But setting foot in the big wide world of higher education can be pretty daunting for some would-be students. Here is some no-nonsense advice for making the most of student life – and making sure that the above well-worn adage will be true.
- Be yourself. You’ll meet loads of people, especially in the first couple of weeks, and it’s so easy to fall into the trap of being so desperate to make friends that you’ll do or say anything. Don’t. People can spot who’s being genuine or not, so just take it easy and stay true to yourself. People will like you better for it – and if they don’t, then perhaps they weren’t meant to be your friends. And don’t lose heart if all the first people you meet are not your “sort”. There are plenty of like-minded friends to be made on your course or in your societies. And oh, see Numbers 2 and 8.
- Make the most of it. You’ve heard it before, but there’s a world of experience to be had on campus or off, when you’re free to make your own decisions away from parental guidance for the very first time. Get out there and live it; take advantage of the opportunities that come your way – clubs, societies, socialising, studying abroad, student government, sports, volunteering, whatever. It might be here that you discover your lifelong passion.
- Study. Yup, that’s right! Come on, it’s a lot of what you’re there for. If you know you’re capable of a 2:2 or a 2:1 or even a First then try for it! Don’t just sit around for a 3rd and then regret it afterwards.
- Everything in moderation. Combine numbers two and three. You don’t want to spend three years shut up in a dusty corner of the library while the world passes you by, but neither do you want to spend it in a drunken stupor or a haze of extra-curricular activities for exactly the same reason.
- Find help. If you’re finding it tough or overwhelming, go and talk to someone. There’ll always be someone to listen to you, whether it be a friend or a tutor, a parent or a counsellor and they’ll be around to help you sort yourself out – never, ever think you’re alone. If you feel you’re starting to lose control, are struggling with your workload or have started on the slippery slope to problem areas such as alcoholism or drugs, be strong and get help. It’s there. There are usually on-campus health facilities for sexual advice as well. Don’t be embarrassed – they’re used to it.
- Cherish the friends you already have. Going somewhere new is a great opportunity to meet new people and learn new things, but don’t forget about the people who helped you to get there. At the same time, don’t cling to your home like a limpet. There’s room in your life for everyone.
- Forge your own path. If you arrive joined at the hip to a boyfriend either at the same place or at another university, give each other the space to forge your own paths. There’s absolutely no reason why it can’t work out between you, but you can still live an individual, fulfilling university existence of your own.
- Keep an open mind. You might not think it, but your home circle of acquaintances is probably quite narrow. You’ll meet all sorts of people of all ages, backgrounds and cultures, plus the whole caboodle of stereotypes, both students and lecturers, but treat everyone with the respect they deserve and try to get to know them – you might just be surprised. And learn a thing or two in the process.
- Be careful with your finances. Most of you will leave thousands of pounds in debt so don’t make it worse by going out and blowing your entire student loan in a week – and yes, people have done that, despite their best intentions - or overspending on your credit cards (that oh-so-tempting black hole.) There will be job opportunities from your union ‘JobShop’ to get you out of tight spots, you can consider finding weekend work in town as long as you can handle it, and, again, your university’s Student Services will be able to advise you if your debts start to spiral.
- Remember that everyone’s university experience is different, so don’t feel that you have to conform to the national stereotype of a student. Do what feels right for you, be strong and stand up for your principles, enjoy it and may you look back on your university years with fondness and happy memories, and a whole raft of experiences and crazy photos to take away with you.
Do you agree going to university is daunting? Do you have advice for other parents?