Dear Freshers, Seeing as you’ve all descended upon campus to begin your arduous journey towards getting a pretty piece of paper from some people with letters in front their names, I thought I’d tell you a couple things I’ve learnt in my own time here. These are four things that I’ve learned about university that I think will help every fresher get through first year – because a little heads up doesn’t hurt.
**Make an effort to meet people **
This is probably one of the most important things to do in the first term of university – a good beginning here can set you up for success throughout your degree and beyond. During the first term, people are still forming friendship groups and are open to new people. It’s a socially-fluid situation, and requires work to make connections with permanence. Identify people you think are cool, and turn them from ‘people you’ve seen once’ into ‘people you know’ by making the effort to meet them two or three more times. Once that initial connection is made it’ll likely last for a while, and then you can suss them out to see if you actually get on with them beyond the universal ‘ooh-we’re-both-freshers-isn’t-this-cool-but-also-a-little-scary’.
As time goes on, people will have started to form loose groups, and by the time the end of first year rolls around they are a little bit more established. It can be a little bit more difficult to ‘break in’ to an entirely new friendship group, especially since people have less time for socialising in exam season. I’m not saying go to every mingle, pub crawl, and club night at Metric – nobody’s got the time (or liver capacity) for that. All I’m saying is to make that initial effort even though it may be scary, and it’ll pay itself back in a big way.
A good thing to do is to try and establish multiple semi-independent social groups: your halls friends, your course friends, and your society friends. This is useful if you accidentally leave a metal spoon in that bowl of soup you’re microwaving and the whole thing explodes and now everyone in halls can’t talk to you without making soup puns. If this happens, take refuge in a different group, isolated from soup-related catastrophes, and count your blessings for having multiple robust social support structures.
**Aim for a 2:1 in first year **
Grades in first year may not count (or count very little) towards your final degree, but they reflect more than just your marks. First year is when you’re learning how to learn at university. It’s a very different style from secondary education, and getting a handle on it in first year sets you up for success in the remaining years of your degree. To be clear: no-one expects you to be making perfect notes in the first week of lectures – or even in your last week – and no-one expects you to have it completely worked out by the end of first year. Developing your personal learning style is essentially a process of trial and error that never stops. You’re never gonna know if any way of learning is ‘the best’, so you should just focus on getting a 2:1 in first year. If you achieve that, then whatever method you’re using can’t be that bad, and you’ll develop good habits that’ll carry into the rest of your degree.
Be looking out for opportunities for summer
The summers between university years are a small nirvana for students. You’re technically a full adult now, with mates and a good chunk of time in which to do cool things. One of those cool things may be an internship or placement, or even a little project on something unrelated to your degree. Either way, opportunities for summer abound, but you have to be looking out for them. Have this in the back of your mind throughout the year, and don’t be afraid to inquire when you hear about something potentially cool going on in the summer. There’s every chance it’ll help you figure out what you may want to do after you get that pretty piece of paper at the end of your time at university.
Keep an ear out for potential housing options
Where you live in second year, and who you live with, can make a big difference to your experience. You don’t need to worry about this until about halfway to two-thirds through the year, but thinking about it sooner rather than later can save you potentially large amounts of aggro and stress. Having a rough idea about the people you want to live with provides that feeling that it’ll likely turn out OK and you’ll have a good second year, even if you can’t get your dream-home.
So, follow these tips, my dear freshers, and you’ll be on the path to having a better time than if you didn’t. Even if you don’t follow these tips, take heart from this: loads of people have gone to uni before you, and loads of people will do it after you, and everyone finds it hard at some point. The fact that you’re here means that you’re capable, and very likely to have a great time and do well. Welcome to Imperial, and have fun!