What I learnt from 4 years at University…(Some useful tips for anybody looking at University)

Thought I should post a more personal post to introduce myself to everyone and hopefully give a little bit of insight into the life of a student, and how to get the most out of your university career.

I am Rhys and have taken over running the events and blog for UMASS. Hopefully most of you reading this have been on our website and seen some of the events we offer, if not, then I’ll just explain a little bit about UMASS. UMASS has been set up to help anybody in Year 12 or Year 13 in the important decisions to be made around their future. We can help with the UCAS application, personal statement writing, choosing the right university for you, and a whole bunch of other events that will help you make the right choice for your future.

As a University of Manchester graduate, I thought this would be a good opportunity to give some tips and hints that I have picked up along the way about university. Not so long ago I was in the same boat as you guys, starting to think about university, what course I wanted to do, getting my head around finance etc. I would have been fine, but the thing I was very focused on was the over repeated and inevitable question – what did I want to do when I grew up?

STOP!! This is where lots of people get worried and scared about the prospect of University, because if you pick the wrong university, spend 3 years on the wrong course, you’ll get a job you hate that you will be stuck with for life and that’s it, right? WRONG. Although these are very important decisions, they are not the be all end all. I for one had changed courses 3 times before I stuck to a degree that suited me best, and at The University of Manchester they understood this and helped me figure out what it is I wanted from my course. So I guess this gives my first piece of guidance –

TIP #1 – Don’t freak out!

It is important to choose a course that you are going to enjoy and are interested in, as that is what will get you through late nights of revision and the mountains of coursework, and in the end, it’s what will get the best grade from you. Take it from me, when it comes to deciding what you want to be, that will come as time passes, whatever you are studying. I know people who came to Manchester wanting to be a doctor and studying Medicine, who since have changed their mind and gone into Chemistry instead. I also know people who came to Manchester not having the faintest about what they wanted to do and have walked straight into a full-time job they love at the end of their degree. That final example was me. Although I had an idea, it was pretty vague. But through university, I thought about all those things I wanted to do, and got as much experience in them as possible, this included charity work, teaching, writing, and design. The only way I became more sure was by finding out the things I didn’t want to do! So here is the second tip –

TIP # 2 –  Whatever you are interested in, go and do it!

This is where I think university, and Manchester in particular is a great opportunity. Even if the degree you are doing doesn’t push all your buttons – there is going to be something out there that does, and chances are the university has a society or a team or an organisation that you can get involved with to explore it! Being a top student that comes out of university as a great potential employee isn’t about getting that first. It’s about learning, adapting, organising and most importantly, being able to communicate to those around you. Now every degree will have an element of this that you will develop along the way, but doing extra-curricular activities will be what separates you from your friends – and it might also just end up being that thing you wanted to be when you grow up. For me, although I loved science which is what I studied, in the end what I wanted from a career was somewhere I could work with a range of people, travel a little, and help and support people in the community. I only found that out, and only got the experience I needed for that, from the charity work, societies and part-time employment that I got involved with whilst being at University.YES, that is experience you can gain from not going to uni, but university is a great platform where you can be independent, indulge in a course you are interested in, and still get to do the societies you want, with all the support you need.

TIP #3- If you have the time, go to work.

By far, the most beneficial part of my time at the University of Manchester was the amount of part-time jobs I had. I got to experience the city in a whole different way whilst still being able to study. For me, needs must and it was the financial elements that drove me to work part-time. But looking back, whether I needed the money or not, it gave me tons of confidence and experience in the real world, and made thinking about my future much less daunting. It was also a great way to meet more people, people who have great contacts and links within the city that might just get you noticed one day.  And you want to get noticed for the right reasons, which is the next point.

TIP #4 – Commit.

Whether it is work, charity work, societies or your course – whatever you do, do it well. There is no point committing to lots of fantastic things if you can’t see them through. Do what you can manage to the very best of your ability, whether this is working in McDonald’s or helping in the community, trust me, one day it WILL pay off. And in the mean time, it gives you a really good attitude towards work, if you push yourself to work hard at whatever you do, then its something that people will notice, and that means doors will open for you further down the line. That leads me to my final piece of advice…

TIP #5 – Start NOW!

Whether you have just completed your GCSE’s, AS Levels, A Levels or have even started university, it is never too early to start applying these things. Getting involved with what you college has to offer extra curricular wise will give you lots of great things to write about when applying to university, or even work and apprenticeships. If your college doesn’t have anything you are interested in, then do your research. There are lots of other ways to get involved, whether it be through your local community, working in a charity shop or maybe even setting up your own enterprise. Whatever it is you are interested in, if you put in a little effort then the reward will be ten fold. This also applies to getting out there and seeing those universities and courses that you are interested in, don’t be afraid to ring and email and arrange meetings yourself with the university you want to go to. If they are anything like the University of Manchester, they will have an array of events that will  be incredibly useful for your decision-making!

Hopefully this has helped some of you who are worrying about the decisions your having to make. Whatever it is you are looking at, do the research and go out and experience it! This goes for all things, but especially university. For me, I came to visit Manchester and absolutely loved it, and I have never looked back since!

To find out more about the events at The University of Manchester, visit;

To find out more about the events UMASS run, go to:

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