So you are about to embark on the adventure that is your first year of university. Finally, you are going to get the independence you’ve been wishing for your entire teenage years! Isn’t it going to be great?
Well, I can’t say that’s exactly how I felt this time last year, when year one of my Psychology degree was fast approaching. If you’ve read my ‘Surviving Freshers‘ post, you’ll know I wasn’t exactly in the best place in terms of my mental health and this had a massive bearing on how I felt about starting university. I’d be lying if I said a part of me wasn’t excited, though.
Nonetheless, I (just about) survived first year and so I would like to share with you the most valuable tips that I learnt during those months living away from home, navigating the big wide world for the first time as a fully fledged ‘adult’.
Tip 1: Learn to Budget
We’re all aware of the student stereotype of being broke, in debt and not having the first clue about how to handle your finances – but it doesn’t have to be that way. It is surprisingly simple to keep track of your in-goings and out-goings, it doesn’t have to be too complicated! Personally, I find using an Excel spreadsheet the best way to do this.
When ever I spend money, I add it to my finance spreadsheet so that I can keep track of exactly what I’m spending, where and on what. I also total up my monthly food bill, and any expected in-goings (such as my maintenance loan). Insert a function here and there and I can see in a glance what I have available and if I need to leave any money aside for phone bills etc.
It sounds high-maintenance but once you’ve set it up, it’s just a case of updating it every few days and making sure to keep on top of your transactions. There’s probably even an app out there that enables you to do all your budgeting on your phone but I personally love a good ol’ spreadsheet!
It’s also super important to keep a note of key dates, such as when you expect your maintenance loan to come in and your rent to go out. Sometimes the two don’t exactly match up and you may find your rent goes out before your loan comes in, so it is sometimes a case of juggling numbers, which leads me on to student accounts.
I would personally recommend setting up a student account as these often provide you with an overdraft facility. I can’t explain how many times my overdraft has saved me from outrageous rent bills being taken out of my account weeks before my maintenance loan is due. Obviously though, if you have an overdraft it’s important not to go over your overdraft limit and that’s where budgeting becomes even more essential!
Tip 2: Do Take your Work Seriously
On a lot of courses, your first year marks don’t actually count towards your final degree mark (although that may not be the case everywhere). It’s easy, therefore, to be tempted into not trying at all with your work (and just going out and getting smashed 24/7 instead). And yes, part of first year is to have tons of fun, but it’s also the perfect opportunity to get used to a new style of working.
The assessment and learning style at university is (in my opinion) quite different to school, as it is much more independent. At school, you basically get detailed instructions of exactly how to answer exam questions and get handed all of your work on a plate. University, however, take a step back from that. It’s up to you to attend your lectures, decide how much work you want to do in your free time and search the library for textbooks to help. You’ll probably thank yourself in second year if you already have an idea of how to approach the work for when it really counts.
Plus, first year is the ideal time to discover your strengths & weaknesses, as well as your likes & dislikes for your individual course. When it comes the time to choose certain modules, it’s good to have an idea of the direction you’d like to take your studies in. Maybe you thought you knew which specific area you were interested in, and then it turns out actually it’s not that great. Alternatively, you may not have considered a certain study area that, once discovered, you find you are actually really interested in and would like to delve deeper.
Those tips ended up being waaaay longer than I had anticipated so I will share my final two in the second part to this post, next Sunday – I hope to see you back then!
Thank you for reading,