Brace yourselves: freshers' week is coming. Over the next few weeks, a new wave of hundreds of thousands of fresh-faced students will be descending upon university campuses up and down the country for their first taste of university life.
I want to try and do my bit for these young hopefuls by writing an advice article for them. And no, not in the form of some BuzzFeed-style list of quirky one-liners such as "#2: Don't sleep with your flatmate during freshers' week" (Although that is actually decent advice to follow).
Instead, I want to offer three pieces of meaningful advice for freshers that I believe will bring them genuine value, and will hopefully enable them have the best possible time at university. This advice isn't just confined to freshers' week either; it should serve them well throughout their whole time at university.
1.) Give Everyone you Meet a Chance
This is by far the best advice that I could give to any fresher. You have the opportunity to meet so many amazing people from so many different backgrounds while at university. In fact, you'll probably never get the chance to mix with so many people that are so wildly different to yourself ever again. Don't abuse that opportunity by making judgements about people before you really get to know them.
I know, I know. When you're anxious about wanting to make friends as quickly as possible, it's so easy to just stay in your comfort zone and gravitate towards those who you consider to be most similar to yourself. But please, for me, make a conscious effort to seek out those who are different to you. Not only is it an opportunity for you to learn a tonne about other people, but you also get to learn a surprising amount about yourself along the way.
Let me use my own personal experience as an example. One of the best friends that I made at university was a South Korean guy who moved to England when he was younger and attended one of the most prestigious public schools in the entire country. This stood in stark contrast to my own background, as someone who attended their local state school in the South Wales valleys. And yet despite the differences between us, we got along like a house on fire and are now great friends.
So just make sure to give everyone you meet a chance before making any assumptions about them. Even if you have trouble trying to make sense of the girl with the pink hair and posh accent, make an effort to get to know her. She might just become your next best friend.
2.) Be True to Yourself
Along with gravitating towards those most similar to you, another trap that is very easy to fall into at university is to present a less-than-authentic version of yourself to other people in order to fit in.
You might wish to tone down some of the more 'controversial' aspects of your personality when you're getting to know the people at your halls. For instance, it's probably not the best idea to say how you're a staunch tory supporter on the first night of freshers' week. And in the same light, you might play up other aspects of your personality that lend themselves nicely to the culture of the people that you're surrounded by.
That's all fine. But what you should really try to avoid doing, is deviating from being your true self. You should never change aspects of your personality to an unrecognisable extent just to fit in with the people on your course or those living with you in halls. Don't start speaking with a southern accent if you're from the North. Don't start slating your favourite folk band because everyone else on your floor loves listening to house music. You catch my drift. You have to be true to yourself, even if there's a risk that those people won't like you. If they're not going to appreciate you for who you are, then they're not worth trying to impress in the first place.
3.) Don't Waste Time Worrying about the Future
The final piece of advice that I want to offer to freshers is to not spend too much time worrying about your future. Looking back, I wasted so much time during my first year of university researching work-experience opportunities to try and 'get ahead' of everyone else.
The truth of the matter is that it's just not necessary. You have plenty of opportunities to gain work experience during your second and third years at university. The first year provides you with the exceptional opportunity to enjoy all of the perks of university life without worrying about exam results (so long as you manage to scrape 40%). You should make the most of this time, otherwise I promise that you'll come to regret it in the following year when you actually have too much work to be going out on a Wednesday night.
Besides, chances are that what you think you want to do at the start of your first year of university will be totally different to what you'll actually want to do by the end of your final year. You're better off enjoying yourself instead of needlessly worrying about job prospects.
Above all, I guess that the overarching point I want to make in this article is that you should just try to enjoy your first year. It's the time during your degree that it's okay to fall behind a bit. It's okay to miss a few lectures. It's even okay to do poorly in exams. Your tutors won't tell you that, but it really is. Your #1 objective for first year should be to have an awesome time and meet lots of people. Don't even start worrying about career stuff until your second and third years.
Then you can start panicking.
This is a repurposed form of content that originally appeared on my personal website, Louis Tee.