What I learnt from my first year of university

As I’m writing this, a few hours ago I finished my last exam for my first year of uni. There’s a little bit of nervous energy as I wait for my grades but I’m happy that I can say I survived with most of my sanity intact. I thought now would be a good chance to reflect on what I’ve learnt from university and student life, and offer any advice I can based on my experience.

  1. Let’s get this one out of the way: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – don’t procrastinate! The only reason I will endorse doing an essay the night before, is an open book exam when you only have that day! Make a plan, stick to it and do your research early because the earlier you get to the speedbumps, the better chance you have getting over them.
  2. Take notes. Sounds obvious right? Not for me apparently. Full disclosure, I’m the big hypocrite here but at least I can give this advice from experience. I didn’t take any notes at all this year. Not a single lecture. Granted yes, I did pass everything anyway – but it was ridiculously stressful and I didn’t learn most of the content properly. I remembered enough to pass my exams but if you asked me about anything I learnt first semester, I couldn’t tell you now. Take notes in whatever way works best for you – on paper or digitally.
  3. Back up your computer! Use an external hard drive, back up to cloud, save it in your own computer and in the university system. Save everything in multiple places and keep old versions and drafts of assignments until you hand in the final copy. Sometimes things go wrong and work gets lost; it happens to everyone. Don’t let that set you back. Have a backup plan.
  4. There is nothing wrong with getting extensions – I always felt bad or like I was cheating if I ever had to get an extension or exemption for any work. The truth is sometimes you need them, and that’s what they’re there for.

These last few tips are not so much for help with your workload, but more with your lifestyle and wellbeing.

  1. Build up and rely on your support system. Make friends in your classes, ask your lecturers questions and get help with topics you find challenging.
  2. Make sure to have active social time. Social media does not count. See your friends. Go out and party every so often on the weekend. Catch up for coffee. Go for a walk.
  3. Have something else going on in your life other than uni. Sign up to a club, do volunteering, have a part time job, have a hobby or sport. Just make sure you have something regular to break up classes and give you something else to focus energy on.
  4. And finally, when life slaps you in the face, take the time out you need. Once again the hypocrite, I went to university the day after a major incident and felt the consequences later. If you are fatigued or sick, if you have an emergency or accident, you don’t have to “power through” on your own. People will tend to understand if you need a break for a while – we’re all human and our bodies and need rest even when we wish we didn’t.

So for those of you about to begin university life and those of you who feel like you’re floundering right now – it isn’t the end of the world. You can get through it.


Stay safe,


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