7 Essentials You Need To Survive Your First Year At University

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It’s that time of year again, when doe eyed and fluffy haired A level students are getting all excited at the prospects if leaving home, becoming independent, and starting a new life at university. The magical place where everything is going to be so much easier than the teachers are telling them, you only do one subject, how hard can it be? Oh are they in for a shock! That’s what I’m here for, to tell you some essentials for making university life just that little bit easier.

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1) A Planner

This one may not be crucial to first year because it doesn’t count, who wants to organise themselves for that? But it will be vital for second year. That’s why I suggest organising yourself just a little bit for first year. Yeah, it doesn’t go towards your degree, and you only need to barely pass, but getting into the swing of things while they’re still easy will make the transition to second year so much easier!

But that’s another whole year away, we don’t have to think of that yet, I hear you saying, but that’s what university and independent living is all about, thinking ahead. You don’t have to have your whole life mapped out and have every second of your day planned for first year, you don’t even have to plan your seminar work! But getting a start on it will be a life saver when it comes to second year. Just working out what planning method works best for you when it comes to assignments is a step that you won’t have to try and figure out when your course work actually matters.

2) Coffee

Coffee will become your best friend at university. It starts off in freshers, when you use it to boost you out of your hangover state ready for the continuous nights of partying and meeting new people. Then before you know it you need a mug just to get you out of bed in the morning. It’s also helpful for getting you to lectures but who cares about those in first year? You should. Does it matter if you miss them? Not really. But it is good for creating relationships with the lecturers which could prove very useful in your other years at university. So get that a couple of mugs of coffee down you, make another for the road and get your butt into the lecture hall, even if you’re sitting in the back with your hood up and sunglasses on, at least you’re there.

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3) Evernote/Word/Powerpoint

Powerpoint may sound like a weird one for taking notes but trust me, it is genius. In some cases anyway. I saw a course mate using it and cursed myself for not thinking of it myself. What she had done was download the powerpoint before the lecture, then used the notes section at the bottom of the screen to type what the lecturer was saying with the corresponding slide. Brilliant! But it isn’t without it’s problems. If you are pretty anal about your notes being in the same format, like me, then this method probably isn’t for you. This is because lecturers are unorganised. I know, I was shocked when I found out but it is the truth. You expect those that are teaching you to have their lives together but they’re as confused and messy as you are.

If you are lucky enough to have the extremely rare, organised, lecturer who upload their powerpoints ahead of the lecture then you are fine. But if you get the very common, unorganised and forgetful lecturer who may upload their powerpoint a week after the lecture has happened if they are prompted by the students, then you’re stuffed. So although it’s great for keeping all your notes in one place, it also puts a lot of faith in your lecturers.

Most students I know use either good old fashioned Word, which never let anybody down, or Evernote. I’ve heard about some bloggers using it to help them organise their blogs, draft posts, that sort of thing, which I have recently started doing as well. But I first started using it for note taking in lectures and I have never looked back!

If you are someone who likes to over organise like myself, then word can be a bit of a hassle. You end up having folders inside of folders, and just keep making more to get more organised, so your files are more like a maze than a quick and easy way to find what you’re looking for.

Evernote solves all of that. You make notebooks, and in each notebook you can have as many notes as you want, they’re kind of like Word documents but I find them a bit easier to use. This way you can have a notebook for each module you’re on, and if you’re doing two degrees then you can put notebooks into stacks to group them together. So I have a stack for my blog, and then one for each semester so the modules I’m currently studying are easy to find. Evernote have also been extra clever by incorporating those little things any social media user loves; tags. You can tag your notes so when searching for a specific note it is a lot easier to find!

First year is the perfect time to find which method works best for you. You have to freedom to experiment because you don’t have the constant stress of actually having to do well (not that I want to scare you or anything).

4) Alarm Clock

I know I’ve already mentioned coffee as a way to help you get up in the morning, but a good alarm clock that kicks your butt in the morning is always a must have. You need something to wake you up so you can go and make your coffee. I thought getting up for lectures would be easy, I’ve been getting up at 7:30 for the majority of my life! Boy was I wrong, suddenly my mom isn’t there pulling the duvet cover off me and forcing me to get up. I have the free will to say, you know what, I want a few extra hours in bed today. So I took them. It wasn’t until I started setting multiple, very loud, alarms and putting the clock on the other side of the room so I would have to get up to turn it off that I actually got out of bed and got ready for my lectures.

5) Labels for Food

This seems like such a trivial thing to mention in the grand scheme of things, but you need to eat and if people have taken all your food because they ‘mistook’ it for theirs, then you’re screwed. If you obviously label all your food right from the beginning no one is going to make the mistake of trying to take it. One they can’t try and say they didn’t know, it has your name on it in big bold letters! And two no one can actually make the innocent mistake of thinking it’s theirs. It also makes it easier when you’re looking through the fridge and freezer trying to find something to eat but you’ve completely forgotten what you actually have in the flat (this happens a lot when you aren’t buying food once a week). The down side is everyone knows it’s your mouldy left over Chinese you forgot to throw out the other week, but at least the labels will remind you to get rid of it before anyone notices.

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6) One Notepad and Pen

I know this seems like a stupid thing to point out, of course you’re going to have notepads and pens; you’re a budding university student, not stupid! But trust me when I say you only need ONE notepad and a couple of pens to carry around with you. Being the overly eager person I am when it comes to buying stationary, I went crazy buying nice expensive notepads for each module I’d be doing and loads of different types of coloured pens. But you don’t need them.

It is a lot easier to take notes on your laptop in lectures because you’re more likely to get everything down, it lessens the load in your bag, and all your notes are in one place. However, laptops do have problems occasionally; they decide to sympathise and have the mental breakdown you are trying to hide or you didn’t charge it the night before and now it’s on it’s last legs. So having one notepad with you is essential, it could save your life! Or make you grateful that you didn’t make the long trek to the lecture hall with no way of recording what the lecturer is actually saying.

Using loads of different coloured pens when revising or copying up notes is great, you get to let your creativity flow, but there is not point in carrying them around university with you. If for some reason you decide to write your lecture notes then constantly switching between coloured pens to make your notes look pretty is just going to hold you back. The lecture hall is not the time for creativity (depending what degree you are doing). You can make your notes look as pretty as you want after you have hurriedly written down everything the lecturer is saying. It’s also a great way of revising and makes it easier for you to read what you’re supposed to be learning when it comes to exam time, it does if your handwriting is anything like mine anyway. Just stick to a simple black pen until you get back to the comfort of your own room.

7) Abe Books

University books are expensive, no matter what course you are doing. Lucky for us English Literature students our books aren’t huge textbooks, but having to buy on average 9 books per module can rack up a bit of a hefty bill. That’s why using Abe Books is great because it sells every book under the sun for a huge discount price. They are second hand but when you’re reading them for your degree do you really need them to be new? Plus having second hands books means there’s the possibility of someone having been very nice and left some of their own notes scribbled on the pages for you, which is always a nice little helping hand.

But Gracie I’m not an English Literature student, what are those of us who have to spend £60 plus on a book supposed to do? Well do not threat my friends! Because Abe Books is not just great for novels but they also sell second hand textbooks as well, which is great for all degrees because text books are stupidly expensive. Who wants to spend over £50 on a book you’re going to use for a week or two? No one, that’s why you use Abe Books!

Who’s starting university in September? Are you excited? Maybe you’re doing your degree at the moment and have some tips for future freshers? Leave a comment below! 

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