6 Things I wish I Knew Before Starting University

University was something I always knew I wanted to go to and after completing my second year studying English I've realised that were definitely some things that I wish I'd known about before going. Whilst I really enjoy university and my degree is something I am genuinely interested in, uni did not live up to any expectations and it was a complete contrast to anything I'd imagined. In reality, it's actually quite dull with films and TV making it out to be so much more vibrant, exciting and interesting. I really wish I'd known the reality of university before I went so I thought I'd share some things that I wish I'd had an idea about before embarking on a degree!

girl sat in cafe with phone notebook and cake
Photo by Alex Samuels on Unsplash

You Won't Be Friends with Everyone You Meet in the First Week
I think all too often, myself included, students have the tendency to feel as though the people you initially meet will become your new best friends for life and that you were all destined to be friends. In reality, this is probably not the case. During freshers week and your first few lectures you will undoubtedly meet and talk to a whole host of random people, and for a good 80% of the time, they will be people that you never see, speak to or mention ever again. I remember meeting a whole host of random people during my first weekend at university but I don't think I could tell you their names now. The first few weeks are such a whirlwind and university, I believe, is quite a fickle place. I think it can be really hard to meet people that you genuinely click with and to be honest, I haven't really met that many people that I get on with or could see myself keeping in touch with after graduating. It's definitely not as wild and interesting as you first think and the people you meet in the first few weeks will more than likely spiral off into different directions pretty quickly. Even people you meet on your course can be difficult to keep in contact with as there are so many different modules that the likelihood of you being the same classes can be quite slim. I think university promotes mixing with people from all different walks of life but don't be disheartened if you don't find a best friend in your first few weeks, if at all!

Don't Sign a Housing Contract Before Christmas
If I could go back in time and stop myself from doing this I really would. As soon as I moved into halls there was such panic about where to live next year and everyone seemed to be house-hunting, signing contracts and finding people to live with that there seemed such huge pressure to do the same. I ended up looking at houses around late October-early November and signing for a house before the Christmas holidays. I'd only been at uni around 3 weeks before looking at houses and about 10 till I'd signed on the dotted line. Looking back now it's really absurd to do it so early with people I didn't really know that well at the time and it was so stressful and intense having to sign so quickly. The house we're in for both second and third year is rather expensive for what it is and I share it with people who I met in the first week of university so we've gradually drifted apart as we've moved in different circles. It's not ideal but it's liveable. Expensive but liveable. 

University is Overrated 
This is probably the biggest thing I've discovered since being at university. It is completely different to how I ever imagined and, in all honesty, it's really quite dull. I have between 8-12 contact hours a week and between 1-2 days off meaning, I actually have longer weekends than I do weekdays which is bizarre. Whilst university supposedly promotes independent thinking and learning, and it does, to an extent, it really is quite the step-down in terms of workload and expectation. However, one of the things that is nice about uni is the fact that there is a lot more freedom to go in-depth into topics you want to explore and they encourage to research different avenues of interest that you genuinely find enjoyable. Whilst this is arguably the best aspect of university, the workload and way of life is fairly slow and it takes up a lot less time than A-levels and GCSE's ever did.

Your Degree Might Not be Worth the Money
I speak from personal experience here and you may believe that your degree has been completely worth it, but for me - it hasn't. University is expensive. £9250 worth of expensive. And, you will most likely come to the realisation that it's not really worth it. Like I said earlier, I only have 8-12 hours a week and a lot of free time which makes me think 'what on earth am I paying for?'. I study an English degree which requires minimal resources, lecturers use powerpoints for lectures and seminars are discussions so I have absolutely no university resources like labs that make my degree seem worth it. I even have to buy all the books, which is a lot when you consider I read 1 book per week per module which equates to about 3-4 books a week yet my tuition fee doesn't cover that. Strikes have been a major factor this year, along with coronavirus which has meant that I've had less than half of a year's teaching so even more so have I been questioning where that money is going. 

You Will Always Feel Underprepared Regardless of How Much Prep
Studying an English degree means I have a lot of reading to do. After reading the primary text (ie, the thing we're studying), I then have to complete secondary reading (ie, critics/scholars opinions on certain aspects of the texts) along with any historical/biographical/sociological research to help me understand parts of the text. It doesn't seem to matter how much reading or preparation I do for a seminar or lecture I still find myself behind on the reading, not having fully formed opinions or thoughts on a text or just plain old not understanding what I've read full stop (there are some bizarre texts out there). Undoubtedly, there will be someone in your class who is slick and prepared to offer a million and one thoughts and extra research, or equally, there will be someone in your class who loves the sound of their own voice and never shuts up. Either way, you will probably feel out of your depth at some point during your university life and there is little to nothing you can do about that except don't let it get on top of you and do not compare yourself to others! 

You Won't Need Everything that You Bring With You
University is exciting for the most part because you get to do a massive trip to IKEA to buy all the essentials. You will most likely be suckered into the kitchen section and explain to your parents how you're going to be a completely different person at university and that Gordon Ramsey needs to watch out. You will not need a fancy set of kitchen knives, 13 pots and pans, 20 forks and a rubber duck. Stick to the bare minimum and you can always buy things once you arrive at university throughout the year if you find yourself missing something. The temptation is incredibly strong when you step foot into a shop like IKEA but be sensible, think carefully about what you genuinely will need and use and if you forget something, shops do exist!


Those are some things that I wish I knew before university. Don't get me wrong there are many enjoyable aspects to uni. I love the freedom I have, I met my boyfriend, I have a few close friends there and I study so many modules and am able to study areas that I'm interested in. These are just a few things that would've been useful to know before going! 

Do you go to university? Are there some things you wish you'd known beforehand? Let me know!


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