University can be a daunting next step, with greater independence in every aspect of your life.
As a first-year student at Newcastle University, I thoroughly enjoyed my first term despite the current COVID-19 situation. I was extremely excited to start the next big chapter of my life, however naturally I had a few things I was worried about.
A big fear of mine was meeting new people and making friends, particularly in the current environment. However, I quickly realised it was almost impossible not to. There are also many ways to get involved with student life such as getting a part-time job or joining a sports team or society.
Transitioning from A-Levels to university
I have found university to differ from A-levels in that there is a greater emphasis on independent study. In terms of the difference in workload, this varies massively from university to university and from course to course. Personally, on average I have around 8-12 hours of lectures and 1-3 Seminars a fortnight for my course (Business Accounting and Finance) and I studied six modules. Outside of this (depending on the module) I had around 1-6 hours of independent guided learning to complete each week.
At university, you have no real timetable, therefore it is up to you to plan your time and keep organised. Whether next year your work is online or (hopefully) in person, having the discipline to complete your work and go to lectures/seminars is essential. In other words, success at university is heavily reliant upon your individual effort.
Top tips for settling into university
Moving away from home and living alone is a huge step. It is completely understandable if you feel overwhelmed by the change.
To settle in faster I would recommend:
- Making your university room feel like home
- Put yourself out there. Every first-year student is in the same boat and everyone is eager to make friends. Organise a flat fajita night, knock on next door’s flat and try to take every opportunity to socialise.
- Prioritise your health and well-being. Make sure you’re cooking yourself healthy meals, join a sports club or a gym or even just getting some fresh air every day does wonders. If you’re struggling please talk to those around you; if you feel unable to, the University has a support service you can access at any time.
How I keep organised
With such a busy schedule, balancing studying, socialising, sport/exercising, sleep, and taking time for yourself is not easy. Here are my five top tips for staying organised.
- Get a diary or calendar, you can’t start filling in your free time until you know where this is.
- To-do lists – these are a lifesaver in university. At the start of each week, I write down everything I need to complete for each module, then every day I make a plan and tick it off on my notes.
- Keep your notes organised. At the top of every page of my notes, I write the module code, the date, and the week in the semester (ie Week 5). This means you don’t have random pages of notes with no idea where they belong.
- Take some time planning how you are going to organise/file your notes. I have one small folder per module for my paper notes with dividers for each week and a folder for each module on my laptop.
A few practical recommendations
- Learn a few basic recipes before moving to university.
- Decide on a rough weekly budget (divide your student loan by the number of weeks it needs to last you).
- Opening a student bank account. These allow you to have an interest-free overdraft and other benefits, for example with Santander you get a free railcard (1/3 off all train travel.)
- Join some Facebook groups. I joined the main University one as well as the one for my accommodation when I found where I would be living.
- I would also recommend learning how to touch type by taking an online course or simply practising – this will save you so much time.
- Lastly, read up on your subject or around the topic, this will give you a head start against other students.
Finally, enjoy your last few months at sixth form/college and if you have any questions about Newcastle, Newcastle University, or student life in general please feel free to message me.
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Lauren is an undergraduate student studying Accounting and Finance at Newcastle University Business School.