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Five Life Lessons From University

29/10/2014 12:53 GMT | Updated 27/12/2014 10:59 GMT

University will teach you how to read a 600 page book in twenty minutes, how to write an essay in a day, and how to appear really clever. It'll also teach you some valuable life lessons that you'll take with you long after you've forgotten what on earth postmodernism is.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but five top tips for getting the most out of your university experience.

1. Try something new

Join a society. This will be the best decision of your life. Much better than that decision you made to be in the library at 9 am. Societies will make your time at university; they will enrich you beyond belief, and you'll probably meet some awesome people who're interested in the same stuff as you.

Have a burning desire to try glass music? Maybe underwater table tennis is your thing? (I'm not sure if this is possible, but someone somewhere is probably giving it a go!)

The point is - societies provide a great opportunity to get to know people you wouldn't otherwise meet, while doing something that interests you. And if you're thinking that the thing you really want to try is a bit weird, that's fine. You'll meet other weird people who you can bond in mutual weirdness with!

2. Prioritise your time

Good time-management at university is challenging even for the most organised of people.

At 18 your daily routine shifts rather suddenly from the monotonous A-level grind of: study > eat > sleep > repeat, to: eat > find way to new building > attempt to understand strange lecturer > try new society > hang out with hall mates > Skype anxious mother > do washing > somehow find time to cook > go out > remember to try and find self somewhere along the way, and so on, but there are some things that you have to do.

Do spend time getting to know people in first year, because this will probably be the foundation for your university friendships.

There might be a temptation once freshers' week is over to retreat to your room and spend hours Skyping the other half who is, without a doubt, your ultimate soulmate and thus requires every ounce of your attention. Don't do this.

The reality is that while it's great to be in love and to nurture relationships back home, they shouldn't prevent you from living your life at university. And let's face it, by the time you graduate, that once burning flame of desire will probably look more like a bunch of damp kindling anyway.

3. Self-love

No not that kind (although, why not?!). Be good to yourself. It's okay to not enjoy every second of your university experience. There will be days where you're downright miserable.

Picture this: it's the middle of January and you've got no heating because the boiler that's been on the brink for about seven months now has finally given up the ghost, you're poor because you saw your student loan for all of about six seconds before it fleetingly made its way out of your account and transformed itself into another three grand of student debt, you've got deadlines coming out of your ears (eyes, nose, and every other conceivable orifice), and to top it all off, that cough ain't getting any better.

You might have days where it takes every ounce of strength to get out of bed and days where you get into bed feeling like you've achieved nothing, and that's fine. Everyone feels like this at some point, because life isn't always a peach.

Remember that you're probably your own worst critic. Do little things for yourself to remind you that you are in fact, awesome.

4. Practical skills

Learn to cook. The idea of Domino's for three years might seem like an appealing alternative to cooking, but it won't do you or your bank balance any good. Even with the several thousand 3-for-2 vouchers that you're likely to accumulate during freshers' week, eating take away for three years will probably be as expensive as the actual degree itself.

There are some great student cookbooks out there that embrace the importance of healthy-ish meals on a budget. These are most definitely a life investment. For the complete novice, there are even books that you can purchase with a comprehensive list of how long you can keep different foods before they will kill you. Perfect!

The only downside to learning how to cook is that when you do go home your family will probably expect five star dining on a regular basis.

5. Be your own person

Do what's right for you. Listen to other people's advice, but don't live to please them.

If at any point you realise you're doing the wrong degree, switch courses. If there's an outside module you really fancy the look of, take it. If you want to do a year abroad but don't know if it's for you, just go for it!

It's quite often the activities that you do outside of your degree that teach you the most about who you are and what you want from life. Ultimately, university is three years of your life and it's largely up to you how you spend it.