For me, it didn’t really sink in that I was at university until I was lying in my bed on the first night with my brain screaming at me: you are now fully responsible for yourself! You have to go food shopping! You have to wash your own underwear!
I think that’s how it is for a lot of people. At school, everyone makes such a big deal of university, that once you’ve actually made it, the whole scenario seems unreal. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying university is not a big deal – it’s probably one of the most exhilarating and life-changing experiences you will have in your life, but when people build something up in their minds, it leads to a lot of misconceptions being formed.
University is wrapped up in a lot of myths – everything from what lectures will be like, to what friends you will make. So I’m writing this post to address some of these myths and to reassure you that, if you’re panicking right now, things really aren’t as scary as they seem.
You have to drink to have fun
This is probably one of the most common misconceptions about university and one that is the least true. For example, the events during Welcome Week, which include bowling trips, quiz nights, club nights, treasure hunts and movie and pizza nights, offer students the opportunity to get involved in a variety of activities. Each university hall of residence has a student-elected Junior Common Room (JCR) who work together to enhance student life in halls. The JCRs are well-aware that there is a good proportion of students who don’t drink alcohol and therefore make it their aim to have all-inclusive icebreaker events that everyone can get involved with. Manchester is such a diverse city with so much going on, that you won’t be stuck for choice of what to do!
I’m going to be too homesick to enjoy Welcome Week
This is another worry that a lot of first year students have, but there is so much support at hand that it should not worry you at all. I thought I was going to be really homesick, but I was so busy during Welcome Week that there really wasn’t time to think about what’s going on at home! A few of my friends were homesick, but we all had each other to talk to about it, so it didn’t last for long.
You will be surprised how quickly first term goes – before you know it, you will be back home for Christmas!
I have to change who I am to fit in
No! There are thousands of students in Manchester, all as unique and different as you can imagine! With all the different subjects, societies and communities within the University, you will find your people. What makes us different is why we make such a great University!
I will find my best friends in Welcome Week
Apart from those I met in halls, who are still my best friends today, it’s highly unlikely you will complete your circle of friends by the end of day one. Welcome Week is a great opportunity to meet as many people as possible and try things you’ve never done before – like joining crazy societies and taking impromptu trips! However, don’t panic if you don’t find your ‘best friends’ during the first week. A large majority of the friends I have now are a mix from my subject and halls, but a lot of them I only met after Welcome Week.
I don’t need to work hard in first year, it doesn’t count!
I wish this one was true, but alas, it is not. Although my first year didn’t count, I still felt it was important to work as hard as you can. It is important to build up a good reputation among tutors and try to improve as much as possible to set yourself
in good stead for second year.
Your first year is a really good opportunity to get to grips with university level of study and you’re not going to get any better if you don’t put any effort in. Also, it feels good when you get grades back and you can see how much you’ve improved from the start of the year! However, it’s also a good idea to keep a balance between working hard and having fun – first year is about making great friends and trying out lots of new things to start your university career off with a bang!]]>
My name is Safiya, I’m a University of Manchester undergraduate student! Ever wondered what university is like? Want to have access to a student perspective? Well, this is perfect! I’m going to be answering some of the most common questions people have about university and I will also be writing from my own personal experiences so you can get to really know what to do if you choose to go to university!
First and foremost a little about me: I study Medicine with European Studies (in Spanish). I chose to study Medicine because I feel like it’s my passion and I hope one day to give back to others using my skills and expertise. The University of Manchester is the only medical school in the UK to offer a language as part of the course and since I did a language in school I really didn’t want to forget it so I took up it at university.
I think that picking the right course for you is key. A lot of people decide to do degrees for reasons other than out of their own desire and passion for the subject. This can often make the work tedious and the experience a gloomy one! So, my first suggestion is to pick something you’re passionate about. Doing something you enjoy is far more fun and it will feel just way, way easier. But don’t stress, there’s always room for change: if you feel like the course you’ve picked isn’t for you, you can seek help from your tutors and academic advisors, they are there to guide you.
Now you might be asking why I chose Manchester? When I initially applied through UCAS I was torn between two cities. I wasn’t sure which city to choose so I consulted my peers and the staff at the two universities, I found that in terms of research opportunities, which is something I’m very passionate about, The University of Manchester outranked many other universities. I also found out that it’s considered a Russell Group university. Follow this link to find out more about research here at the university.
I am originally from Manchester and therefore I know the area well, which is another reason why I chose Manchester. Now, do not fear a city because you don’t know it very well – many of my friends say the best thing they did was move to a completely new and unfamiliar city; this gave them independence and an opportunity to grow and develop as individuals. I would say that the best way to decide whether a city is for you is to visit each university on their open days. These are very useful ways to see the university, the campus, the faculty buildings and staff, and get a feel for the city. The University of Manchester hosts open days in the Autumn and Summer seasons so if you want to find out about the university come visit us!
I saw that this campus had the largest student’s union in the country and has around 40,000 students in attendance each year! This blew me away! The number of societies and sport possibilities are endless and it’s all up to you what you want to get involved with! I’m currently part of several medical societies where I attend talks and events put on specifically for the society – free food is good food!
I also work part-time for the university as a student ambassador which involves me doing different types of work, from campus tours to open days, to even writing blogs for new prospective students exactly like this one! It’s great how many opportunities there are both on and off campus.
I have had many opportunities as a student in Manchester. Last summer I went to Spain for a medical placement that I found thanks to the large host of information about the Erasmus programme made available by the university. Whilst away in Spain I didn’t just go to my hospital placements, I also had the opportunity to explore Spain and I went to lots of different places included the Arc de Triomf in Barcelona – it was so beautiful and I can’t wait to go back! It was one of the best aspects of my degree and I encourage everyone to take up the opportunity to study or work abroad.
Before attending university, I was subscribed to UMASS and I received emails and newsletters about various opportunities from access programmes to personal statement tips and advice. I used the UMASS website along with other resources to help me in my application to university and four years later I thank them greatly for giving me a greater insight into university life. It’s a great tool to aid your university application if you decide to go! Follow these blogs for more information in the coming weeks and if you have any questions or ideas please let us know. I’ve attached some useful links to resources I’ve mentioned in this blog so check those out below,
Thanks for reading and all the best,
Applying to university, choosing the right course and more:
Open day information:
Incentives. It’s important to incentivise yourself at every step of the way in your time at university. Deferring gratification when trying to develop self-discipline and consistent study habits, reminding yourself of how worth it all the effort will be when you throw your graduation cap in the air. Forcing yourself to study for X number of hours before you read that chapter of that book you just can’t put down, or watch that next episode on Netflix. These short-term and long-term incentives are helpful, but it’s good to have mid-term incentives too. After exams, this year, I hope to be enjoying some exotic food and culture, as well as getting a vitamin D boost, somewhere in the Mediterranean. I also look forward to chipping madly away at my nearly 2000 book-long to-read list, although I already sneak a chapter of fiction in on my study breaks. Most of all, I can’t wait to catch up with family and friends back at home in London. As I did lots during my year out from university, I didn’t apply for any internships this time around as I want to focus on catching up on my studies and preparing myself for Final Year, but I will continue working as an enquiry management assistant at the university to earn some money over the summer. I will also have to spend some time thinking about what I want to write about in my dissertation, as well as what I want to do immediately after I graduate, so I already have plenty on my hands for the summer.
As important as it is to enjoy the extensive time off while you still have it as a student, it is important also to not waste it. So, watch some Netflix, but not too much of it. I have friends who will be doing industrial placements and internships, while others will be volunteering or studying abroad. Some people choose to work the whole of summer, others travel, and some – like me – do both. Whatever you do, think through it and plan well, so that you ensure that you are using your time wisely. You don’t want to develop habits that will hinder you in your next phase of life, whether it be full-time work or the next stage in your education. Hence, for me, I want to be as prepared as possible to put my best foot forward in 3rd Year. So, I hope to fill in as many gaps in my knowledge as possible. In saying that, however, it is also not wise to burn myself out before September.
As with all things, it’s about moderation and balance. Work proportionately to your commitments, and rest proportionately to your work. Above all, enjoy the journey! Learn from every experience and savour every moment. After all, you’re only ever going to be an undergraduate student (for the first time) once!]]>
For me, preparation takes the form of identifying four topics that I am going to revise thoroughly, which gives me some flexibility when I get into the exam and see the questions. For instance, if I only revised two topics and the questions for those were much more difficult that I was expecting, I wouldn’t be able to do much about it. However, having two extra questions as a safety net allows me to feel much more confident as I walk in to the exam. Once I have identified the topics I am going to revise, I then work through the relevant material assigned for those topics. This includes going over lecture notes, the required readings and the further readings. Once I have got more familiar with the topic, I’ll move on to creating mind maps for past paper questions. Instead of memorising answers to past papers and then attempting to regurgitate them in the actual exam, I find I perform much better if I try to develop a real understanding of the issues at hand in the topic during my revision. Having a good grasp of the topic better prepares you for any question that might turn up in the exam.
The University of Manchester puts a lot of extra support in place for students during exam time to not only cater for the increase in numbers wanting to study, but also to help make sure students are staying healthy and mindful during this more stressful period. Exam Extra allows students to track where available PCs are across the University’s multiple study spaces, as well as the libraries operating longer opening times. Exam support workshops are put in place to help students practice mindfulness techniques so they can approach a full day of revision in a much more clam and productive manner. During the two exam periods of January and May/June, a two week timetable of sport classes are made available for free to ensure that students can keep healthy and de-stressed. Classes on offer include yoga, swimming, as well as various fitness classes such as interval training and body conditioning.
Indeed, exam periods are more high pressure than elsewhere in the semester, however the support is there for you to make sure you can do your best when that exam dates come. It is also vital that you practice some self-care too during this period. Making sure your sleeping and eating well, as well as taking regular breaks really do help to avoid you burning out.
Learn Exactly the Way You Learn
Once you know how best you learn, stick to it. In Sixth Form, I enjoyed making colourful mind maps and posters and because I was studying English Literature, I had been used to annotating texts. When I arrived at university to study something new, I mistakenly discarded some of my most effective learning styles. I’m not saying watching one too many episodes of Suits had anything to do with it, but somewhere down the line I thought I could thrive on a photographic memory – a skill that only works for me when doing last minute revision on the morning of an exam. I realised this wasn’t good for me. I realised you should abandon a method when it is not appropriate for the task, or it does not work for you. In saying that, be careful not to make excuses for yourself. Many a time I have heard a student say that they work best under pressure, which is often simply an excuse for procrastination and poor time management.
Another part of knowing yourself is not just identifying how you learn, but also identifying obstacles to your learning. What are your barriers to effective studying? Social media? Food? Netflix? Socialising? Whatever the distraction, it is important to either set apart time for them, keep them to a minimum, or eliminate them altogether. Doing well in your studies will always require some measure of sacrifice because you only get out what you put in. So get rid of distractions and prepare the folders, binders, notes, and all the materials you need to put your best foot forward. Knowing yourself is about creating the conditions under which you flourish.
Learn Patience in Learning
Just as important as being able to identify the ways in which you learn, and sticking to it, is the time it takes to learn. As a student with a specific learning difficulty, namely dyspraxia, this has been a recurring lesson for me. Learning takes time for everyone, but I especially have had to learn to be patient with myself, and take things one at a time.
Once you know what work needs completing and when, it’s time to work out what learning style works best for you. Depending on your course you may have 100% assessed work, 100% exams or a mix of both for your assessment. Studying Politics and Philosophy, my assessment is a mix of both essays and exams. Of course, preparing for both takes slightly different techniques. Studying for an essay tends to involve a lot of reading, allowing time to formulate your ideas and argument, and then getting on with writing it. They traditionally take a bit longer to do, however they are often due half way through the module, before you are swamped with exam dates at the end. I know it’s a cliché, but it’s a cliché for a reason – start working towards deadlines early! At the beginning of a module, there tends to be a bit more free time before the deadlines start rolling it. My advice is to use that time to get a head start on some of the readings because before you know it, you have deadlines in other modules taking up your time.
Exam revision takes a different technique than preparing for assessed work. A good first step is to make sure you know exactly what content is going to be covered in the exam. In order to do this, make use of lecture slides and notes, and don’t be afraid about asking any questions about the exam format to your lecturer or tutor. Once you know what to focus on, it’s time to develop confidence with your knowledge. Some people revise best by condensing notes into snappy revision cards, or by highlighting their notes, it’s simply about finding out what works best for you. I find it particularly useful to create mind maps for past exam questions with everything relevant that I can remember from my revision, this helps me to formulate and remember plans to replicate in the exam. Whether your exams are essay based, multiple choice or short questions, practising exam papers is great for revision as it gets you comfortable with the structure the exam will take.
I hope these top tips have been useful during your study periods, but always remember, if the workload gets too much – ask for help! There’s tons of support there for you from your Academic Advisor, Course Tutors, to Peer Support. Or if you prefer, chat to other people on your course – it can be a great way to calm nerves to know other people are having the same worries!