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Tips

Starting university? Here are 22 tips for students!

Nervous about starting university? Don’t worry! We’ve interviewed students from across the globe for their top university tips! Hint: everything is going to be okay.

Starting university is a nerve-racking time. Not only are you probably leaving home for the first time, but you have to make completely new friends and keep up in difficult classes.

That said, university can also be some of the best, most rewarding years of your life. With the potential to make deep friendships and learn a lot, you have some impactful years coming up!

So how should you get prepared? What should you expect when starting university? We’ve asked students from around the globe to share their tips for incoming students. They also share what they wish they had known before starting university.

Here are some tips for starting university from students who have recently had to navigate that world themselves.

Click here to go straight to the list of tips!

Say YES to EVERYTHING your first year…

Isabel, USA

Bachelor’s in Studio Art,
Lewis & Clark College in Oregon, USA


Say YES to EVERYTHING your first year. Take every opportunity, join every club, go to every party the first week, and go on the new student trips (if your school has them). Take advantage of all of your school’s resources: The library, the gym, the health centre, the transportation, the digital resources, your professors (definitely your professors!).


What I wish I knew before starting university:


I wish I was prepared for how much free time I would have and how daunting it would feel at first to fill and structure all that time.

The first friends you make freshman year don’t have to be your forever-friends. Don’t be afraid to let your friend groups change and evolve as you change and evolve.

(In this picture: Isabel in the Mount Hood National Forest near Portland, Oregon.)

 

Respect your well-being and prioritize rest

Miko, Finland

Bachelor’s in Economies and Societies,
Sciences Po Paris, Reims, France


Respect your well-being and prioritize rest: time spent doing nothing is time well spent. In a brain study, sleeping rats have been shown to mentally process things they learned in the daytime at 6-7 times the original speed. Sleep is important, and a superpower!

Also, read, watch, and learn things beyond your subject area: finding unexpected connections in your knowledge is a delight.


What I wish I knew before starting university:


Willpower is a limited resource and having routines for the most mundane things ensures that you have enough energy for the important stuff.

(In this picture: Miko by a forest in his home country, Finland.)

 

Don’t define yourself by your grades!

Teresa, Germany

Master’s in Psychology,
Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Germany


Don’t define yourself by your grades! Success in your studies can give you a feeling of accomplishment but it doesn’t define your value as a person. You are much more than your transcript…

Also doing your own thing is important! Respect your needs and don’t orient yourself too much to your fellow students. A study strategy that suits your needs is the key to academic success!


What I wish I knew before starting university:


I wish I knew that finding strategies to cope with stress is important! Studying can be stressful, and everyone has different ways to deal with stress. Take your time to develop your stress-tackling strategies, it will pay off not only during your studies but also in your work life!

(In this picture: Teresa exploring a garden in Copenhagen.)

 

Don't worry about making friends quickly!

Côme, France & Belgium

Bachelor’s in European Studies,
The University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands


Don't worry about making friends quickly, great and genuine friendships take time... and there are SO many people you are about to meet at university!

Also, if you’re studying abroad, definitely travel in (and around) your host country (if that’s possible). Bus, carpooling, trains – even cycling – there are loads of affordable and sustainable ways to move around. Studying abroad is an experience, so get out there!


What I wish I knew before starting university:


Try new places in your university city or town! Get outside your comfort zone, don’t hesitate to just lose yourself in your city, you will always discover something new.

(In this picture: Côme at Bloemendaal aan Zee, a seaside town next to Amsterdam.)

 

Asking for help is never a weakness!

Kenzie, Canada

Bachelor’s in Geography, Environment & Sustainability,
The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada


Asking for help is never a weakness! Collaborating with classmates on assignments, attending your professor's office hours, and asking lots of questions are all recipes for success.

Also, alternate which courses you skip the readings for each week. It's difficult to finish all your readings for all your courses each week, but make sure you don't keep neglecting the same course!


What I wish I knew before starting university:


Academic performance in your first year doesn't matter that much. What counts is learning how to live on your own, finding a strong support system and having a bit of fun!

Studying can be really enjoyable when you're taking courses that interest you!

(In this picture: Kenzie paddles a kayak in a lake by Port Moody, close to UBC where she studied.)

 

Make connections!

Mio, Sweden

Bachelor’s in International Sales and Marketing, 
The Sales and Marketing College, Gothenburg, Sweden


Make connections! Starting university is a great opportunity to meet new people and widen your social network. 

Aside from making your university experience more enjoyable, it has in my experience lead to meaningful information sessions and even job openings. So put yourself out there! You never know what it can lead to.


What I wish I knew before starting university:


I wish I had bought my course literature second-hand, because course literature can be expensive! Buying second-hand books or finding them online has worked for me. This will both save you some money along the way and is ultimately better for the environment as well.

(In this picture: Mio studying in Gothenburg’s city library.)

 

Don't give up! All knowledge is valid

Camila, Brazil

Bachelor’s in Environmental Engineering,
São Paulo State University (UNESP), São Paulo, Brazil


Don't give up! In the end, all knowledge is valid, and you will come out stronger with lots of new skills.

Also, try to find a life purpose during college – if you don’t already have one – since it will keep you motivated and focused. Purposes can change throughout life (which is totally normal!) but having a concrete goal can help you during your studies.


What I wish I knew before starting university:


I wish I knew that there would be lots of challenges, but that I would be able to overcome them and experience lots of new things. That said, I still had a lot to learn when I got my first job! College is just a step that teaches you to solve problems, no matter which courses you take.

I wish I knew that it would be the best years of my life, that I would meet the most amazing people and have time to enjoy so many activities.

(In this picture: Camila stands beside her poster presentation at UNESP.)


22 Tips for Students Starting University:


(A quick summary of all the tips from the students above)

  1. Say YES to EVERYTHING your first year. Take every opportunity, join every club and go to every social event in the first week.
  2. Take advantage of all of your school’s resources: The library, the gym, the health centre...your professors (definitely your professors!).
  3. Be prepared to have lots of free time and start thinking of valuable ways to fill it.
  4. The first friends you make freshman year don’t have to be your forever-friends. Don’t be afraid to let your friend groups change and evolve as you change and evolve.
  5. Respect your wellbeing and prioritize rest: time spent doing nothing is time well spent.
  6. Read, watch, and learn things beyond your subject area: finding unexpected connections in your knowledge is satisfying – and it can make you a better student.
  7. Willpower is a limited resource and having routines for the boring tasks at home ensures that you have enough energy for the important stuff.
  8. Don’t define yourself by your grades! Success in your studies can give you a feeling of accomplishment but it doesn’t define your value as a person. You are much more than your transcript.
  9. Respect your needs and don’t orient yourself too much to your fellow students. A study strategy that suits your needs is the key to academic success.
  10. Finding ways to cope with stress is important! Take your time to develop your own stress-tackling strategies.
  11. Don't worry about making friends quickly, great and genuine friendships take time... and you will meet loads of people during your time at uni.
  12. If you’re studying abroad, travel around the new country as much as you can.
  13. Try new places in your university city or town! Don’t let the years go by without every trying out that cosy café or local theatre.
  14. Asking for help is never a weakness! Collaborating with classmates on assignments, attending your professor's office hours, and asking lots of questions are all recipes for success.
  15. If you have a ton of work to do, alternate which courses you focus on. This way you won't keep neglecting the same course.
  16. The most important thing about the first year isn’t academic performance. It’s learning how to live on your own, finding a strong support system and having a bit of fun!
  17. Always aim to take the courses that interest you. Studying is enjoyable when you like the subject.
  18. Make connections! University is a great place to meet future contacts and hear about job openings. So put yourself out there! You never know what it can lead to.
  19. Buy your course literature second-hand. It’s cheaper and more sustainable!
  20. Don't give up! All knowledge you gain at university will be useful in unexpected ways later. You’ll leave university with skills you didn’t even realize you’d learn!
  21. Try to find a life purpose during college – even if it’s not set in stone – having a concrete goal can help keep you stay motivated and focused.
  22. Remind yourself that university is not just about learning new knowledge but learning how to problem-solve. This skill will be super useful in future jobs – no matter the field.

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