Ah 18, a simpler time. I look back now and see a boy who 3 years later grew relatively quickly by navigating through the demands of uni life. Whilst we all grow being away at uni here are 3 things along with some practical tips I wish I knew when I was 18 and about to go to uni that I want to share with you.
Manage Manage Manage
Yup, I know, sounds boring already but trust me if you learn how to plan and manage early it will help you get a long way, not just in university but after in the professional world too. Here are two main ways I wish I managed sooner when I was at uni.
1. Manage your Money
The student loan drops 3 times a year and for many of us, that's the first time we have seen that many numbers in our bank accounts. However, whilst this number looks tantalising it does have to last a significant period of time. So hold your fire. Don’t spend it all in freshers week on Jaeger bombs and takeaways or in the local shopping centre on new clothes, otherwise, before you know it you will already be in your overdraft. You do still need to pay for accommodation and other living costs such as food and other recreational activities that are essential in uni life.
Practical step - Create a budget.
If have no experience with budgeting or money management, ask your parent(s)/guardian(s) to help you to create a budget. You could also use some great free apps like Yolt, Emma, Plum, and Monzo to help calculate and create a great budgeting system.
2. Manage your Time
At uni, you will be busy. You will need to balance all the things you will get involved with such as being in lectures/contact hours, study and revision, clubs and societies, general social life, church life, and maybe even a part-time job. Sounds like a lot right? Well, no need to stress. All this can be managed well if you decide to plan all your activities well and create a routine for yourself.
Practical step - Utilise a calendar/time management app
My personal favourite is Google Calendar. You can easily break down your week by compartmentalising all the tasks and activities you need to do each day. Why not add in your weekly lecture schedule as the core component of your new uni Google calendar and then add in other tasks/activity types around it i.e work & revision, club/society, and church activities/commitments. Now all you have to do is colour code each activity type and you're good to go!
Leave your comfort zone
Uni in itself is outside of most people's comfort zones. You have to learn how to cook and clean for yourself, you have to learn how to navigate a new city, you have to figure out your study rhythms and most importantly you have to learn how to socialise and make friends with new people. Making friends may come more naturally to some of us than others but the good news is that there are so many ways to make new friends at uni. Here are 2 things I wish I knew about making friends before going to uni.
1. Be Active
Uni is a great opportunity to make new long-term best friends but it does require you to make an effort to and get to know new people. Now to all my introverts out there who like their own time and space, this may feel like a big challenge and even scary for some of you but once you begin putting yourself out there it starts to feel more natural over time. On the other hand, don't be pressured to turn up and go to every big social gathering and every big party if you don't want to. Just be yourself and you will find your “crew” of friends you want to journey with.
Practical Step - Seek community
Why not seek to join a club or society of a hobby you like or have always wanted to try and get to know people who have something in common with you.
2. Group Cliques
Typically, in the first few months of uni, everyone is keen to meet new people, hang out and go to events together but quite quickly friendship groups start to form, people start to settle and cliques are created. Some people end up feeling like that they haven't found their people yet and they don’t fit in with the crowd. That is totally normal! It takes some people longer than others.
Practical Step - Don’t panic!
If you find yourself in this situation don't panic! You won’t run out of opportunities to make new mates for the whole time you're at uni! It took me until my final 2 weeks in the first semester until I started meeting people I wanted to be close friends with. Moreover, I then had two and half more years of constantly meeting new people I became great friends with.
Get plugged into Church
You have probably heard this more than anything but getting plugged into a church at uni is the most important thing you can do. Whilst general uni life is sociable we also want to grow in our faiths as believers in Jesus and finding a local church is the best way to do that. However, students can easily fall into one of two traps when it comes to church life at uni.
1. Church Hopping
Especially in bigger cities, it is easy to get caught up visiting lots of different churches and take a long time before committing to one. It’s also easy to follow your friends and go to different churches weekly throughout your time at uni and never settle at a church. By not getting rooted in one church you can end up hindering your spiritual growth by failing to establish deeper relationships with other believers who could help you grow on your spiritual walk.
Practical step - Commit to a church & join a small group.
Commit to a church within the first 3-4 weeks after you arrive at uni and then join a small group to develop close friendships with other believers you can journey uni life with.
2. Church Consumerism
Often as a student, you will be busy and church can just be another social activity you come and go to with minimal commitment. However, church isn’t supposed to be an event we go to but rather it's a community of people themselves. A vibrant church community is people coming alongside each other, serving and edifying one another through each person's various gifts and talents. Every single student is gifted and you can significantly edify the church community you’re a part of if you decide to get involved.
Practical step - Join a team
There are so many teams to serve on at churches where you can use the gifts you already know you have and discover the gifts you didn’t know you had. The great thing about serving on a team is that you also get more integrated with the wider church community outside the student world.