Michael, the editor of the Student Minds blog, shares some tips and tricks for navigating #FresherPressure.
– Michael Priestley
The university start can be fun and exciting! But it can also feel challenging, especially when you sit down and find your feet. I started college after two years of full-time work and found the initial transition to be quite disoriented, intimidating, and overwhelming. I felt like I didn’t belong and this made me worried about others and more negatively about my own social and academic skills. 6 years later, I’m still at the same university doing a PhD in student mental health and wellbeing. I feel a lot happier and more confident. Here I give my 5 tips for managing when you start university.
1. Find your university support
You may never need it, but it can always be helpful to have an idea from the start of where to look for support if you feel you are having problems. Find out what student welfare services and general pastoral care your university offers, what they do, and how to access them. It helped me to speak to a member of staff early – after that they would look out for me for the first few weeks and help me find some really useful support!
2. Ask for help if you need it
Speak when you feel overwhelmed or anxious. I found that people were really supportive and accommodating when they knew I was having problems, but with so many other students, they might not realize that something was wrong unless you tell them. Also, don’t be afraid to ask about student life in general. I thought if I asked questions about academic or social issues, people would think I was stupid and it would only confirm my feelings that I don’t fit in or belong. But it gets harder to ask as time goes by. The first few weeks are a good time to explore how it all works and to ask questions.
3. Go into a healthy routine
When you come to university, you may have fewer mandatory contact hours than you are used to. For some, it can be difficult to know when to start work, while it can be difficult for others to know when to stop. Either way, it’s helpful to get into a healthy routine early on to balance your time and take care of yourself. I found it helped me to treat my university work like a job with set times and spaces. I chose to only work in the university library so I could keep my room as the time and space to relax and unwind.
4. Organize yourself
Because I felt anxious and overwhelmed, it really helped me organize. Use a journal, record academic deadlines and other commitments, submit your thesis, and regularly check and sort your university emails to make sure you are on the right track and aren’t missing out. This will likely save you last minute stress and panic!
5. Relationships are important
A good network of friends will help you get the most out of your university experience. While it takes time and effort to build new friendships, it’s really worth it. If you struggle to meet new people, you won’t be alone – there will be other people who feel the same way and who really appreciate a smile and chat. Or you could try to find ways to meet people with similar interests by joining societies or volunteering.
Everyone’s university trip is unique and we all go to university with different hopes, fears and expectations. Try to make things at your own pace based on the advice that feels right for you.
I’m Michael and I’m the editor of the Student Minds blog. I’m a PhD student at Durham University studying Mental Health and Wellbeing. I write for Student Minds to share my own experiences with mental health issues and to advocate change to improve student mental health.