Top 10 Tips for First Year Students, by Jasmine Hamilton (3rd year student)

Top 10 Tips for First Year Students, by Jasmine Hamilton (3rd year student)


Top tip #1: Take the reins

University is all about being independent, because you are responsible for yourselves. It is your responsibility to attend lectures, complete your coursework, cook, clean, do your washing etc. Being thrusted into a world where you have to look after yourself is completely daunting and it is not something a lot of people are accustomed to. As daunting as it sounds, do not shy away from it. Take control, and take the reins. Enjoy being in charge of yourself as you take the lead and learn more about yourself. Adjusting to university life may become easier if you have an open mind towards being independent.


Top tip #2: Buy a doorstop

Arrival day is probably the scariest day during your time at university. You’re in an environment where the likelihood of you knowing anybody is zero. Buy a doorstop, and it will literally open doors for you. Everyone – and I mean everyone – is in your position. They all want to make friends, find somewhere where they belong. Having your door wedged open for the first few days is an indication to other flatmates that you’d like to have a chat. That’s how most friendships start. Be open to new friendships but choose them wisely. Not everyone can have a good influence on you.

Top tip #3: Mental preparation

Change is one of the things we experience on a daily basis. A big change is the difference in teaching style that you will experience when you come to university. Your lecturers typically lay down the fundamentals of course content and it is up to you to expand upon that knowledge. In all honesty, sometimes you can’t formally prepare for the jump between school and university. Most of the time you simply have to experience it to then make adjustments. Sometimes all you can do is prepare yourself mentally. That is – make yourself aware that there will be changes (big or small). As the saying goes, expect the unexpected.

Top tip #4: Start early, it pays off later

Something you’ll never hear enough of, is that first year does not count towards your overall degree. Check with your course as some degrees may be different, but this is typically the case. That does not mean you can put in minimal effort. Don’t leave everything to the last minute. Use your free time wisely and stay on top of things so that if times become stressful you will not fall behind. Start making notes early on. Having to do all your revision notes and then revising is the last position you’d want to be in. As they say, by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.

Top tip #5: Test the waters

Once again, first year may not count to your overall degree mark. However, it counts in a way you wouldn’t expect. First year is generally an introductory year that supplies you with the skills needed to successfully complete second and third year (the years that do count!). So, don’t just dismiss it. Test the waters. Find ways to effectively organise yourself, balance extracurricular work, and work out a schedule for doing lecture and revision notes.  Use first year as a trial run to see what works best, the earlier you start this, the easier it’ll be.

Top tip #6: There is no harm in asking

Coming to university for the first time is a new experience. You will most likely not be familiar with your surroundings. You might not understand what your assignment is about. There are going to be many things you’ll have no knowledge about. A lot of the time you might end up confused. There is a simple solution – ask. There is no harm in asking. You are in a completely new environment so you are not expected to know everything. For example, if you are struggling on an assignment, ask for help from your lecturer, or attend their drop-in sessions. If they can’t give you the answer, they might point you in the right direction. There are other people you could ask too, such as people on your course, your peer guide (if you have one), or your personal tutor. There is always someone who can point you in the right direction, whether it’s finding where a building is, or a more specific query. No question is stupid, so don’t be afraid.

Top tip #7: Use what you have

At university, there are so many resources available, and these resources come in a variety of forms, such as book from the library, online resources, or information you might get in person from your lecturers of personal tutors, and even lecture slides. There are so many resources at your fingertips. To do well, you should familiarise yourself with them. But more importantly, use them.

Top tip #8: Step outside your comfort zone

Yes, university is a place where you develop knowledge, skills and a deeper understanding of a topic. However, that is not the only thing that university is about. It is also a time for personal development. Step out of your comfort zone and expand your horizons. Do something you’ve never done before. Join a society, or a sports club, or volunteer. Do something you’ve always wanted to try but never had the courage or opportunity to do so. The time is now. Make the most out of your university life and engage in something outside of your course. In terms of employability, this shows diversity and flexibility so it’s a win-win situation.

Top tip #9: Hold the fort

Given the situation you are in, there are so many influences around you. Whilst the pressure of wanting to fit in will be present and prominent, stay true to who you are. Don’t do things that make you uncomfortable. Along this journey, hold onto your values – Hold the Fort. Whilst you continue to grow throughout your time at university, there’ll many instances/influences that could lead you off track. Stay strong.

Top tip #10: Enjoy it

Don’t rush, but don’t be too lax whilst at university either. Go to a lot of events and get involved. Find that perfect balance, and remember, that even if you struggle there is always help along the way. Make the most of your time at university because there will never be another moment like this.