Things I Wish I Knew Before Uni

19 year old me on a night out in my first year. Those drinks on the table may contain alcohol.

So, its that time of year when the fresh faced firsties appear and cluster about in little giggling groups. Its been 10 years since I went to uni (I DON’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT HOW OLD I AM) but it doesn’t seem so long ago that I was being dropped off in my first halls room, with my mum crying because it looked like a prison cell.

  • You don’t have to go to uni to succeed.

I know, that seems like an odd thing to tell you. But it really isn’t. I went to a school where you were encouraged to do lots of GCSE’s, then stay into Sixth Form, then go to uni. There was very little discussion if you were reasonably academic on what the other choices were besides sixth form (and then uni).
Uni isn’t for everyone. Some of the most intelligent, interesting – and yes, because it is important to some people – well paid people I know did not go to uni or did not complete a degree. In certain areas, it may be more beneficial to do an apprenticeship or a job where you can get study support. I enjoyed my time at uni, but perhaps if I hadn’t gone, I could be a fully (or part) qualified accountant by now. If you know what you want to do as your career, consider how else you can get to that point.

  • Extreme Couponing isn’t just a crazy show (but it is awesome)

In my first year at uni, I thought I did pretty well with money. That was until the finance department got in touch with me before Easter holidays and said they hadn’t taken any money for accommodation and could they have £2000 now, please. I didn’t have internet banking on that account and my statements were going home, so I just assumed everything had been coming out as it should. I mean, I’d signed mandates so they could take the money, so they should have taken the money, right? Stupid, stupid me.
Keep a close eye on your bank. I know, its boring as hell. But you know what’s more boring? Eating 5p noodles for a month because its all you can afford. (If you do end up in that situation, make sure you’ve got a bottle of Sriracha sauce in the cupboard to make it bearable. Also, knowing when the local supermarket marks down its fresh products is always a good thing.)
For budgeting advice, you should subscribe to A Thrifty Mrs’ awesome blog, and at the very least, the MoneySavingExpert weekly email.

  • Uni isn’t all about studying…

There are so many things you can do at uni that aren’t about going to lectures and tutorials. In my first year, I didn’t join anything, and it was rubbish. In my second year, I joined a few things, but it was joining Nightline ( in my final year that really made me happy. I joined thinking that I wouldn’t be much help for anyone, and it was difficult sometimes (especially considering what was going on in my personal life at the time!) but I look back at that time fondly, and it introduced me to some of my favourite people. If you only do one thing at uni, help Nightline.

  • …but ffs, STUDY.

Everyone tells you that the first year isn’t that important, and that you only have to get 40% to pass. True. But the first year is the basis for what you learn in the rest of your time there. It’s so tempting to stay out all night, every night, especially if it’s your first time away from home, but the first year of uni is designed to train you to work at an undergraduate level, rather than a Sixth Form level. If you scrape a pass in your first year, you may struggle later on.

  • Talk, talk, talk

I still struggle with talking to people in new situations, but in your first week of uni, you are on your own, and you need to socialise. You will meet a lot of people in that week, and you will constantly be asking and answering the same questions: Where are you from, what did you get in your A Levels, what are you studying and which halls/which area do you live in. You probably won’t see some of these people ever again. Alternatively, you might end up finding some of your closest friends – I met some of my favourite people at the welcome event held by my school!
While it’s important to talk to your new friends, don’t forget your old ones, and especially don’t forget your parents! They’ll appreciate a call at least once a week, even if you’re always emailing or Facebook-ing them. Going to uni for the first time is a major point in your life, but it’s also pretty important to your parents!

What would you want to tell 18 year old you before going to uni?


  1. Sian says

    I’d second the Nightline recommendation!
    For speaking to as well as volunteering for – sometimes it can be hard if you think everyone else is having the time of their lives except for you, but know that you’re not alone. Nightline are there at the other end of the phone, or don’t be afraid to ask Student Support and Advice for help, it’s what they’re there for.
    Great list, can’t believe how long it’s been since I was a fresher…

  2. Ed says

    You forgot one!
    Don’t panic if you get put in a house with people who sound like they’re geeks, they might just turn out to be awesome geeks!

  3. Chloe says

    If I could remind 18 yo me of anything, it would be to remember who you are and what you like but to be open to knew things because you never know when you’re going to find something better than what you already know.

    I listened too much to new people and new things, and wish I’d remembered the sense of self I started out with, whilst remaining open minded.

  4. Tim C says

    I’d tell 18 year old me, “don’t worry, go to uni when you’re 26 innit”. Then do that. Oh, I did that.

    Definitely important that 18yo’s realise that a) they don’t have to go to uni to succeed, but also 2) you can always go later. Oldest person on my course was 48!

  5. SJP says

    Yes! I would second that it’s important to study, and add don’t feel like you HAVE to go out and get wasted every night – drinking is good fun but isn’t the be all and end all of having a good time. And frankly, getting so smashed that you can’t remember what happened the night before doesn’t make you sound cool, it makes you sound like an idiot. There, rant over : )

  6. Harriet says

    I know sooo many accountants who say ‘I wish I’d known I didn’t need a degree to be an accountant.’ so no. 1 is so important I think. Schools generally are a bit rubbish at advising you what to do to get a good career without university, and I think this is such an important thing to get out there especially given the cost of uni now.

    For me I wish someone had said ‘you don’t need to love clubbing’ because I went religiously every week for the whole of first year because that was what everyone I knew was doing and I really didn’t enjoy it at all! Then I discovered cosy pubs in 2nd and 3rd year and I was sorted!

    • Hayley says

      I hope school career services are a lot better at advising what else to do after school these days with the increased cost in uni fees, but I doubt it!


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