11 Life skills to learn and master in your first year

05 Jul 2019,
By Unite Students, Staff writer at The Common Room

What will you remember about university in 20 years’ time? Take it from someone who knows, it’ll be the things you learned about life rather than what you learned in lectures.

Every student takes a course they never signed up for. It’s called Adulting: An Introduction, and lectures run every day during first year.

Here are 11 things you’ll be able to do like a pro by next summer.

1) Make a budget

Budgeting is about one thing: making sure there’s more money coming in than there is going out. Making that happen takes discipline and organisation.

Learn how to set and stick to a budget early. Make it a part of your daily routine and you’ll dodge a major source of stress for new students.

Read more: The beginner’s guide to budgeting as a student

2) Turn down an invite

Yes is a great word. Yes gets us into all sorts of exciting situations - especially when we’re meeting new people. Yes can be just what the doctor ordered.

But you can’t say yes to everything, and being able to politely refuse is a seriously underrated life skill. ‘No I’m gonna skip this one thanks, maybe next time.’

3) Clean a flat

First time living away from home? You’re about to learn how to keep a home clean and tidy, and also just how little some people care about doing that.

Get a cleaning rota in place. Start a shared kitty for cleaning products. Wipe up, wash up, and clear away straight after cooking. And stick to the rota for the shared spaces.

Read more: Cleaning: Pro tips from our housekeeping team

4) Give a presentation

Nobody expects you to give a TED Talk right now. But you will probably have to present to the class at some point this year. For lots of undergrads, that’s a new experience.

Does your heart race at the thought of presenting? If it does, look for opportunities to practise now - it’s the best way to improve your skills and raise your confidence.

5) Say you’re sorry

Compromise - shared living is full of it. Whether you’re at uni or in full-time work, you can’t share a home with other people without learning to let some things slide.

Choose your battles wisely. Not every annoying thing is worth a fight. Learn to laugh-off some of it. And if you’ve messed up, saying ‘I’m really sorry’ goes a long way.

6) Manage your time

You’ll notice quite quickly how little time you spend in class, compared with A-Level and GCSE. Welcome to university, where self-study is the name of the game.

Use calendar and to-do list apps to keep on top of your deadlines. Get into a healthy study/social rhythm. Avoid the stress of leaving work till the last minute.

Read more: 6 Smart productivity apps for students

7) Introduce yourself

In your first few weeks at university, you’ll have more conversations with strangers than at any other point in your life. That is, until you start a new office job.

Unsure how to start a conversation? Try the compliment-and-question technique. ‘Hi, I love your boots. Where are they from?’ 60% of the time, it works every time.

8) Cook a decent meal

Your new independence means you now have to put a roof over your own head and food on your own table. The former takes care of itself, the latter you’ll learn.

Keep the cupboard stocked with essentials. Shop smart. Start by mastering five simple, nutritious dishes. Then discover batch cooking, tupperware, and freezing.

Read more: Batch cooking: Take the stress out of your kitchen

9) Ask for help

We can be so reluctant to do it. But we can’t - and shouldn’t expect to - do everything alone. Life is about connections, and shared experiences, and compassion.

By your second year, you’ll be an expert at finding the people who can help - financially, academically, professionally. There’s no shame in accepting it, none at all.

10) Check your work

You don’t get to university without knowing your way around a spellchecker. But proofreading goes up a notch at university, with higher word counts, bibliographies, and references.

Plan your time so you have plenty left for proofing when your assignment is written. Go slow, double-check the facts, and be meticulous about finding typos.

11) Switch off and relax

It takes a surprising amount of effort to do absolutely nothing. Especially at university, when there’s so much stuff competing for your time and attention.

You’ll appreciate the importance of taking a break from study, from socials, from societies. There’s nothing like some me-time to recharge the batteries.

Read more: 45 Easy ways to relax in your room

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By Unite Students
Staff writer at The Common Room