10 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Starting University

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I remember feeling like a rabbit in the headlights when I started university. There was so much advice flying around about what was important, what I should be doing, how I should be managing my time and annoyingly, most of it was conflicting. Here are a few things I wish I’d known before the start of the first term. I’m now two months into my Master’s degree – I’ve learnt a lot since first year!

  1. Buy second hand books

It’s so tempting at the start of term to buy everything shiny and new, but over the length of your course buying brand new books for each module soon adds up. Take a look on Amazon or eBay for used copies – or simply get in quick at the start of term and loan them from the library.

  1. The first year matters

As the constant partying gets into full swing, some just opt to do the bare minimum to pass first year. Skipping lectures can be tempting, but understanding the content of your first year is paramount for the rest of your degree.

  1. Don’t leave assignments until the last minute

You’ll start off feeling like you have all the time in the world and are willing to pull an all-nighter to get things done. Sometimes you can, but where possible try to start assignments at least three weeks before the deadline. Referencing also takes a lot longer than you think, so spend some time getting to grips with the system your university uses early on.

  1. Take advantage of each and every opportunity

During freshers’ week you’ll discover a wealth of clubs and societies on offer, which can be a great way to feel part of the community. From sports teams to human rights groups, there’s something for everyone and participation looks great on the CV, too.

  1. Get a part time job

If you feel you’re going to struggle financially, getting a part time job can really help with those little extras – like that integral coffee you always buy ahead of a 9am lecture. It’s also a great way to meet new people outside of your course.

  1. Learn how to manage your bills

The jump from your family home to sharing with fellow students is a massive wake-up call – suddenly you have to deal with things like energy bills and recycling. To keep control of your gas and electricity when renting privately, try using a smart meter to track costs in near-real time. We’re getting one installed soon!

  1. Eat healthy on a budget

When you’re eating on a budget it can be tempting to fill your basket with cheap fast food options. Fuel your body and brain with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables instead – if you’re stuck for recipe ideas, you’ll find plenty of student-friendly recipes online that won’t break the bank.

  1. Make use of the library

It’s freshers’ week and there are a million other things going on, but attending an introductory library session will pay off in the long run. Not only will you start your degree with a firm understanding of where to find the books you’ll need, but signing up for some kind of ‘how to research’ session will be priceless throughout the rest of your course.

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

If you’re regularly feeling stressed or like you can’t cope with the workload, don’t be afraid to talk to your tutors and ask for an extension. The student advice centre can also offer words of wisdom and, in some circumstances, non-repayable loans if you’re struggling financially.

  1. You don’t need a complete life plan

We don’t all have a life plan in place when we start university. Try to go with the flow as much as possible and embrace the opportunities given to you. Sometimes trial and error is the only way to discover your true calling.


For those starting university this year, I’m wishing you all the best of luck! If you’re already part way through or at the end of your university journey, what are your top tips for survival?

Thanks for reading,

*this is a sponsored guest post in collaboration with Smart Energy

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  1. Yep I agree with these – I think my son would agree with you too! Future uni students should definitely take these on board

  2. I nodded along to most of these, some things I was definitely not prepared for when I started uni… or just didn’t know about!

  3. The library is without a doubt you’re best friend at university! I think planning and organisation was key in being successful at managing deadlines. Reading, reading and reading is a must for seminars x

  4. I had a part time job throughout university (and then a full time job when I switched to online schooling) and it’s the best if you can manage and plan properly. I loved working because it gave me extra income, allowed me to meet new people, and just get out of the “school” mentality for a few hours. It was odd but I felt that my part time job was essentially a break from school!

  5. Great tips I remember when I first started Uni I was so bad at managing my finances I ended up living on my overdraft for a few months which was not a good thing, luckily I learned my lesson and calmed down. I think everyone goes a bit crazy when they first start uni haha! xoxo


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