8 Life-changing lessons I wish I had learned before I started uni

04 Jul 2019,
By Nana, Student at Heriot Watt University

So you’re about to embark on the adventure-of-a-lifetime that is uni. Congratulations! Here are some foolproof tips to help you make the transition and settle in nicely to student life.

1) Making mistakes is what makes us human

Uni is so much better when you learn to chill and to laugh at your mistakes. You will make an unfathomable number of mistakes at uni, whether they be in your flavour choice at Nando’s or in swiping the wrong way on Tinder.

Either way, the quicker you learn to laugh at yourself and move on, the better off you’ll be. Sometimes you will have no idea what you are doing and that’s okay. Uni is the perfect time for self exploration.

2) Money is not so funny in a student’s world

Oh how I wish I had learned how to manage my money before uni. Getting your card declined over a 99p sausage roll isn’t cute. And if you have £58 left in your bank account, do you really need that £55 pair of cargo trousers from Urban Outfitters? No, no you don’t. We’ve all been there, but try to learn to stop the impulse buys.

Changing the way you think about your money will change the way you manage it. For example, try taking out cash for the week and leave the debit card at home. Taking out a limited amount of money will make you stop and think before you buy. Plus, contactless is deadly.

Related: The beginner’s guide to budgeting as a student

3) Practising good physical health pays off

Don’t forget the paracetamol when you pack for uni, because freshers’ flu is not a myth. The struggle is real. I thought I was special, but freshers’ flu doesn’t discriminate.

Take care of your physical health, eat those greens, and lay off the McDonalds (with the exception of the fries because potatoes are a vegetable and vegetables are good).

Related: Freshers’ flu: Here’s how you can battle the bug

4) Learning how to cook will save your life

Ditch the takeaway pizza, cut down on your eight weekly £3 meal deals, and make some lasagne instead. Grating cheese isn’t so scary, unless you’re lactose intolerant of course, in which case I understand.

Cooking for yourself is a good life skill to have. Not only is it better for your wellbeing, but it will save you some coins so you can purchase those pink sparkly pens from Paperchase guilt-free.

Related: 10 Tasty and filling 30-minute meals to master this term

5) If you do not try, you will not pass

Those igneous rocks you didn’t learn about in geomorphology, or the page in the textbook on price elasticity of supply that you thought you could skip in first year, will creep up on you in third year.

Also, I know this sounds like common sense but… please go to your lectures. Even if first year doesn’t count towards your final grade, it all still counts.

6) Discipline and time management go a long way

These are my three biggest weaknesses, and I still struggle with them now. But I would have struggled less if I’d adopted better habits before I started uni.

You don’t have to train like an athlete (unless of course you are one), but maybe eat 30 chicken nuggets instead of 38. Or just set yourself a time to go to bed for the week and stick to it. Discipline and organisation can make such a big, positive difference, not just at uni but in all aspects of your life.

Related: ‘I maximise on the early hours’: Kudzi’s typical study day

7) Opening your mind is exciting

So many good opportunities will come to you at uni, so try to grab a few along the way. Don’t swat people away like flies. I understand the temptation to, they are weird, they make noise and they sometimes smell. But, all in all, meeting new people isn’t that bad.

This is your time to try something new. You may never have freedom like this again, so take on a new or hobbie or travel somewhere you never thought you could go. Just open up and let your imagination run wild.

Related: ‘I felt… fine’: How forgetting my earphones changed my life

8) Being you is the coolest thing to be

Not to go all Tumblr 2010 on you but… just be yourself. Don’t ever apologise for being who you are. If you love Crocs or have a talent for balancing boiled eggs on your forehead, then go you! Do whatever feels authentic to you. Dye your hair green, wear brown socks and orange sandals if that's your heart’s desire.

Okay, I admit maybe the last one was a little too far. But my point is, don’t feel pressured into being anything you’re not. Being you is the coolest thing to be, and people will appreciate that more than you think.

Don’t get too caught up in social media, take some time off Instagram. You may see someone on a beach in Bali, drinking out of a coconut, looking flawless, but the chances are they just have immense Photoshop and Facetune skills. Social media isn’t real life.

Related: I deleted social media. Here’s why I think you should too.

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By Nana
Student at Heriot Watt University