Ah, hindsight. What a wonderful thing. Twice-graduated Helen Shelvey tells us what she wishes she had done (or not done) during her time as a student. Illustration by Jamilah Bartholomew.
Early-morning lectures won’t kill you.
Sure, they suck on a hangover, but you’ll feel so much better for going and won’t have to catch up later in your own time. Go in pyjamas or a onesie if you have to.
Afternoon naps are your friend.
I may sound like your nana, but naps are the best way to prepare for a night out while you’re still recovering from the last.
Throw yourself into as many opportunities as possible.
My first uni had a club or society for pretty much everything; from Quidditch to cocktails to gaming. I started with good intentions but quit early to follow the crowd and just party instead. If my friends weren’t in the club or society, I stopped going.
Now, I see how many things I missed out on trying, and how many new friends I could have made from sharing a common interest. Societies are cheap, varied and sociable, so get in there and find your niche. You might be surprised by what you enjoy.
You will not remain this size forever.
Make the most of those torso-sized takeaway portions while you can, as your waistline will start to disappear as you get further into your twenties.
Take care of your health.
A combination of poor diet, first-time living away from home, and constant partying will render your immune system helpless in the face of bugs. Repeated bouts of illness will dent your study time and your social life, so think like Mum occasionally and look after yourself.
Get a job earlier.
As your course progresses, the hours get longer. Take the opportunity to earn some extra cash while you have the time, instead of wasting your first year glued to Netflix. Even if you feel you don’t need it, think ahead a little—you’ll be in a much better position when you graduate if you want to travel for a year, buy a car, pay off student debt or, dare I whisper it, start saving for a house.
Aim for the perfect study-social balance.
You pay an awful lot of money for tertiary education, so you should probably take it seriously and try your best. On the flip side, uni is an opportunity to make friends, gain independence and enjoy yourself, so don’t spend all your time stressing about study. Get it done early to avoid the dreaded exam time panic.
That guy at the bar.
He does not look like the hot actor you think he does, that’s the vodka talking, and you have a boyfriend—do NOT go there!
Not everything goes to plan and that’s okay.
I changed my course a couple of times and found it very daunting. At the time, I felt like a failure for not using or completing a degree, but ultimately, uni is a lot of work and can be very stressful. Make sure you are working towards something that will actually make you happy, and don’t be afraid to admit if the course you chose isn’t really for you. Being honest with yourself is the first step towards building a future you want.
Don’t wait until you’re at rock bottom before asking for help.
Whether it’s emotional or academic support you need, there are counsellors and learning advisers who are paid to help you out. Don’t feel like your problem is too small and you should just soldier on through. Your uni fees literally pay for these resources, so use them—you’ll feel so much better!