It makes me sad to think how long it’s been since I’ve started college!
When I started off, I was the only one out of my group of friends going to my chosen university. I have no older brothers and sisters either. Starting college was my first time to move away from home as well – the whole experience was slightly intimidating to say the least!
Here are my top tips for anyone starting college. Or even current students. I really wish someone had given me this advice before I started!
- The biggest most important piece of advice I can give is to get involved in everything and anything you can! It’s such a cliché and you hear it time and time again, but it’s just so true. I really wish I’d gotten involved in more societies when I was in college. Just do it, you will have so much less time for clubs after graduating!
- Figure out a good note-taking system early. At the end of first year I was left with folders of messy hand-written A4 pages. Not ideal. After that I started typing all of my lecture notes and it’s a million times better! Especially if you use an app or program like OneNote which organises all your notes in an easy and lovely looking way!
- In college everyone makes out that they’re not studying or doing work. And fair enough, some people genuinely aren’t. But most of those will be sitting repeats at the end of the year. Set aside time each day and do your work, quietly and consistently. It’ll save you a whole lot of stress at the end of the year, I promise.
- Get into good cooking habits early. Read sites like Budget Bytes for nutritious and cheap recipes. Plan your meals, cook big batches of food (cheaper) and freeze some for later, shop in the evenings when some foods are put on sale, and shop around – Aldi is great for fruit & veg deals, Boots’ loyalty scheme and constant deals make it the best shout for toiletries, etc. You’ll have more money for socialising and you’ll avoid the weight gain that characterises some people’s first year in college (I know I gained weight my first year!).
- To do lists. Keep track of your college work this way, as well as things like calling old friends and exercising. A diary is a great investment – I love Paperblanks.
- Speaking of calling old friends, don’t lose touch with your friends from school! It’ll be really tough – you’ll have new friends and tons of social events and you won’t get home as often as you’d think. You might think the idea of you guys losing contact is ridiculous right now (I would have at this point in first year), but it happens to everyone unless you put in serious effort. Do it – it pays dividends in the end.
- Get enough sleep. I think the best thing in terms of sleep quality is just trying to get to bed at the same time every night, preferably before midnight. I find that getting into a sleep routine pays off way more than the actual number of hours I get, but maybe that’s just me!
- If you have to chance to study abroad, take it! It’ll be the best time of your life. If not, look into working abroad for a summer – it’s an amazing experience. This is especially easy for us EU residents – look into heading to a tourist town in France or Spain or wherever!
- Don’t buy books right away. Probably don’t buy them at all. (This depends on your course though!) College isn’t like school, where you need books to pass. The library will almost definitely have all the books you need, and if there’s not enough you (and your classmates) can put in a request for them to buy extra copies! You’ll mostly be working off your amazing notes anyway (see 2 above).
- Speaking of books, don’t hog books or hoard your notes. Share with your classmates and collaborate with one another. It’s not like school where there’s a bell curve, you can all do really well and even more well if you help one another!
- Make time for yourself. It’s easy to get caught up in hectic college life, and there are so many social events all of the time with so many new people to get to know! But it’s important to take time to look after yourself – take a bath, light candles in your room, do some yoga, put on a face mask, go for a long walk, whatever you enjoy!
- Learn stress management early. College exams are so much more stressful than any other exams you’ve done before. Learn the best ways for you to manage your stress early – by practicing mindfulness, doing yoga, going for a run… See what works best for you. Your mental health is so important.
- Finally, if you’re in college you’re probably a high achiever. Always remember that you deserve to be there just as much as everyone else. Maybe you’re not the smartest person in your class anymore – that’s okay. You’re just as intelligent as anyone else in college, and don’t be intimidated by all of the smart people around you! If you didn’t deserve your place you wouldn’t have gotten it. Believe in yourself.