5 Things I Wish I Knew When Starting University
By UofG's law student and Unibuddy Chloe
Beginning university can be a very daunting experience. This is especially true of students who start this new chapter of their life on their own, without familiar friends by their side.
I was so afraid on my first day at university and the main reason for this was fear of the unknown. So, in this blog I will share with you some things I have learned as a student that I wish someone would have told me in first year.
Number one: It’s okay to be on your own for a bit
On my first day, I was so eager to make friends with everyone around me – which is great! However, you shouldn’t force this. Sometimes, some people just aren’t the right friends for you.
From experience, you make the closest friends when you least expect it. During my first few weeks at university I spent most of my time on my own, and despite first being fearful of this, it really benefitted me. Between classes, I was able to explore campus and the West End of Glasgow in general. I became more confident in going for lunch and coffee on my own and just spending time with myself. It also gave me time to decide what I wanted my ‘daily routine’ to be.
Remember, university isn’t just about learning new things and making new friends, it’s also a great opportunity for personal growth and exercising your independence.
Number two: Prepare and plan
For my first ever tutorial I was oblivious to the fact there was preparation I had to do before the class, which was a big mistake.
Preparing for classes and tutorials are so important so that you can get as much out of that in-class time as possible. After the class, it is also important to consolidate your notes. I cannot stress this enough.
Whether you do this on the commute to or from university, or even for a couple of hours before bed at night, it is so important to read over your notes to ensure you understand the information you have been given. This also gives you the opportunity to condense your notes to make them more digestible when it comes to revision time. To organise your preparation and study, having a study planner is beneficial. With this, you can see at a glance the preparation required for a class and when there is a good time for you to complete it.
Additionally, you can allocate time each day to relax and forget about the responsibilities that come with University. It is impossible to be in ‘study mode’ all the time, it is important you look after yourself!
Number three: Be mindful of part-time jobs and volunteering
During my time at university I tried my best to always have a part time job. It wasn’t until recently that I began volunteering. I discovered during a Glasgow Law Fair that keeping up a part-time job or volunteer position whilst at university is not only a great addition to your CV but also provides you with additional skills that are very attractive to future employers.
For example, my part time job greatly improved my confidence in interacting with the public as well as my ability to delegate and manage a strong team. These are things that perhaps I would not have learned fully from university, however the skills will come in useful once I graduate and begin a new job.
Be aware though, that in working part time or volunteering, good time management is essential. Your part-time or voluntary position should not put you under excess stress to the extent that your performance and university begins to slip. Make sure that if you do have a position of responsibility out with university that the hours you work allows you to complete your university work and still have time to do the things you enjoy too.
Number four: It is never too early to look for future jobs and employment opportunities
From my experience in the law degree, I wish I had sooner began looking for employment and traineeship opportunities within my desired field. Although the application process for such positions do not start until your penultimate year, it is important to know the deadlines you have to meet and the things you should do to make yourself stand out from other applicants.
For example, a lot of firms only recruit through their summer placement programmes which have a much earlier application date. Again, this is where a planner is beneficial as with so many firms recruiting every year, it can be hard to keep track of each of their requirements and application due dates.
Remember though, that although finding legal work experience is a great addition to your application or CV, it isn’t essential. Employers are looking for well-rounded students, and having a part-time job, volunteer position, hobbies, interests, and achievements are all things that employers consider.
Number 5: Make time to look after yourself and create memories
It can be hard to find a routine that benefits your physical and mental wellbeing whilst at university. Initially, I tried to go to the gym once or twice a week as this seemed to be something that most other students were interested in. My routine did not last long though, simply because I really didn’t enjoy it.
However, over time, I found activities that I do enjoy that benefit me both mentally and physically, such as reading and outdoor running. What works for someone else in those areas may not work for you. That’s why it is so important to find your own routine; whether that’s taking part in sports, socialising with friends and family or taking time to practise your own hobbies.
Although the academic side to university is so important, so is enjoying yourself and making memories. Both the Queen Margaret Union and the Glasgow University Union on campus provide great spots to spend time with your friends whether that be for coffee, food, or a post lecture drink. Additionally, the Glasgow Subway station means you are no more than an eight-minute ride away from the town centre; where there are things to see, places to shop, eat and drink. Your university journey is about far more than going to lectures and sitting exams, there is so much to experience both at University and out with - especially in Glasgow.
Try not to be frightened by things that push you out of your comfort zone, channel that fear and put it to good use. Grab every opportunity you can to make sure you have the best university experience possible. You’ve got this!
First published: 7 October 2021