Five things you should know before going to university
Making the transition from sixth form to university can be a daunting process for any student
You've got your A-level results, and you're off to university in just a few weeks. But making the transition from sixth form to your new place of study can be a daunting process.
Not only are many students living away from family and friends for the first time, but they may also face a significant change in their workload and lifestyle.
For useful tips on how to ease into university life taken from Student Minds' Know Before You Go resource, we spoke to Louise Honey, Programme Development Manager at the UK student mental health charity.
Here are her top five things to know for a smooth transition.
1. Factor in independent study
Unlike at school, students are required to do a lot more independent study.
"Once they start doing academic work at university, students realise that there are real differences from what they’ve been used to," says Ms Honey.
Unlike at school, students are required to do much more independent study at university
"It's now all about time management and accepting that your previous methods of working may not necessarily be sufficient."
She recommends that you allocate three to four hours of work per module outside of class time - whether it's to complete assignments or just to keep up with what's being taught.
However, she adds, many programmes have their own recommendations about how much independent study you should do – so check them out.
"It may help to think about university as a job," she advises. "The classes are only a small part of your 'work'. Much of what you need to do happens outside of class."
A Student Planner can help you keep track of your assignments, work schedule, class times and study groups, as well as more fun events.
2. Understand your total expenses
"Understanding your total expenses compared to how much money you have is important to help you budget," says Ms Honey.
"The preparation of a budget is a good starting point, but sticking to it can be a challenge. It's important to know where your money goes. Planning well may help you avoid getting over your head in debt.
"Remember: you may well need to readjust your budget once your course starts, when the hidden costs become mor
And it's not just about the more obvious costs like rent and tuition fees.
"There are other hidden costs like things to make your room feel more like home and all of the costs associated with the study side of things, like printing," she says.
Online budget calculators are also a good way to keep track of expenses.
Also, some online banks send alerts when a payment is coming up or let you know when your account balance is low.
3. Get a good night's sleep
However you choose to spend your time at university, it’s essential that you always factor in a good night's sleep, advises Ms Honey.
"It’s necessary for optimal mental and physical health. Eight or nine hours of sleep per night is ideal for most people, but you'll know how much is right for you."
A good night's sleep is necessary for optimal mental and physical health
Once you start university, however, it's easy to let that habit slip.
"You'll be living with people who may have very different lifestyles," she says. "And then there are things like academic work which can get in the way."
In fact, studying is more effective if you've had enough sleep.
"Although pulling all-nighters seems like an essential college or university experience, binge-studying is less effective then getting a good night's sleep and reviewing key points in the morning."
4. It's never too late to make friends
Making friends from scratch in a new environment can be an intimidating prospect for some. The good news is that everybody else is in the same boat.
"Don't be afraid to introduce yourself randomly to somebody you're standing in line with or sitting next to," advises Ms Honey.
If you're still tired, naps of about 20 to 30 minutes are a great way of recharging the batteries. Limiting your caffeine intake - especially after midday - can also help.
"I think there's a lot of pressure for students in freshers' week to think they've got to make all the friends they're ever going to have at university in that first week. But actually that's not very realistic.’
Also, bear in mind that the people you live with or who are on your course won’t necessarily become your best friends.
"It takes time to develop friendships," she says. ‘If you think about the friendships you have at the moment, it's pretty unlikely they were formed overnight. So, although the environment is often quite intense, allow yourself time to make friends naturally.
"It's never too late to meet new people. You'll be doing that constantly over the course of your degree."
Ms Honey also recommends looking for opportunities to get involved in activities that interest you - such as joining a sports team, a club, a faith group or a volunteer organisation. It's often there that you meet others with similar interests.
"Setting up a study group can also be a practical way [of meeting people] if you're a bit nervous about how to approach someone and be friendly," she says.
5. Eat healthily and exercise
"As with sleep, healthy eating and exercise are things that you can really let slip once you're at university," says Ms Honey.
Stick to a balanced diet, try not to skip meals, and go easy on the junk food. There are also plenty of free apps and online tools that you can use to make sure you're getting the right balance of nutrients each day.
Stick to a balanced diet, try not to skip meals, and go easy on the junk food
"If cooking isn't your thing, is there something your family and friends can teach you in the next few weeks? Even if it's just one or two fairly nutritious meals, that will be a real help.”
Plus, she adds, "food can be a comfort, so it might remind you of home if it’s something your mum or dad makes."
What about exercise?
"Ideally, you should aim for 30 minutes a day - something that raises the heartbeat above a normal level," says Ms Honey.
This doesn't necessarily have to be an organised activity or going to the gym. "It could be walking to your lectures rather than taking the bus, for example."
Not only will this improve your physical health, it will also have a positive impact on your mental health - and may even provide a way to meet new people.
Source : telegraph.co.uk
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