Whether it’s your first year or more, or you’re returning to university after already obtaining a degree this post is for YOU!
There are a few key tips that I’m going to share – these are things that I found helpful during my time at different universities (one for undergraduate and one for postgraduate).
Become a paid Student Ambassador
I cannot stress this enough! Once you have secured your place, find out if your university does this as soon as you get there (or better still before you get there so that you’re ahead of the game). This is a great way to earn a good amount of money for completing small jobs on behalf of the university. For instance student tours, answering calls in the office, open days and even summer schools. I used to get about £10 an hour just for showing people around the university and then don’t even get me started on the Summer Schools. I remember completing three half days of work as a Student Ambassador for my department and I managed to get paid over £200. Let me just repeat that… THREE HALF DAYS!
It was so helpful for me when I was an undergraduate as I had an extra source of income. You also get decide when you want to work when you’re a Student Ambassador too – you literally just sign up for the jobs that suit your diary. If you’re sent a job that doesn’t work for you, simply don’t request to do it. As well as that, I used to tutor on Saturdays – again providing another source of income because Student Finance wasn’t exactly covering the costs for me. Now, not many people needed to have two jobs but ya gurl needed to pay for travel and books etc.
Choose a library with a view
Now, this might sound like very strange advice BUT you are going to spend a lot of time in the library during university, it’s almost inevitable if you want to do well. The library contains a wealth of information with regards to your subject area and you will be surrounded by like-minded people who also want to reach their studying goals.
However, my recommendation is that if you can find a library with a large window and a nice view outside then you will be more relaxed… well this was the case for me anyway. I don’t like being cooped up in one room for too long with no sense of what is going on outside. Is the sun shining? Is it raining? Are there still people around?
One of the best libraries that I experienced this with was Senate House in London. The views stretch over London and it’s so bright. You can still embrace the busy atmosphere of the city whilst being in the quiet of the library. Some people like silence when they are working and you may be one of them but I can’t stand it lol. I don’t want it to be noisy around me but there needs to be some form of noise, like cars passing by or an aeroplane or SOMETHING. As I write this, I realise that I really am a city woman lol.
If your university is in a quieter region and there are lots of open spaces around you with lots of fields then it naturally is going to be a bit quieter. If you like background noise then headphones are essential.
Join a society… but not too many
If, like me, you love sports, you love theatre, you love music AND you love socialising with people in general then the temptation can be to: join. every. society. in. university.
I signed up to EVERYTHING in my first year. I’m not sure if it was because the freebies lured me into writing out my email address or if I was just keen to meet as many people as possible. HA! Let me just start of by saying you should not do this – mainly because your email address is going to be consumed with emails from different societies and you’ll have to scourer your way through for the important ones, whilst unsubscribing from others. Whew! Instead think about the ones you want to join and then locate them at the Fresher’s Fair.
As for the freebies, just ask people if you can take a pen and not sign up (on most occasions they say yes… well they did to me lol). Oh and you have to find the Nandos table and get yourself a voucher for some free/discounted chicken!! If Nandos don’t attend your Fresher’s Fair… sorry yeah. Maybe you should file a complaint about that*.
I was part of a few societies in university and it’s the place where I met most of my friends. We had so many jokes and these end up being people who join your close knit group of friends.
*This is a joke. Please don’t start off university filing complaints about free chicken looool.
Make the most of your lecturer’s contact hours
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. After all you are in university to learn and you are surrounded by those who are experts in the field you are learning about. This is prime time for you to ask questions and make the most of your opportunity to gain a deeper wealth of knowledge. Email your lecturer if you have questions and let them know if you are unsure about something. They might also be able to recommend books to you for extra reading, which will ultimately help you with your coursework and exams (if your degree includes exams).
It’s also a good idea to go and see your lecturers when you are writing essays. Sometimes they will be willing to guide you with your first draft and state whether you have set it out correctly or if your argument is valid based on the evidence you have used. This is especially true for when you come to write out your dissertation! Most lecturers are also more than willing to help, especially when they can see that you are just as passionate about the subject as they are.
Now, this is not how I managed to get my job and come to think of it this isn’t how a lot of my friends got their first jobs either. You might be wondering why I even bothered putting it in there as a key thing to do in university after starting with that sentence.
Well, careers fairs can be a good way to gain knowledge about how to approach employers and what employers may be looking for. Bring along your CV and obtain feedback on it. You can also have a go at answering mock interview questions and see how you are at answering the questions when you are under pressure. Collect as much information as you can from these fairs as it may help in the long run. If they hand out any mock interview questions, take them. Some universities even offer a place for you to go and pretend you are being interviewed for a job you have applied for or a Masters course you have applied for. The department that does this will often be at the Fair and it helps so much in preparing you for what potential employers might say.
Also, do not be disheartened if you go to the Fair and employers don’t seem that keen on employing you. This happened to me the one time I tried and I had to learn from it… use it as an opportunity to figure out how to really make employers want to employ you. It builds your resilience and your confidence.
Images from ‘Join a society… but not too many’ are my own. Other images are from Canva.