Starting university comes with a whole host of emotions; excitement to meet new people and start a new chapter in your life but also anxiety about your course, making friends, and leaving home. I felt all of these emotions when starting at Kent in 2014, but having come out the other side in one piece I can tell you, your three or four years at university can be some of the best years of your life. So I’ve created this list with some of my advice for making the most of these years.
For this I have drawn upon my own experiences from things I enjoyed and got a lot out of but also from some of my regrets and thing I wish I had done. Now that I have graduated I can think back on the past four years and reflect on the choices I made – both the good and the bad.
First let’s start with arriving at Kent on arrivals weekend
1) Before arrivals day
Find out who your housemates/flatmates are. Set up a group chat and get talking, this will lessen some of the anxiety when you move in as you already know a little about who you are going to be living with for the next year, and there will be less awkwardness on that first day.
2) On arrivals weekend
Read all the instructions about where to go to collect keys, where to park etc. The more prepared you are before arriving on campus the easier your day will be. Tensions will already be running high, and if your family are anything like mine arguments and bickering is likely to break out if you are unprepared. There will be loads of people to help you and to show you where to go and what to do, but the more you know for yourself the better.
3) Don’t hide away in your room!
You may be the kind of person that likes their private time and your own space, but try to break out of this for the first few days of freshers’ week. EVERYONE in this week wants to meet people and wants to get to know you. Everyone will be open for a chat – some easy talking points: where you are from, your course, or what societies you plan to join. If you stay in your room at this time it will be so much harder to join in and get involved later on, so pluck up the courage sooner rather than later.
I’m not saying that you should compromise who you are, and pretend to be someone else, but if you take those initial steps to meet people in the first few days the rest of the year will be a lot easier.
On my first day of uni my housemates and I in Parkwood went around to our neighbour’s house and introduced ourselves. Also my friend’s house in Parkwood had a chart on the kitchen wall that had everyone’s name, course and a few details about them, including their tea/coffee preference. Which was a great way for them to get to know each other and to break the ice with a cuppa.
Next some advice for freshers’ week
1) Get involved in all that freshers’ week has to offer.
Much like the advice above get involved now so you won’t regret it later. The large majority of the people you meet in freshers’ week you will likely never talk to again, as everyone finds their group. You may not find your group straightaway but be patient and stay true to yourself and you’ll get there, eventually you will find people that you will become friends with for the whole of uni and possibly life.
2) Go to the Freshers’ Fair
At Freshers’ Fair take a look at the societies that will be there on the Kent Union website first so you have an idea of what is available. However at the same time see the whole event, something might catch your eye. Sign up to everything you are interested in. You are not signing up to anything permanent they will most likely send you an email and it is your decision to attend the meeting/event/session or not. But at least you are getting the emails and know what is going on if you do choose to get involved.
3) Go to the taster sessions while they are free
All societies have a fee to be a part of them, but will offer free sessions at the beginning of term. Take advantage of these free sessions. You never know you might find something that you love, just by taking that chance. There are so many societies to be a part of I can guarantee you will find other people with the same hobbies interests and passions as you.
After freshers’ week you can start to retreat back into your own room if that is what you prefer. But at least you have made those initial connections with your house/flatmates, or course mates or people in societies. Now in the future it will be easier to interact and get involved.
The academic stuff
1) Actually attend lectures and seminars.
It’s not just something professors say to get you to show up, but you will do better in your university work if you actually attend the sessions. When you are in the seminars, be active and talk you will get more out of it this way.
2) Use the office hours and feedback times that your lecturers/seminar leaders offer you
They want you to do well as much as you do. Ask for their advice, ask them questions if you are confused or talk through essay plans to look at and to give feedback on.
3) Be organised
Know what deadlines you have and when. For me I like to have a wall calendar with all the dates of the term, then I like to write on all of my deadlines as well as other important dates. That way I can visually see how much time I have to complete an assignment until the deadline. This method will not suit everyone, I encourage you to find the method that works best for you.
The resources that the university has to offer you
1) Academic help
Need help with your course-work, and essay or an assignment, the University has resources that can help you. The Student Learning Advisory Service has a highly dedicated and committed team of learning advisors to help you with whatever you need. They offer a range of study skills workshops and specific programmes and initiatives. These provide practical, academic advice, guidance and help geared to specific stages of university study. See the website for more: https://www.kent.ac.uk/uelt/about/slas.html
Also see what academic help your school provides as this could be more specialised to your needs.
2) Employability Points
Being at university is no longer just about getting a degree, employers are looking for more than your education. The University of Kent’s Employability Points scheme is a great way to show employers that you have more to show from university than your degree. Gain points from doing extra-curricular activities on and off campus and gain rewards, such as paid internships, work experience opportunities, training and vouchers offered by local and national employers.
See the website for more https://www.kent.ac.uk/employabilitypoints/what-is-ep.html
3) Careers and Advice service
In the current economic climate getting a job post university is very competitive. Increase your chances of success with careers advice on CVs, cover letters, advice on internships and work experience, and more. See the website for more: https://www.kent.ac.uk/careers/
4) Join a Society Committee
Hopefully you’ve found a society that you love, now consider being part of the committee. This is a great way to get involved with something you love to do. As part of a committee you can get involved and make your society great. It is also something to put on your CV and you learn so many skills that are transferable. You can also work towards the Kent Student Certificate in Volunteering where you log hours to gain the Bronze, Silver, Gold or Gold Plus Award.
By Alice Nicholas, current Kent student