So after three years of university, and now embarking on my fourth and final year, I'd like to think I've learned a few things in my time here. As it's round about the start of the new semester, I thought I'd try to share a bit of advice for new students. Please be aware though, I am by no means an expert and still need to learn to follow some of this advice myself!
1. Independence. You're most likely living away from home for the first time, and having to do everything by yourself, with no parents around to clear up after you. University is a great way to get used to this, before facing the world of full-time work, and all it takes is a bit of practice. And there'll always be someone around or at the other end of the phone to help when you shrink your clothes or burn your food. You'll also be managing larger amounts of money than you're used to, so don't get carried away and spend your whole loan before paying the rent!
2. Classes. You do actually have to attend these if you want to get your degree. University is very different to high school, in that it's not just your home life where you have to be more independent. You're expected to do far more work at home for class, and you'll be just another face in a lecture hall to many of your teachers. There are people you can ask for help though if you're struggling, so don't be afraid to seek them out.
3. Procrastination. The easiest of traps to fall into and we all do it in some form, be it clicking on a website or cleaning the whole flat. I still do it constantly, but it's worth factoring in to your study time. If you know you'll procrastinate while doing something, try starting it earlier to make sure it's still done on time. Organisation comes easier to some people than others, but try to stay on top of your workload. Everyone works slightly differently, or at different times of day, so find whatever works best for you.
4. Societies. This is one aspect of university that I've most certainly failed in, having never really found one I enjoyed enough to stick with. You'll probably sign up for a million mailing lists in Freshers' Week and wind up attending very few of the actual events. However, it's worth giving at least some of these a try, as you may find some new activity or interesting people that you end up loving. University is a great time to get involved in these sorts of things, when you have plenty of free time. There's also plenty of opportunities to try new things outside of university too, just have a look at what's available in your city.
5. Social Life. You will meet so many new people when you start university, and while some will become your best friend, many won't. You're never going to be friends with absolutely everyone, so try to figure out who the good eggs are. And while you'll certainly lose touch with some people from school, try to stay in contact with those who are important to you. I now rarely see the people I was in 1st year halls with, but share a flat with a good friend from school. Also, when going out at night, remember to be responsible about it. There'll be some great parties at university, but don't go out too hard at the expense of your classes.
6. Do something different. University is a time when you're free from both the rules of your parents and the constraints of a full-time job, so seize the opportunity to do whatever you want. Throw a wild party, dye your hair a funny colour, take a spontaneous holiday, stay up all night, blow your money on something stupid. Go a little crazy. There are so many new opportunities available to you, it's mad not to give something a go!
7. Be realistic. Life is not a picnic in the park, and you will inevitably struggle sometimes. Try to stick with it though, and don't throw in the towel after any old bad day. For some people, it may be that university really isn't for them, which is entirely fair enough. But make sure you've exhausted all your other options though; there's friends, parents, teachers and many others who can probably help you somehow. Remember why you came to university in the first place, and assess the bigger picture.