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For many of us, looking forward to university is a huge part of our teenage years. We can get caught up in the expectations and hype of the university experience, even though every individual’s time at university is unique to them. Here are a few of the things I wish someone had told me before I started university.

1. Get stuck into a society early on

It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer volume of choice when it comes to clubs and societies at university. I remember attending the Fresher’s and Active Fresher’s Fayres and signing up to about 20 different clubs! Because I had so much choice, my indecision was exemplified and I never ended up going to any one of them, in case I didn’t like it or would like something else better.

My best advice here is to simply get stuck in. It doesn’t matter if you change your mind, you can try a new society every year, or even each semester. Committing to a society—even for a short period—is one of the best ways to meet new people and create friends who have similar interests to you. So, pick something and go for it!

2. Attend any extra opportunities put on by your course or university.

Getting to know course mates has been pretty tough this year, what with the lack of in person opportunities. I’ve found that attending the extra seminars put on by my course or by the university has allowed me to meet new people and learn new skills that I wouldn’t have on my own. This is especially useful if you’re on a large course with hundreds of other students.

Also, check to see if your uni course has a society—it’s a great idea to keep up to date with what socials are put on for students in your course, so that you can expand your friendship circles to people whose paths you might not normally have crossed.

3. Don’t overthink your preferences—no one else minds.

I know that it can be easy to let the pressure of starting a new university get to you. It can be intimidating to meet a lot of new people and feel like you have to fit in with what others around you are doing. Maybe you don’t really like drinking or partying, or maybe they’re your favourite things to do. Either way, trust me when I tell you not to overthink how others will perceive your personal preferences. Honestly, no one minds if you choose not to join in with certain aspects of uni life, so don’t let this stop you from joining in altogether.

In my experience, everyone is coming to university from a different place, and everyone is tolerant and respectful of others’ choices. It’s good to push yourself and step out of your comfort zone once in a while, but don’t feel pressured to try things you’re not ready for yet. All in your own time.

4. Friendships come at different paces for different people.

I don’t know about you, but I remember looking at people who had been to university come out the other side with a tight-knit friendship group for life. Bridesmaids and groomsmen would be made up almost exclusively of ‘friends I met at university’ and even my parents are still close with people they met during their degrees. Don’t get caught up in this narrative, though, or else you might get disheartened when you haven’t met your ‘perfect people’ in the first couple weeks of starting university.

Friendships come at different paces. You might get lucky and happen to live in the same flat as people who fit with you perfectly—but more often than not, this isn’t the case. It’s important to remember that friendships take time to develop, and it might not be until final year that you realise you’ve made some great friends over the course of your degree. Or you might never find your best friends at university, and maybe you’ll end up with some fun memories with lovely people, and later meet your future bridesmaids and groomsmen at your job, or travelling, or through a partner. There’s no right way to do it, and you certainly haven’t done anything wrong if you realise that your first-year flatmates aren’t going to be your best friends forever.

5. You won’t become a new person just because you’ve started university.

This was certainly one of my biggest learning curves. Going to university is a big step—you’re leaving home (maybe for the first time ever) and you’re finally getting some independence and autonomy. This is exciting and definitely provides a lot of opportunity for self-growth! But remember this: you’re still you, and that’s okay. Don’t try to ‘reinvent’ yourself in your first few weeks—it’s exhausting to keep up and it won’t last for long. Use your new freedom to explore who you are, your true likes and dislikes, separate from your family and home friends.

Try not to get frustrated if your time at university isn’t what people have told you it will be. University is your experience to cultivate and enjoy, and it is what you make of it. You’ll grow and change as you go, but know that these changes happen slowly, and you are good enough as you are right now.