The Emotional Impact of University

Starting university can throw up a whole host of emotions, and everyone will experience their first year in a different way. But being prepared for what emotions you might feel may put you at ease and realise that you are not alone in what you are feeling.

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The “I cannot believe I am at university” emotion. It is a mixture of excitement and fear. It will hit you one day, and it might not be for a few weeks. Usually within your friendship groups, one will declare this feeling which leads to everyone else saying the same. University is a big eye-opener for everyone and the reasons behind it will be personal to you. It will pass, but by the end of year it will come back again. But this time you’ll be less panicky.


Pic 7The “I can’t fit in everything, there’s too much to do” emotion. Feeling overwhelmed is very normal. It is a big step coming to university, as for a lot of people it will be the first time away from home. For mature students, you might have anxieties about how long you have been out of education for. This is all normal. Just have a chat to your Personal Academic Tutor (PAT) or any of your lecturers. At the Northampton, Dr Drew Gray runs a drop-in workshop for History students that would also be good if you want a chat about any concerns, or just history in general!


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The “I just want a hug” emotion. The first year can be very stressful at times, and with the mix of fresher’s flu and caffeine in your system, sometimes you just want a hug. Feeling run down gets to us all, and it is usually when you first fall ill that you realise you really need a ‘mum’ hug. Homesickness is a big thing, no matter how much you have tried to mentally prepare yourself for it, so if it’s anything that I have learned from my first year, is that one of you will be calling the other one up giving each other support in times when you need it most.


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The “I don’t know what I’m doing”, “I don’t have authority on this” or “Everyone is going to realise I don’t know what I’m talking about (even though I do!)” emotion. This is commonly known as ‘Imposter Syndrome’ and affects everyone, regardless of what level degree you are studying, how old you are or how long you have been in the profession for.  There’s no one ‘cure’ that magics this away, but strategies like positive thinking and trying to visualise a different outcome when you are feeling this way can help lessen the emotions. There are tons of articles on the internet that provide different ways of coping, and YouTube also has a few good videos for further explanation and strategies.


These are just a few examples of the emotions that you may face when you begin, or return, to university. Everyone is different and some of you may thrive off the stress of essay deadlines and have a wonderful time from beginning to end – and that’s OK! But don’t forget that there are provisions put in place to help you if you are feeling a little bit lost.

It will be easier to talk to your PAT at the first sign rather than leaving it a few months in, as you can create a course of action and nip it in the bud before it feels like everything will spiral out of control.

There is also a free and confidential Counselling and Mental Health Team that the University of Northampton  offers, and there is Northampton Nightline (supported by the Students Union) which is run by students, for students. Don’t be afraid to use these services if you need them, you never know what might happen in your time during university; there is no shame in asking for help.


Kay Montero, a BA History student at the University of Northampton who is just starting her second year.