After what feels like forever, I am finally about to embark on my third and final year of university. I love my degree (BSc Zoo Biology) and I am so proud of what I have achieved so far – but it hasn’t been easy.
In first year, I didn’t cope at all. I let my mental health get in the way of doing well and I completely went off the rails. I missed the majority of my lectures and ended up with a 2:2 (which was good, considering). Second year was better. I made a conscious effort to improve my life and ended up finishing with a First!!! So I thought I would share my university experience so far and gather a few tips on how to survive uni. Whether it be mental health, living at uni or finance related, I hope that I can help anyone who is struggling – just like I was.
Mental and Physical Illness
Tell them, tell them, tell them. I cannot stress this enough. If you have an issue that affects your study, whether that be with your mental or physical health – the uni need to know. I made the mistake of thinking I could cope on my own during first year and look what happened to me!
I understand it can be a little daunting, telling a complete stranger all of your problems, but it will make your life so much easier in the long run. If you don’t feel comfortable speaking to your tutor or student services in person, put it all down in a long and emotional email like I did. I personally didn’t want the university to do anything, the fact that they were aware that I was struggling was enough, but they can arrange help for you if you wish. They can also arrange for you to have extra tuition, longer deadlines and extra time in exams, as well as Disabled Student Allowance* if you get a note from your doctor.
*Many people with mental illnesses don’t realise that they can get help from DSA, as well as those with physical health conditions – so please enquire about it!
Find ‘your people’
When you go to uni, you’re often just thrown into Halls of Residence with a load of random people, who you have never met before. My worst nightmare. You may click with your housemates straight away, which is fab, but it’s not always the case.
My flatmates were all lovely people, they really were. But they weren’t ‘my type of people’, if you know what I mean. They loved going out every weekend, they loved meeting new people and they were all ridiculously confident. I wasn’t. So I really did struggle and ended up spending a lot of time on my own in my bedroom.
- Find a society!
This is where societies come in. University’s have an abundance of societies, for pretty much any hobby or interest that you could think of. Sport, craft, Disney, veggie, vegan, stamp collecting – you name it, there’s probably a society for it. (My uni even has a Fez Wearing Society!?). So have a nosey around your SU website, find your type of people. Just because uni put you in a house full of randomers, doesn’t mean they are the ones you have to spend all of your time with.
- Consider having your own place.
Maybe you prefer being alone? That’s fine too. I know I prefer my own company, rather than always being around people. That’s why after first year, my boyfriend and I decided to move into our own one-bed flat. I love it! No more flatmates stealing your expensive hazelnut milk or using your baking tray to cook their meaty products (pet hates, can you tell?). But seriously, it’s okay to live on your own – the rent and bills are cheaper too and you can still have a great social life!
I’ll be honest with you, whilst you’re at university, you’ll be the poorest you are EVER going to be. Seriously, last night I had plain crackers for tea. Get used to dry rice and dry pasta, because they will be your saviour. However, over the two years I have been at uni, I have learnt to budget and ‘bag a bargain’ so well that it should probably be on my CV under ‘skills’.
- Get a student bank account.
Honestly, the best thing I ever did. Most banks offer you an overdraft between £1000 and £2000, which doesn’t have any interest!! Like the majority of students, you’ll probably end up in your overdraft at some point – so this way you won’t be charged!
- Know your weekly allowance.
When you first get your student loan, work out how much you have to spend each week, after taking out any bills that you are expecting to pay. Having a budget each week is an absolute life saver, because you won’t be panicking about having no money at the end of term.
- When and where to shop.
Discovering My Supermarket saved me so much money! It basically allows you to do your online shop as normal, but tells you which major supermarket would be the cheapest overall! It is then delivered straight to your door, offering various delivery times (some as cheap as £1), saving you a lot of time and money on fuel or bus fare!
If you’re shopping in store, try to do it between 6pm and 8pm, as this is when all the supermarkets reduce the prices of products they want to get rid of. As well as using any vouchers you have collected, this really does save you a lot of money!
I also take advantage of any loyalty offers that supermarkets offer,my personal favourite being Tesco Club Card– which allows you to collect points every time you shop. I also love the myWaitrose loyalty card because you can get free tea and coffee with NO CATCH!! All you have to do is sign up and scan your loyalty card at the till, you don’t even need to purchase anything else!
My final tips are all about being organised and staying on top of your work load! Universities often throw all of your assignments at you at the beginning of the year, which is incredibly daunting.
- Don’t avoid them!
It’s so easy to just ignore your assignments and think ‘I’ll worry about them nearer the time’. Trust me, the deadlines come around fast and before you know it, you’re pulling an all-nighter trying to bag a decent 2:1. Don’t do that! At the beginning of term, read through and take notes on all of your assignments, making sure you know the deadlines. You might not have the foggiest idea of what you’re reading, but at least you’re preparing early!
- Set your own deadlines
I find it so helpful, to set my own mini deadlines for each week of term. Whether it be to do my introduction to an assignment or read a few journals, it splits the workload across the whole year – meaning you don’t have to do it all in one go. It also makes you feel like you have actually achieved something each week!
- Print your lectures
This is honestly the best thing I have ever done. I always used to get so tied up on taking notes after notes, that I’d miss huge chunks of what the lecturer was saying. If you print the Powerpoint and add note pages next to each slide, it allows you to focus on noting down the information that isn’t already on the slide. It’s also so much easier to revise, when all of your notes are in the same place!
I hope I’ve given you a few ideas on how to survive uni, you’ll all do great and will love it!