Making the most of your University experience…

I don’t know about you, but I remember February as a Year 13 student as a less than pleasant month. I was still waiting to hear back from my two favourite universities while many of my friends basked in the glory of their offers, my coursework was starting to pile up around me, and I was stressed about a couple of January modules that hadn’t gone nearly as well as I’d hoped. And to top it all off, and despite my English Lit teacher’s best efforts, I still hated Jane Austen.

For much of your sixth form or college career so far you’ll probably have been endlessly researching the ins and outs of different universities and their courses. What course you take is very important, and research into what’s on offer is an important process to help secure the right place at the right university for you.

But to be quite honest you might well have had enough of UMS conversions, entry requirements and personal statements by now, I know I certainly had! So it’s important to keep in mind that in around seven months time you could be taking one of the most exciting steps you’ll ever take and be heading off to university. Going to uni is about so much more than just your academic career, and you will never get a better opportunity to get involved in a bigger variety of activities…

Making the most of your Students’ Union

Every university in the UK has a Students’ Union, and they often act as a hub for many of the extracurricular activities on campus. They’re probably best described as organisations to help students get involved in things they are passionate about. They’re normally run by student sabbatical officers who are elected by other students, meaning they’ll always have your interests at heart.

These ‘things’ you are passionate about could be anything you can possibly think of, and it is normally through student societies within the SU that you will have the opportunity to make things happen. Whether you’re into obscure sports, environmental issues, human rights, foreign cinema, religion, good food, gaming, musicals, or even just baking, there’s bound to be a society of like minded students that’s perfect for you. And if there isn’t, start one yourself! Students’ Unions have project funding to help you do what you want and get the absolute most out of your time at uni.

The Students’ Union can also be home to student newspapers, radio and university TV channels, which give you the opportunity to get yourself out there and gain valuable media experience. The SU is also there to protect your rights as students, so if there’s something you feel needs demonstrating for or against, they’ll give you the means to make your voice heard.

Making the most of your cultural assets

Wherever you are and whatever you’re studying, make sure you take the time to properly explore the area you’re in. Even if you’re staying in the city you’ve lived in all your life, your University timetable should give you the time to really get to grips with what’s around you and discover a host of great new things to do.

Most universities will have links to some great museums, galleries and other cultural sites. When I was a student in Manchester I loved volunteering and working with children at the Manchester Museum and John Rylands Library, and a friend of mine studying at the University of East Anglia became a volunteer curator at the university’s Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts. It’s really good fun, great experience and might just give you an idea of what you want to do after university (yes, terrifying I know).

As a student, you’ll be part of a really diverse, creative community unlike any you’ll have been part of before. Take advantage of this and go to random comedy nights, unusual gigs and bizarre theatre productions you’re not even sure you’ll like. Why not, you’ll probably never get as good (and cheap!) an opportunity again.

Make the most of the vast array of sports you can have a go at too. Have you ever heard of aikido? No, neither have I, but apparently most universities have a society dedicated to it. I’m pretty sure some places even have an extreme ironing team these days… For those people looking to play slightly more conventional sports, universities will have teams, leagues and non-competitive clubs pitched at a variety of ability-levels, meaning you can get involved in anything, with anyone, at any time.

Making the most of your community

When you’re at university, you’re part of a far bigger community than just the student one. Nearly all universities offer you the chance to volunteer in your local area. Whether you fancy working with children, driving a minibus of pensioners to Asda for their weekly shop, or lending a hand to a dedicated group of volunteers in a soup kitchen, your university will provide you with countless ways to do something unique and valuable in your local community.

Another great way to get involved in your local community is to get a job. Universities’ careers services will often advertise appropriate part-time jobs on their websites and around campus. As long as its balanced with your academic work, a job can be a fantastic way of supplementing your student loan and gaining experience to write about on your CV.

So there we have it, a very quick guide to making the most of the opportunities your time at University will provide you with. So as you trudge to class through the snow over the next couple of months for what might seem like and endless stream of revision sessions and coursework surgeries, just remember that there’s light at the end of the tunnel!