Hindsight. It is a beautiful thing. As the end of my studies are drawing near I have the pleasure of looking back and wondering what on earth I was doing half the time over the past three years. Lots of missed opportunities and sub-par decision making. So like a wise older sister I shall now impart to you some worldly knowledge in the hopes that your uni experience is a successful and healthy one.
Tip One: Be thrifty
Whether you are getting a student loan, paying your way, or getting support from your parents, uni is expensive. I have spent a week or two in the last few years eating cereal with water because I ran out of milk and couldn’t afford to get more. Do not let that be you. That’s gross. Make sure you have money for necessities before you go out for lunch or go out drinking, even though its tempting.
Tip Two: Prioritise
Because Uni is so expensive, don’t take it for granted. If you have a loan, you’ll be paying for it later, and if you fail a course and have to re-sit it, you’re adding to the cost for future-you. If you don’t do the work for your classes in favour of your social calendar or your new Netflix subscription, you are wasting your own time and money. That being said, depending on your degree, having a good social life is a huge part of your uni experience, so I have few regrets for prioritising friends over study many a time in my first year. First-year papers for some courses (sorry not you with competitive degrees like law and medicine, ignore this and buckle down, kids) are introductory and aren’t the be all and end all of your studies. While I don’t regret my first year because I enjoyed it so much, it also didn’t set me up for good future study habits. So make sure you strike a balance between work and play, you need to form a good work ethic and set yourself up for the rest of your studies, but make the most of the friends you make as well.
Tip Three: The ‘Fresher Five’ won’t kill you
If you haven’t heard of the ‘Fresher Five,’ it’s a common phenomenon where you gain five kgs plus in your first year. I’m telling you now, this is a real thing. Obviously, the metabolically blessed among us escape gain-free, but for the rest of us mere mortals, it is brutal and sneaky. It’s easy to get caught up in the bad habits that are fostered in the first year, especially if you just moved out of home. But first-year and uni, in general, isn’t some alternate ultra-fat-storing universe where weight gain is unavoidable, obviously the usual still applies. You know the drill: eat your fruit and veggies, eat your protein, manage your portion sizes, don’t go ham on the higher calorie treats, and keep active. The major traps in first-year revolve around making new friends and wanting to involve yourself in every social opportunity on offer, and social eating and social drinking are a big part of that. Remember that you can still hang out with people and have fun without overindulging, sometimes a sugar-free energy drink at a party is just as fun, or choosing the smaller option at lunch and skipping the added cake and sugary drink. Stress eating is another catch, so keep the healthy snacks stocked up so you can turn to those when you need to. Keeping on top of your health is worth it, and as an added bonus it’ll help keep you mentally sharp for your studies. However! If the fresher five befalls you, do not fret. At different times in life we have different priorities, and if in uni you find that socialising and keeping on top of your workload is what is most important to you, that is perfectly fine. For me, I was well and truly acquainted with the Fresher Five by the end of my first year, but my lifestyle now is a far cry from what it was then. Do your best, but don’t beat yourself up. You have the rest of your life to follow your fitspo dreams.
Tip Four: Don’t procrastinate
Do not do this. I myself am terrible at it. Worst of all its been proven that procrastination isn’t some kind of trait, or brought on by anything out of your control. Nothing is making you procrastinate. Procrastination is a choice. I hate this fact, but it is, none the less, a fact. Do not choose to leave your work to the last possible moment. While you’re putting off your work, yes, life is good, but that is setting yourself up for a very, very not good time ahead. Often you underestimate how long an assignment is going to take, or you run into some unforeseen issues that you haven’t left yourself the time to sort out. Issues like this make doing your uni work suck way more than it needs to. Suck both in the sense that its no fun and wreaks havoc on your stress levels and result in sleepless nights which are bad for your health, and also suck in the respect that had you put in more time, you likely would perform better academically. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking ‘diamonds are formed under pressure,’ because while you may somehow pull an A+ out of your ass the night before the deadline, that does not mean you will manage that miracle every time. Don’t be lazy. Make like Shia LaBeouf and just do it.
Tip Five: Sleep
Partying and late night cram studying can absolutely ruin your sleeping pattern, and leave you sleep-deprived. As I said before, this is bad for you. Go to sleep at a regular hour like a regular person as often as you can. Enough said. Go to bed.
Tip Six: Use successful study methods
I study psychology, and one thing they drill into us is that in order to consolidate your learning, to really get it to stick, you need to engage with the material. The more involved your processing of information, the better you will learn it. For a start, don’t skip lectures. Second of all, take notes. When it comes to note taking though, not every method is equal. You’re better off going old school and taking notes by hand, not on a laptop because writing by hand is proven to improve learning as it requires more processing than typing. On top of that, if you have readings to do, take notes by hand for that too because reading often isn’t enough. In fact, its been shown that when you re-read material and it becomes easier to read, that isn’t necessarily because you learned the content, it can mean that you have simply become familiar with the writing allowing the act of reading to flow more smoothly.
Tip Seven: Take opportunities
Get involved in Uni life. There are so many clubs and study groups and extracurricular opportunities that can help your learning, forge valuable connections, and give you the boost you need to make things easier for you when it comes to getting a job at the other end. I wish now that I took what opportunities I could early on, and I’m kicking myself for it now. You have the chance to give yourself an advantage, so why wouldn’t you?
Take these tips and let my learnings through trial and many errors be a lesson to you. Even though I have managed to be successful in my studies (please don’t think I’m a total loser I promise I’m doing fine), it could have been a hell of a lot smoother, and I could have done myself much prouder had I adhered to this advice. You have been warned. My conscience is now clear. Go forth and kick some academic ass.