As we head into a new academic year, we are all excited to embrace a greater level of normality at university. However, even under ‘normal’ circumstances, starting university can be daunting and many students have things that they worry about before arriving or in the first weeks of term. So what do students worry about?
For lots of students, starting university will be the first time they’re leaving home for an extended period of time – living and working on their own or with people they don’t know. Some are even going to whole new countries, cultures and experiencing languages that differ from their native tongue, which adds a whole new level of anxiety (and excitement). Fortunately, we live in a world of digital communications, which helps, and universities have great support programmes now as they become far more cognisant of students’ mental health. If you’re worried about catering for yourself, a middle ground like living in catered halls in your first year can be a good solution.
Starting university and making friends
Everyone worries about whether they’re going to fit in. It’s a daunting prospect to go from school to an environment where you know no one, but it’s also a fantastic opportunity. University is often portrayed as somewhere that different people can find their ‘tribe’. There are so many different clubs, societies and events that the rather binary environment of school fades into the background, and you’re not only likely to find friends, but you’re also likely to make them by truly being yourself.
Money and debt
All students worry about money, and most will probably mismanage it at some point. University is increasingly expensive and while student loans are game changing, they also leave the worry about ongoing debt after university. Depending on your personal circumstances and whether you have parental support or not, there’s no easy way to get over this one, other than to budget, plan and be sensible. The good news is that most courses don’t take up your time five days a week, so you can look for a part time job to supplement your income – it can also be a great way to meet more people!
Keeping up at school
Obviously the main purpose of being at university is to get your degree and develop your skills. For most students the leap from school to university is huge – the expectations and processes are very different. Where school is often quite a ‘spoon fed’ environment, university places far more emphasis on individual thought and debate, especially if you’re at the likes of Oxford or Cambridge, where they are known for their teaching methods. The thing to remember is that everyone feels out of their depth at university, and that’s ok to a point. If you really feel as though you’re struggling though, don’t keep quiet – speak to your tutors and make sure you get the support you need.
Living in a new place
Very few people have that many occasions in their lives where they move to an entirely new place, where they don’t know anyone and don’t know the city/location. It’s daunting, but it’s also exciting. If possible, it’s a great idea to head to your uni location a few times before the start of term to explore and get your bearings. If you can’t do that (perhaps you live overseas), then don’t be afraid to ask other students for tips, and maybe treat it as an adventure in your spare time to have a look around. If nothing else, it’s a good excuse to head to more social events!
What do you do with your degree?
It might only be the beginning of your degree but with so many things playing on your mind, many students wonder – is it worth it? The money, the stress, the three or more years where you’re not employed and earning money – then what do you do with it at the end of your degree? Unless you’re doing a degree like medicine, which has a relatively obvious next step, it can all feel a bit vague. This is where coaching and pathway courses can be excellent for channelling those skills into the next steps. Work experience can also be invaluable. However, our best advice would be to have those things in the back of your mind, and think about them in your second or third year – for now, enjoy where you are. It’s an exciting moment and you only go to university for the first time once.