Tuesday 15 September 2020

#FresherPressure: Five Tips for Settling into University Life

Michael, the editor of the Student Minds Blog, shares some tips and tricks for navigating #FresherPressure. 

- Michael Priestley

Starting university can be fun and exciting! But it can also feel challenging, particularly whilst you settle in and find your feet. I started university after spending two years in full time work and I found the initial transition pretty disorientating, intimidating and overwhelming. I felt like I didn’t belong, and this made me feel anxious around others and rather negative about my own social and academic capabilities. 6 years later, I am still at the same university studying a PhD on student mental health and well-being, and feeling much happier and more confident. Here, I give my 5 tips for managing when you start university.

1.      Find Your University Support
You might not ever need it, but it can always be helpful to have an idea from the start of where to go for support if you feel like you are struggling. Find out what student welfare services and general pastoral care your university provides, what they do and how to access them. It helped me to speak to a member of staff early on – after that, they looked out for me during the first few weeks and helped me to navigate some really useful support!

2.      Ask for Help if You Need It 
Speak up if you are feeling overwhelmed or anxious. I found that people were really supportive and accommodating once they knew that I was struggling, but with so many other students, they might not realise something is wrong unless you tell them. Equally, don’t be afraid to ask anything about student life more generally. I thought that if I asked questions about the academic or social stuff, people would think I was stupid, and it would just affirm my feelings that I didn’t fit in or belong. But it becomes harder to ask the longer time goes on. The opening few weeks are a really good time to explore how everything works and ask questions.

3.      Get into a Healthy Routine
You might find when you get to University that you have less compulsory contact hours than you are used to. For some, this can make it hard to know when the work starts, whilst, for others, it can be hard to know when the work stops. Either way, it will be helpful to get into a healthy routine early on to try and help balance your time and look after yourself. I found that it helped to treat my university work like a job with set times and spaces; I chose to only work at the university library so that I could keep my room as a time and space to chill out and relax. 

4.      Get Organised
Because I felt anxious and overwhelmed, getting organised really helped me. Use a diary, record academic deadlines and other commitments, file your work and regularly check and sort your university emails to make sure that you are on track and don’t miss anything. This will likely save you some stress and last-minute panics!

5.      Relationships Matter
Having a good support network of friends will help you to get the most out of your university experience. Although building new friendships takes time and effort, it really is worth it. If you find it hard meeting new people, you won’t be alone – there will be other people that will feel the same and really appreciate a smile and a chat. Or you could try to find ways of meeting people with similar interests by joining societies or volunteering.

Everybody’s university journey is unique, and we all go to university with different hopes, fears and expectations. Try to take things at your own pace, based on the advice that feels right for you. 

For more support, see Student Space or Transition into University.

I'm Michael and I’m the editor of the Student Minds Blog. I am a PhD student at Durham University studying student mental health and well-being. I write for Student Minds to share my own experiences of mental health difficulties and to advocate for change to improve the state of student mental health. 

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