University is hard, and it’s hard to know how to prepare for it. To help, here are my top tips for new students. I made these tips from lessons I learnt from my first-year experience.
1. Know how much money you have.
I know this sounds simple but it is very important. Before coming to university, I would advise every student to have a conversation with their parents or guardians about how much money the student has with their maintenance loan and whether their parents can give support financially on top of that.
Remember, every student’s situation is different.
Also, make sure you remember to do your student finance at the end of each year, you don’t want to get to 2nd year and have no money: Student Finance England
2. Use social media
Before I came to university, I joined the University’s Fresher’s Page: University of Northampton New Students. This meant I could ask questions to staff members easily and also meant I found other people doing a history degree.
We created a Facebook group chat of every history student we found so we could get to know each other a bit.
Social media can also be used to get to know the history department, such as following lectures on Twitter or by reading posts on this history blog. Here is a link to the Fresher’s group for this year University of Northampton Freshers Facebook Page
3. Write lists
If you’re moving to go to university and are living in halls, lists are essential when packing. Before I moved, I walked around my parents’ kitchen writing down any utensils that I thought might be useful.
Even if you’re staying at home while you’re studying, make a list of stationary you might need, documents you need to print out for enrollment and what you need to do before classes start.
Asking parents or friends to help with this can make it less daunting, and means they can suggest items which you may not have thought of.
4. Get involved in Welcome Week
Welcome week is your first week at university after enrollment, and you’ll be given a welcome week timetable for history students. Welcome Week includes activities where you can meet other people on the course and the lecturers.
You will also be visited by students in other year groups and those from the History Society.
Welcome Week is also when university led activities such as Fresher’s Fest and the society fair are held. Welcome week really helps you get used to university and makes classes less scary, so I would definitely make the most of it. Here’s what was on offer in my year: Guide to Welcome Week
5. Classes themselves
TV and movies paint a picture of university which is confusing, and I had no idea what classes were going to be like. This isn’t really a top tip, but a clarification.
Seminars are like A Level classes, there is work set which has to be done before the class and it is a group discussion.
Lectures are much more formal, as it is where lecturers teach you the content for the seminar the following week. It’s in lectures that notes are important.
Our university is moving towards more blended types of learning where the distinction between lectures and seminars are less obvious, but there will always be times to listen and times to interact.
Note taking can differ from module to module, depending on the style of a lecturer’s presentation, the assessment type or how comfortable you are on the topic. You will find how you best make notes with, but the History Society will be holding events to help students with this throughout the year.
6. Weird Feelings
To finish up this blog post, I’m going to list some of the stages and feelings I’ve had during my first year. This means that you know that if you have them, they’re normal:
|Am I ready for this?||This was the week before university, when I was wondering if I was ready to move out or if I was ready to have adult responsibilities like buying toilet paper.|
|Where am I? Who is this? What is this?||Campus is huge and it feels different to how it does on open days. Luckily, there’s a map on the Northampton app if you need it. This year, we’ll all be lost as it’s a new campus so don’t worry.|
|This feels like a school trip.||I genuinely thought that university felt like a school residential trip for about 2 months. There’s no real explanation for this, it’s just kind of an odd feeling.|
|Wait I’m going home again?||I had this when I went home for the Christmas break, when I had to adjust to human sleeping hours and not having the library on my doorstep. The first holiday at home is the hardest, and your relationship will change with your family if you live away from home. (Don’t worry though, it happens to everyone).|
|Okay I think I’m getting the hang of this.||This is when you feel like you know the way to class, you know how to write an essay and you know how to adult. Everything is good.|
|I can’t… I just can’t deal with exams.||They come around quicker than you think, and I made the mistaken of not having good notes. Revise little and often, get help from your lectures and please remember to turn up to them.|
|Now what?||First year finishes after exams (unless you do resits) so you now have 4 months to kill. Have fun with it!|
Good luck to all new university students and if you’re coming to study history at Northampton, see you in the next academic year.
Emma Tyler, BA Hons History Student, University of Northampton