10 things I wish I knew before I started my degree
1. I must love my course
Now this may sound stupid since we pay for our courses but, if you’re like me, then someone else may have had a part in choosing your degree. I for one went along with what my college tutors told me and it meant that I disliked 2 out of the 3 years I spent at uni. And who was to blame? Me! So make sure you have researched your course thoroughly, visited your uni and better yet spoken to current students to know what it’s all about. Trust me – the prospectus can tell lies.
2. Location is everything
I partly chose my degree based on ranking which meant that I ended up going outside London. Now I wish I would have spent some time in this ‘city’ beforehand (Leicester)… because it just wasn’t for me. Coming from London, I just couldn’t get to grips with the small town. Like, really, there was just ONE shopping centre.
3. Making friends can be hard
Now a lot of people claim to have made their lifelong friends at uni… but my experience was different (as you can tell by now my experience is not the norm). Unlike school or college, uni brings you into contact with a vast amount of people and – whilst this can be a place of opportunity – it can also be a place of isolation. Depending on what you’re into and what you’re studying your experience of making friends can be easy or not. I know for me (the only black girl on an English course) I had a tough time and not just because of my race but also my social class and London background. Suddenly I was thrust into a mix of people who all looked and spoke the same (at least to me). But it’s not all doom and gloom. Once I was able to accept this fact, I made friends with people from other subjects and, of course, I had my flatmates. So all I’m really saying is don’t be discouraged if it takes you a bit longer to find the circle of people who accept you.
4. It helps to know how to cook
Listen up you folks who only know how to toast bread! You will suffer immensely. Please ask your parents/loved ones to teach you the basics. Like making an omelette, or boiling some rice.
5. Support IS available (you just need to ask)
Most of us come from a school or college where we are used to teachers checking up on us and pestering us if we fall short in any way. Well it changes at uni. You more or less have to be near the point of dropping out before you get noticed. So if you’re having course related issues, financial issues, or mental wellbeing issues, you must seek the services available – only once contact is made can someone step in.
6. I must get involved
Now that I am a graduate I truly wish I had got involved with societies and made my stamp at uni. Once you graduate you learn that having a degree really is pants if you have no experience to go with it. So try your best to be a part of something and, if you don’t succeed once, try again. I regret not trying harder to get on the board for the campus newspaper. I took one look at the lack of diversity and was easily disheartened (plus they rejected me). If I could go back however I would have campaigned for change.
7) It’s okay to make mistakes
Uni really is a place to make some mistakes and learn from your mishaps. It’s all part of the experience. So whilst it’s easier said than done, don’t get too sucked into the academic side of things. There is life and loads of hussling to do after you graduate.
8. Balance is key
Following on from the point above, learn how to balance studying and socialising. Really try to master this in your first year. I say this to students who took a gap year or two especially. We (because I went to uni a year later) can sometimes enter with a very serious mind-set which means we lose sight of taking care of ourselves and relaxing. As fees continue to rise and the pressure on student’s increases, students really must take this seriously.
9. Plan ahead
This is probably more relevant in your second and third year, but it’s important to put things in place for when you graduate – especially if your course doesn’t lead to a specific job. Again, I wish that I had undertaken internships while I was studying so that I would have had some networks when I finished. Part of the problem was a lack of knowledge, particularly when it came to the creative industry. You’ll find that unis do not offer enough advice about creative career choices so it’s down to you to network and find people who can assist you. Something like Twitter is a great tool for finding like-minded people. Attending networking events is also worthwhile.
10. Being different is okay
I really wish someone had said this to me. You will find that many people conform at uni just to fit in. Sad fact – but it’s true. Instead, I encourage you to take what’s unique about you and nurture it. Trust me, that uniqueness will be of benefit to you when you graduate.