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Top 7 Tips for New Students

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Starting university this year or in the near future? Here are some tips from experienced students who have been there, done that! We spoke to students at the QS World Grad School Tour in London earlier this month, and here’s what they had to say…

On choosing a university…

When you first start looking at universities, you’re naturally going to want to see how they rank, and the students we spoke to often noted that subject-specific rankings can be especially helpful. But, they said, there’s much more to consider.

1. Think about employability Choosing a university

The employability factor came up a lot. Ashna, a 21-year-old Indian student, advised: “I would look at the success rate, what students actually do after graduation, and what the university can offer you in terms of career prospects or placements.” This may be especially important if you want to work in a competitive industry such as fashion or journalism, in which work experience will help you stand out to employers.

2. Make sure it’s the right match for you

Many of the students we spoke to emphasized the importance of making sure the course and the university right for you, and not just the highest-ranked. As Clara, a 20-year-old British student says: “Rankings only go so far in terms of who you are as a person.” Hyunhung, a 22-year-old Korean student, agrees: “Don’t focus on the rankings too much. Know what you’re going to study and what you’ll be able to do once you’ve graduated.”

Cherry, a 21-year-old British student, says she wishes she’d looked into the details of the course more when choosing a university. “I think I put too much emphasis on the rankings, because the course isn’t too well suited to me… I think it’s important to know what you’re going to study rather than just looking at the rankings.”

On socializing and student life… Socializing

Once you’re at university, it’s fun to get involved with all the social aspects of student life, particularly during the one- or two-week long revelry of Freshers’ or Orientation Week. Our experienced students had varied experiences to share…

3. Find a balance between studies and social life

Hyunhung recalls: “I spent too much time studying so I felt like I wish I’d joined a society or a club and learnt something new. You need good time management – do things you enjoy, but find the right balance between studying and socializing.”

4. Embrace opportunities to try new things

Like Hyunhung, Clara wishes she’d tried something new: “I think my biggest regret was not pursuing languages… I wish someone had told me to put emphasis on learning a language and learning about different cultures. It’s not too bad if you don’t learn a language but learning about different cultures and how to get on with people from different backgrounds is really important.”

Tom, a 23-year-old British student, adds: “Try and make friends with people from different spheres of university life. You should look at joining as many societies as you can, particularly a sport’s club, it’s a really good way to meet a lot of people and stay healthy. Try to use Freshers’ Week for more than just going out.”

5. Don’t give in to peer pressure

Finally, Mahid, a 23-year-old British student, says: “Have fun but don’t give in to peer pressure at socials at university. And don’t just go to university for the social side – make the most of the experience.”

On studying… Studying

As the mayhem of starting university slows down and you begin attending lectures, it can be tempting to neglect your studies a little, especially if your grades don’t count towards your final degree at this stage. However, our experienced students say this is not a good idea!

6. Develop as an independent learner

Anna, a 22-year-old German student, says: “In first year you’re away from your parents for the first time and there’s so much going on that you might not focus enough on your studies, and you might not think the grades are important in first year.” In order to take control of your own studies, and develop the independent learning style which is essential at university, Clara advises: “Try and read around the subject as much as possible so you can get a really fully developed understanding.”

7. Ask for help when you need it

What if you don’t like your course, or find it difficult? Mahid advises: “Talk to your friends about the course that you’re doing, consistently have conversations about what you’re enjoying or not enjoying about it and where you’re going with it. If you find your course difficult, your first port of call is your lecturers and your close friends. If you know for sure that it’s not for you, try and find a way out by seeing if you can transfer to another university which will accept your transfer credits.”

Final advice… Final advice

  • “Your university life is so much more than your course. Don’t limit yourself, there’s always room to expand your horizons and move in different directions.” – Mahid
  • “I really recommend taking a year out, so finding a university which offers an Erasmus year or a placement. Going to another university in a different country was the best decision of my life, and it’s a really good experience.” – Cherry
  • “Just enjoy your degree as much as possible because it goes by very, very quickly! Take advantage of every opportunity that comes to you; make the most of the careers service.” – Clara
  • “Talk to everyone because university’s the best time you’ll ever have, and be nice to people! Explore options – explore what you want to do, what you’re good at. See where your strengths lie and keep your mind open.” – Ashna
Sabrina Collier's profile image
Written by Sabrina Collier
The former Assistant Editor of TopUniversities.com, Sabrina wrote and edited articles to guide students from around the world on a wide range of topics. She has a bachelor's degree in English Literature and Creative Writing from Aberystwyth University and grew up in Staffordshire, UK. 

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1 Comment

Great tips. Thanks for putting them up together. Of course, it's important to study well, but how could you do it pretty well if you are first time from home and are not used to the everyday routine, For many students, it could be much challenging.