As a journalism student currently in my third year at the University of Sunderland studying Sports Journalism, there are a lot of things I could’ve done differently. Here is my advise to prospective students.
- Budget your money
I learned this the hard way in my first year of university. Before you head off to uni you’ll apply for student finance which is a loan from the government to help you pay your way. This covers things like rent, food, transport and any materials you may need for your course. A lot of people, including myself, make the mistake of seeing a large amount of money in their bank account and blowing it all on things that you don’t really need. The first loan is important. This is the one where you will have to pay more rent than usual in order to cover a deposit and anything else that may be required, you will have to buy course supplies out of this and Christmas also falls under the first loan instalment. By January, when my second loan had come in, I knew to be much more careful. So budget!
- Eat well
You’re leaving home, probably moving to a new city, living in a house with people you’ve never met and you actually have to look after yourself. Many people make jokes about “Oh you’re a student, you must live on toast and pot noodles.” This isn’t advisable. I can’t say that I ever did this, I just know that it’s important to eat properly and take care of yourself. The last thing you want is to make yourself poorly because you can’t be bothered to put something in the oven. Buy a student cookbook. There are some really simple recipes in there that don’t take much time at all. Failing that, ask your mum how she cooks your favourite meals.
- Attend your classes
You might be thinking, “Don’t be stupid, of course I’m going to attend my classes.” We all think that at the start, but in reality lots of people don’t bother turning up. This is not advisable. For starters, tutors can actually dock your grades dependent on your attendance. Also, if you miss something really important, then you’ve got an issue. There have been classes over the three years I’ve been at uni that I’ve absolutely hated, but they’re still important! Just think to yourself “It’s only an hour of my time and it will benefit me” and drag yourself (reluctantly) to the class. Don’t let your uni work suffer because of laziness.
- Don’t leave work until the last minute
Another tip that might seem obvious, but seriously, DO NOT leave your work until the last minute. This is my worst habit; I procrastinate. But, again, this is something that I learned the hard way. I’m not saying that if you’re given a piece of work to do that’s not due for four weeks that you have to start it right away. But do yourself a favour and don’t leave it until the night before. My advice would be to try and do it with a week to spare. That way, if you come up with anything else that you think you could add, you’ve got the time to do so. Just as an extra tip, don’t finish your work and then never look at it again. The chances are that you’ve made a lot of silly errors (even though you’ll think you haven’t). There’s nothing worse than getting a piece of work back and thinking “Well I could have sorted that, why didn’t I just re-read it.”
- Study, study, study
Similarly to not leaving work until the last minute, don’t leave studying for your exams until the last minute! Exams are far more important than work given to you that can be completed over a long period of time. You get one shot (possibly one re-sit if your university allows it) at passing an exam, so don’t blow it. Studying is definitely not something that can be forgotten about. If it were me, I would start studying maybe three or four weeks before my exam. Even if you just do half an hour to an hour a day, allow yourself plenty of time to revise and make sure you know it all. The last thing you want is to fail and kick yourself for not spending enough time studying.
- Research your estate agents before choosing one
This is a tip I’m giving because my personal experience with our estate agency hasn’t been good. First year wasn’t an issue because I lived in the university’s halls of residence. However, when choosing your house for second and third year, make sure you look in as much detail as possible at the estate agents you plan to use. When I, and my housemates, chose the flat for second year, we neglected to consider any issues we may face in our time living there. Admittedly, there have been no life-threatening situations during our time in the flat. However, the estate agents seem to have no sense of urgency when it comes to getting in contact with our landlord or a contractor about any problems we may have. So this is just a warning to ensure you don’t have to endure the same issue.
- Learn to deal with problems
When you’re living in a flat with five other people, who you barely know, it can be difficult to all get along at times. I know I have encountered problems with my housemates and I’m guessing a lot of people have at some point or another. My advice would be to talk it out, as soon as possible. If you have an argument with somebody, the worst thing you can do is let it linger. You need to sit down, discuss the problem and work through it. The longer it is left unsolved, the more awkward it will be to solve it. The last thing you want is to feel like you’re treading on eggshells in your own house. So, even though you may not want to talk to them at the time, do it. Get it out of the way so that you can both move on and feel better about the situation.
- Make sure you socialise
Socialising is important. Although you’re at university to complete a degree and further your career opportunities, you cannot make it through three years (or more) without having a good group of friends. Whether they’re your next-door neighbours, people from your course, members of a society or your housemates if you all get along well enough, just make sure you have a group of people who you can blow off steam with from time to time. I don’t know how I would have made it through three years of university without my friends, even though we’re a relatively small group. It’s just nice to go out for a meal or a dance after a deadline or an exam.
- Check out the Student Union
This is something I wish I had done before I chose which uni I wanted to attend. When I was looking at prospective universities, I failed to research the SU because I was too focused on the actual course I was taking. If I went to university again, I would look into the SU a lot more and find out how they could benefit me as a student.
- Look after your possessions
This is another one that people think, “Why am I being told this?” But for your own sake, look after your possessions AT ALL TIMES. Nights out are probably the most common time to lose things. I’ve had friends lose purses, keys, student cards and phones (myself included – I left my phone in a taxi and it was a nightmare to try and get it back, but I did luckily). The not so obvious part is to look after your possessions while actually in uni time as well. People tend to lose less important items, but I’ve known friends to leave scarves, coats, packets of cigarettes, phone chargers (again, I’ve done this one) and somehow one of my friends left their whole bag in one of our classrooms! So just keep an eye on everything you have with you, and double/triple check you have it all before you leave.
- Make sure you get enough sleep
I’ve always been a bit of a night owl and 2am is sort of the ‘standard’ time that I tend to go to bed (even if I have a 9am class), but I constantly wish that I’d gone to bed at a reasonable time. Tiredness catches up with you as the day goes on and when it hits, it hits hard. Taking a nap in class is obviously not the best idea, so make sure that you set a reasonable time to sleep and stick to it! I think you’ll find, as I certainly have, that getting a good nights sleep is one of the most valuable things you’ll ever do. Nothing feels better than waking up early in the morning and actually feeling like you can make it through the day. Also, don’t listen to people who say taking a mid-day nap helps, because it really doesn’t. It often makes you feel more groggy and tired than before, which is hard to believe considering how rubbish you may already feel.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help
I cannot stress this point enough. Everybody knows that life isn’t always plain sailing. People always come across issues of some sort in their personal lives, which WILL interfere with your uni work. I won’t go into detail, but this year especially I have really struggled with personal issues such as my health, relationships and family problems. These types of things are hard to go through on the best of days, let alone when you’re trying to complete a dissertation, work placement (if you’re required to complete one), other deadlines and exams. All I can say is that talking to my uni tutors and knowing where support is available to me is a massive advantage. My university tutors have been so good with everything and they ensure that I can complete my work to the best of my ability, even with everything going on. Also, if things are really bad you can apply for extenuating circumstances, which means that you will be given extra time to complete your work. I’d just like to make everyone aware that no matter where you are or what you’re going through, help is always available to you and you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for it. You need to ensure your time at uni is as stress-free as possible. Anyone who has been there and done that will know that university isn’t easy by any means, but it will be the best thing you ever do.
I hope these tips are helpful and to anyone going to uni, enjoy it and make it memorable. You’ll wish you could go back once it’s all over.