The Expectations vs. Reality of University

August 25, 2017

It's come to that time of the year again when a new age of students have left college and prepare for a brand new chapter in their lives. Whilst some may stay at home and choose a full time job, others pack up their bags and head off to university. I wanted to write this blog post as I have (somehow.. have no idea how) already completed my first year of uni and will be moving back for my second year in September. So with that being said, I believe that I have just enough wisdom to help out a fresher or two. 

There are a few things that I went into my first year expecting, but as the year went on, was shown that not everything is as you expect, until you live through the reality yourself. Hopefully my advice will help those of you who are moving to uni for the first time, allow you to be better prepared for what lies ahead. The true reality that the prospectuses and brochures don't tell you about life as a university student.

1.
Expectation: You will be at parties and on nights out ALL THE TIME
Reality: The truth of the matter is that you are only given a certain amount of money, whether thats by the maintenance loan or money earned from a part time job, but you will come to realise that the more times you go out, the more money it's going to eat up because lets face it, nights out aren't cheap. Just make sure that you keep an eye on how much you are spending on night outs and figure out how often you can afford because food and living supplies are definitely more important than the double vodkas at the end of the day.

2.
Expectation: You have a smaller timetable than you had in school and college, so you won't be on campus as much.
Reality: More often when deadlines were getting closer, I actually found that I spent more hours on my university campus (mostly in the library) than I was actually timetabled. You are expected to be a lot more independent with your university work than what you were given in school and college. Before now, you were told exactly what to do and how to do it, but this does not happen at uni. It's up to you on how to approach your briefs, so you need to manage your own work and own time. Lecturers are only there to teach you what you need to know and assign your briefs, which does mean that you have a smaller timetable, but the work load definitely does not decrease as well. You will also most likely need the resources that your university provides in order to do most of your work, so theres no getting out of being on campus for most of your day.

3.
Expectation: You will budget your money well.
Reality: DOES NOT HAPPEN! When you receive your maintenance loan, you think that you have so much financial freedom, which leads to splurges and more splurges, but you really don't. That money has to last you until your next payment and if you actually budgeted it then you would realise that you don't have as much as you think when you look at the overall price given, once you remove your rent money and what not. So even though it does feel like a chore to budget your money, my advice is to at least, be constantly aware of how much you are spending and how much money you have. Take it from me, living off 20p Home Bargains noodles because you spent all your money too fast is not fun. Not fun at all.

4.
Expectation: You will eat properly, like you did back home, and expand your knowledge with new recipes.
Reality: I know I said that it's important to keep an eye on how much you're spending, but I'm going to be honest. By the end of the year, you will most probably have memorised most takeaway shop numbers in the area and Just Eat will become your most used app.

5.
Expectation: All of your lectures will be in big halls, like the films.
Reality: Last year, most of my lectures and seminars were actually held in a studio, which was pretty much a classroom. I had one module which was taught in a lecture theatre, but even then, you were still expected to contribute, share your ideas, do presentations and engage with the lecturer and the rest of the class. You generally find that the more 'creative' courses will be based in studios and classrooms as they are more hands on and practical, as opposed to the more academic Literature and History courses.

6.
Expectation: You will go to every single lecture and study harder than you did in your A-Levels.
Reality: Put these aspects together and then decide whether this is really going to happen. This applies more to those who moved away from home and will be in halls. 

a) You will be living closer to your friends, so you will constantly be doing something, even when you're not at uni
b) You will have people persuading you to go on nights out every week
c) The work load is ridiculous
d) You are not living with your parents and you are in charge of making sure you leave your flat in the morning (do you ever want to leave your bed hungover or tired?)
e) Getting early nights will soon become a memory to you

Basically, tiredness soon becomes part of your personality and there will be mornings where you feel like you physically do not have the energy to travel to uni and then sit through a lecture. You're human, you're not perfect. My best advice with this matter is to just think of the end goal; graduation. No matter how good your social life is or how tired you are, you came to uni to work and to get a degree at the end of it all. You just have to find a balance between your social life and your uni work, and as hard as that seems at the start of the year when all you will want to do is party, it will become easier to manage as you get used to your new lifestyle. 

7.
Expectation: Your course will be always be interesting and engaging because you picked it and you're not being forced to do it.
Reality: Honestly, this might just be my opinion and experience because I do get bored of things very easily, but because the fashion industry is something that I am greatly interested in, I did expect to be very passionate about what I was doing ALL THE TIME. However, your course is not a miracle course and it might just so happen that, like me, you might not enjoy every single aspect. I absolutely loved the teaching part of it all and was always so interested when we were learning new things, but it was when the deadlines started to get closer that I would find myself becoming less interested. I was soon getting bored of the same thing. It would make me snooze just looking at a brief, but when I was first given them, I couldn't wait to start a new project. The more I think about it though, I've come to realise that it wasn't the course I wasn't finding interesting, it was just the repetition of doing the same thing over and over again, which is expected. I don't think I've ever heard anyone say that they love deadlines and exams. Honestly, I'm still recovering from the months and months I spent revising Native Americans in Sixth-Form, but that doesn't make me any less passionate about history. If you are a regular reader then my passion for the subject will come as no surprise.

To come to a conclusion, just because I've finished my first year, does not make me a master of this whole student life as I am still learning and developing as a person every day. As important as it is in your first year to work as hard as you possibly can, you should also remember to enjoy yourself and make the most out of the whole experience. Theres not as much pressure on freshers as there is on the older years as the work that you do in your first year only counts towards whether you pass into your second year. It does not contribute towards your final degree, like the other 2-3 years, but with that being said, its still important to work on building up a strong work ethic to prepare you for the next few years ahead. Work doesn't get any easier!

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