The leap between A-level and University – swimming instead of sinking

I don’t think anyone will ever be able to fully prepare you for University. It’s one of those things that you have to experience for yourself. And it can be the most daunting thing you’ve ever been through.

There’s so much going on at once; you’re leaving home, which for many will be a new experience; you’re moving to a new place, which is a massive deal for many who may have lived in exactly the same place their entire lives; you’re moving onto a level of study; you have to make new friends, get to know new places, new routines-It’s a series of new experiences all one after the other.

Because there’s so much happening and so much going on it’s so easy to become overwhelmed, especially in those first few weeks. I remember after Freshers’ week when I began my course I felt completely like a duck out of water. I remember walking out of one of my introductory lectures wondering what the hell is going on and why on earth I ever thought I was smart enough to go to University.

Here are some things to remember during these first overwhelming weeks.

  1. It may seem like everyone’s got it together apart from you – they’re lying

This was the most common problem I found. It just seemed like everyone else knew exactly what they were doing. Everyone was nodding in lectures, asking smart questions, keeping up with the readings, eating proper meals, doing their laundry and keeping their rooms tidy. And then there was me, completely lost in most lectures, asking stupid questions, already 15 weeks behind reading even though we were only in week 2, eating jelly for dinner, buying new underwear because I hadn’t done laundry and living in a room that resembled a bomb site.

But the thing you’ll soon realise is that it’s all lies. Nobody has any idea what they’re doing. I’m in my second year now and I still have no idea what’s going on and eat jelly for dinner.

It’s okay to have no idea what’s happening in those first weeks- because neither does anybody else. It’s a transition period and it’s a big change for everybody. I repeat something I mentioned in my last blog- everyone is in the same boat. I think that’s probably the most important and comforting thing to remember in those first few weeks because you will feel like you’re drowning a little bit but that’s okay.

I promise you you’ll soon learn to swim.

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  1. It’s okay to be average

Now I don’t know about any of you guys but I came from an area with very poor education provision. I came from a sixth form where I was in the top of my classes and where I felt like I was ‘smart’. And then I came to University where everybody was equally as clever as me or a whole lot more clever (which seemed to be the case more than the first option) and I found it hard.

I went from being that annoying straight A student who basically had a reputation for being the class nerd to being that girl struggling behind everybody else and getting average grades. I was not used to being considered average, and I seriously struggled with coming to terms with that fact. And that’s actually okay. I put so much pressure on myself to be that star student and get a first, but I soon realised that there was so much else to University. I soon realised that this was a massive step up from sixth form and I had to let go with this obsession with perfection.

It’s actually okay to be average. You’re in a top 10 University surrounded by students who got the same A level/BTEC grades as you. You’re going to be fairly equal with your class because you all got the same good grades for a good University. Be proud of that, and don’t become obsessed with trying too hard. There’s a reason the first year of your degree doesn’t count towards your final degree grade.

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Me and my course mates straight after we finished first year, in which we all got the same grade

  1.  There is so much more to University than grades

University shapes you as a person. There are so many opportunities here and you should take advantage of as many as possible. One really important thing that helped me to feel settled and stop feeling overwhelmed was getting involved in societies and working as a student ambassador. Having other things apart from study to put my energy into was an amazing stress reliever and also a really good way to feel integrated and involved in the University.

It’s really what has made my University experience as amazing as it is and what’s really helped me to grow as a person in my time so far. There’s so many amazing things to take part in, and it doesn’t look bad on your CV either.

Don’t spend your entire first year stressing out about your grades, yes they’re important but it’s also important to focus on growing as a person, maturing, and getting skills that employers look for. You’re not paying nine grand a year just to study, there’s so much more you can get out of your experience.

Take as many opportunities as you can.

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Getting involved with the STAR (Student Action for Refugees) society

  1. Lastly, breathe and be patient

Breathe. This is probably the most important advice I can give you. Just simply breathe, and know that it actually all will be okay. Yes you will feel stressed and overwhelmed at first, but I promise that it won’t be long before you feel completely at home. Be patient with yourself, everyone makes transitions like these at different rates. Don’t panic if everyone seems adjusted except you. Just keep breathing and remembering that it will all be fine, very very soon.

You can do this! You’ll soon be swimming along merrily.

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