might find some people to not be who you thought they were, which may end up causing you to rethink who are the best people for you to interact with. Make that first year count and create as many connections as possible through those social circles (Tip 5).
I hope this can help you make the most of your University experience.