Leaving home to attend university or college is a life changing experience. For many it's the first time they've ever lived away from the security of their family home.
October is traditionally the time of year when many young people are ferried off to unfamiliar towns and cities to attend their chosen university or college. They'll meet lots of new people and face lots of hard-to-resist new temptations and distractions. Some will fall by the wayside, unable to complete their chosen studies due to financial problems, and those ever present distractions. Here are just a few tips and suggestions that may help one or two freshers to last the course.
It is worth remembering that you are not alone. Moving away from home, leaving your family and friends can be quite a wrench and if you don't find it easy to mix and make new friends you may find yourself intimidated by all the outgoing, exuberant, extrovert fellow students who appear to dominate the student common room. Don't worry because you are not alone. There will be others who may feel marginalised by the louder, more outgoing students so look around and you are bound to find others like yourself.
Be a little bold and introduce yourself. Don't worry about making a fool of yourself, you won't. Be yourself, don't try to be the life and soul of the party. Just be friendly, genuine and honest and you will quickly make a few friends. Many of the friends you make while at college or university will remain your friends for life.
Join a few societies or clubs, but don't over-commit yourself. Remember that your primary goal should be to complete your studies successfully while keeping debts to a minimum and staying out of jail. Freshers week is your opportunity to take a look at the various clubs and societies and sample what they have to offer. If you have a particular interest or hobby, maybe a sport that you enjoy, look around for the relevant club and sign up to meet others with similar interests.
Your student years are a period when your views and politics are likely to vacillate as you become exposed to various points of view and new information. It's a great time to develop your political interest and there will doubtless be numerous political groups keen to recruit you into their fold. When I was a student the two main groups at my college were the Socialist Workers Party and the Revolutionary Communist Party, neither of which were particularly famed for their parties.
Plan your budget and try to stick to it. For many it will be necessary to find some appropriately flexible part-time work. While bar and restaurant work can be well paid you may do well to look for work that complements your studies. Be bold and approach relevant potential employers with an offer of your services. Demonstrate your keenness by researching their companies and impressing your prospective employer with your knowledge of their business. There are many part-time student roles that have subsequently developed into well paid full time jobs when studies have been completed. I have a close friend who is now managing director of the software company where he first worked as a student some 20 years ago.
Try to minimise your debt. The finances of students today have changed immensely since the days when I was a student. These days it has become the norm for students to expect to borrow money and finish their two, three or four years at college with substantial debt. If you can keep a tight rein on your spending and improve your income with some good part time work you will have a far smaller debt mountain to climb when you finish your studies. Easier said than done, I know.
Try to attend all of your lectures. Even the most demanding full-time courses will only require around 20 hours a week in the classroom. Most require a lot less. Think of the working life you will have when your course is completed. You could be working in an office with a required attendance of 37 hours a week. This can quickly expand up to 60 or even 80 hours a week with a few demanding clients. You'll reflect on your time as a student and wonder what you did with all the time.
Keep up to date with your coursework. It's always tempting to put off completing work until the eve of the submission deadline. Don't. My advice is to have a go at completing your coursework as soon as you possibly can, but don't submit it. Take your first draft and then re-evaluate and improve your work before final submission. This approach ensures that the work is completed in good time; it alleviates anxiety and enables you to present the best work possible. Since a significant part of your final course grade is likely to be down to your coursework it is worth treating every piece as seriously as you would your final exams.
Finally, and most importantly, stay safe. If you are in a strange new town then get to know the areas where you are living and your route to and from college. Find out about the local pubs, what they are like and if there are any that should be avoided. Try not to be out after dark alone and never try to find your own way home alone when under the influence of drink. I could tell some very unpleasant stories of students who have suffered as a result of drink fuelled bravado. Look after yourself and your fellow students, make some new friends and make the most of your student years by giving yourself some great memories.
By Tony S Gee
I recommend Dermalogica skin care and beauty products. Available at 2007 prices from http://www.thebeautyroom.co.uk/