With all of the students starting their terms at university round about now, it got me thinking about my time as a student and all the things I would do over and over again if I could… and all the things I wouldn’t! I drive past my university building almost every day on my way to work, and always have a slight pang of longing to be back in the studio working on my fashion styling degree. I went in to uni blind, as I’d always thought up until the time came to make a decision about whether I’d go or not, that I would take a year out of education after college to figure out what I wanted to do with my life and work to get some money behind me so I could fund some of it myself, but when the time came I decided to dive right in and take a chance, and you know what? Aside from staring longingly out of my car window every once in a while at the place I spent three years of my life, I haven’t really looked back since.
Here’s fifteen things that I wish someone had told me before I went to university, that would have made things a whole lot easier at the time!
1. DON’T TAKE ALL THE MONEY IF YOU DON’T NEED IT! With both of my parents retired, I was entitled to the whole amount of loan and grant money, and stupidly, I took it. I didn’t need to as I had a steady part time job, and admittedly a lot of my loan money went on things that weren’t even related to my studies. Which leads me on to…
2. USE YOUR MONEY WISELY. Whilst there’s obviously going to be a chunk of money spent on socialising and having a good time, I wish I hadn’t blown the rest of it on other things. I always found that I’d run out of funds towards the end of a term when a big brief was due in, cue tonnes of expensive printing and materials I had to copper up to afford.
3. DON’T STRESS TOO MUCH ABOUT FIRST YEAR. The results apparently don’t count towards your final grade, so don’t beat yourself too much if your results aren’t what you wanted, and give yourself some time to let your hair down a little!
4. STAYING AT HOME CAN GIVE YOU FOMO. I chose to live at home for uni instead of halls as it was just a short bus ride away. Yes it saved a shed load of money, but looking back I realise how much I missed out on. Nights out, house parties and a whole load more – I wish I’d made the effort to get more involved.
5. ALL NIGHTERS SUCK. I can remember a fair few occasions where I spent the entire night finishing off an essay or a sketch book – the most vivid one I did entirely with a vintage typewriter. My fingers blistered so bad I had to ask Dan to do the last few pages! Seriously though, just get it done and you’ll sleep easy.
6. DON’T PUT THE WORK OFF UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE. I’d known my dissertation was due for weeks, but I kept putting it off time and time again until I ended up having to rush the second half to get it finished in time. Needless to say I didn’t get the grade I hoped I would. Writing a bit little and often would have made a huge difference.
7. YOU DON’T NEED TO BUY ALL THE BOOKS. I spent a fortune at the start of each year stocking up on fashion styling books and expensive magazines, which, needless to say, I barely even looked at. I still have most of them all now and five years down the line I still haven’t really opened them, but hey, they look great on my bookcase. You win some, you lose some. For those you really do need, Amazon is your friend.
8. HARVARD REFERENCING IS THE DEVIL. Why oh why did we need to do this? Just when you think you’ve finished a 10,000 word essay you realise you have to credit every little thing you looked at. Trust me, if you’re at uni, learn how to do this fast as you will need to do it with every. single. damn. essay. (then quickly forget it when you graduate because you will never need to ever do it again. Like algebra. Why?)
9. YOUR TUTOR HAS AN EMAIL ADDRESS FOR A REASON. Use it! I was one of those people who would keep quiet if I didn’t understand and wait until someone else asked the question. If you’re not the kind of person to speak up and ask, then email your tutor for guidance. They’re there to help.
10. IT’S FINE TO HAVE A WOBBLE. I lost it a few times because I was so overwhelmed with the workload, but now that I have a ‘grown up’ job I’ve realised that actually, the workload was pretty manageable back then. Have a cry, suck it up and crack on with it. You’ve got this.
11. DON’T BE AFRAID TO HAVE YOUR SAY. On a few occasions in some of my classes I didn’t agree with some things, didn’t understand why we were doing some things a certain way, or wasn’t completely happy with the grade I’d been given. Remember you are paying for your degree, so if you have an issue, raise it! (in the best way possible…)
12. TRY NOT TO DOZE OFF IN LECTURES…. no matter how tempting. Design History had to be the most underwhelming module of them all, and the lectures were at the most stupid time on a Friday morning (Thursday was student night in Preston) so you can imagine just how painful. I didn’t listen to any of these, when in actual fact I probably should have.
13. MAKE THE MOST OF THAT DISCOUNT. Oh how I wish I still had an NUS card. You don’t just get given all those discounts for nothing. Make the most of them so that you can’t moan like me when you’re twenty seven and can’t afford those Topshop shoes.
14. WEAR SOMETHING WITH BUTTONS AT YOUR GRADUATION. I didn’t and spent the day being choked by my graduation gown. A dress or shirt with buttons means there is something to hook your gown on to, and zero choking.
15. STAY IN TOUCH WITH FRIENDS YOU MAKE. Over time that awful thing has happened where the people I met at uni have all drifted apart to do their own thing. It’s something that’s bound to happen, especially when you’re all from different parts of the country, but I wish I’d made more of an effort to keep in touch with the people I was closest with. The friends you make at uni could be the best ones you meet in your life, particularly those off your course as they share the same interests! Keep in touch with the people who made your time there the best!
One thing I would say is that university was hands down the best three years of my life so far. The course I chose and the people I met made it such fun and I would do it all again if I was given the chance. However, It’s not always easy to come back to uni, especially if you have job or family commitments . That’s why more and more online universities like NC IUL offer online courses that give students the freedom to learn at their own convenience, something I’m actually looking in to doing to broaden my skills in my current job role!
I wouldn’t be in the job I am now if it wasn’t for my time at uni, so I have so much to thank my time there for!
What would you tell your former self about uni? Are you starting your studies this year?
Written in collaboration with MJ