3 things I would tell my Fresher self
Having just finished my final year of uni, there’s an awful lot I’ve learned over the past three years. What would I have told my Fresher self? A lot.
Take it easy
“Forty per cent, that’s all I need; just forty per cent,” said the stream of nervous Freshers heading into our exams. We had all resigned ourselves to achieving the bare minimum needed to pass into our Second Year. It was smart of us, really – because the first year didn’t count towards our final degree classification. I knew this – tutors had made this abundantly clear in every single lecture I attended.
I knew that first year didn’t count, but that doesn’t mean I believed it. Despite the warnings, I worked my socks off to get the best results possible. Having bagged a 2.1, I was happy. Extremely happy. Start as you mean to go on, as they say.
Was that grade worth the price? Absolutely not. I felt unbelievably stressed going into those exams and objectively worked far too hard for a grade that, ultimately, did not actually count towards the certificate that I’ve paid £27,000 for. Getting good grades does open more doors for you after graduation but experience counts for a lot of your employability.
Work hard, sure. University is what you make of it, and there’s no sense in going if you’re not going to try your hardest to get the grades you deserve. But you shouldn’t ever feel that stressed when your mark won’t even account for a whole year of study. Remember: forty per cent is still a pass.
Don’t think this means you can slack, but don’t be harsh on yourself if you’ve tried your hardest and don’t get the grades you wanted. Maybe don’t be so hard on yourself in the first year – uni assignments take some getting used to.
Friendships: Be selective
Moving in with four strangers in 2015 was daunting. I’d fledged the nest, and should have made an effort to socialise with my flatmates as much as possible, although this isn’t the end of the world.
Instead, I made the mistake of trying to befriend everybody. That girl in the introductory lecture? Friends. The lad I sat next to in that one seminar? Friends. The poor girl who got lost in the library? Friends. I really did want to be the Big Name On Campus (AKA: BNOC. Only other people decide you’re a BNOC. Stop trying to make it happen, Fresher Josh).
It’s not necessarily a bad thing to chat to everybody; in fact, that’s the whole point of university – to meet new people. But it is so infuriatingly easy to stretch yourself too thin. You run the risk of knowing everybody, but not really knowing anybody.
Thankfully, everything worked out. I still live with some of my original flatmates, and we’re looking for a place to live after graduation. Likewise, the pals I made on my course are some of my best friends. But that doesn’t take away from the initial difficulties I faced when I couldn’t call many people close friends.
Focus on a small group of pals, or multiple small groups (your flatmates, a couple of course mates, and the lads in the rowing squad), until you’ve acquired a tight-knit circle of mates. Who knows? They may introduce you to their friends, and so your circle grows.
I would my Fresher self to get off your sofa, and join a gym. You’ve never going to have this much free time again – and while making friends with your flatmates is important (see above), you should use this time to get in shape.
I joined a Taekwondo group in my first year but wasn’t a fan of their style of martial art. I ended up not going very often and certainly wasted the £120 fee. Joining a society to play sports is a great way to get fit, sure – and the social perks are fantastic – but they won’t offer the same level of gains that a gym will if that’s your goal. It’s also generally a lot easier to make time for the gym.
I went every morning before uni, and only regret a few of the times I could have stayed in bed instead. Plus, gyms are fantastic opportunities for ‘Me Time’, or to catch up on that one podcast, or listen to a few new Spotify albums. You’ll kill two birds with one stone by joining.