Here in the UK, exam season is beginning to come to an end. Many current uni students are already starting their summers, while future uni students are still focused on working their hardest to get the grades they need. But in just a few weeks, they too will have a long summer to look forward to.
So how best to use that time to prepare oneself for uni?
Here are a few things I wish I’d done, plus a few other things that I’d recommend doing.
1. Keep Your Term Time Sleep Schedule
When I was at school, I used to get up at ten to seven (or earlier if I was washing my hair) and be ready to leave by eight. After I finished my A-Level exams, though, I got into the habit of getting up (and also going to bed) later. By the time I started uni, I struggled to get up in time to leave for a 9am lecture that took me less than ten minutes to travel to. And it hasn’t gotten easier. More recently, I’ve struggled to get up for 10am lectures too.
Long story short, I never got back into good getting-up habits after I gave them up for the summer between A-Levels and uni.
I know, the temptation to stay in bed an extra hour because you don’t need to get up anymore is huge. But resisting it will be worth it when, come September, you turn up fresh-faced and ready for your morning lecture while your coursemates are still yawning ’cause they only dragged themselves out of bed ten minutes ago.
2. Buy Your Course’s Textbooks Early and Read Them!
You’ve heard it before, I’m sure, but uni is hard. What’s been hardest for me is staying on top of the workload – the reading, the seminar work, the essays, the organising… Never mind the extra reading!
So do yourself a favour and do what you can early. This will mostly constitute reading your course’s set texts, but it’s probably a good idea to make notes on them too, so that when your lecturer tells the class to read Chapter Four before the next lecture, you can look over your pre-made notes instead of reading the twenty-five pages. You can also make a note of things you don’t understand or questions you have, so you can listen out for answers during the lecture, or ask the lecturer.
It’ll not only save you time, but it’ll make understanding lectures easier; you’ll already have an idea of what the topic’s about.
I know, I know. It’s all you’ve done for the past few months and you would love to have a break from it, thank you very much.
But don’t worry – I’m not suggesting you chain yourself back to your desk. That’s not necessary at all. All I’m saying is that it might be helpful to not forget everything about the subject or two that will be relevant for your degree – just spend an hour or so a week, maybe, looking over your notes so all that knowledge doesn’t escape while you sleep.
4. Learn to Cook and Clean
Ah, another thing to add to your already-busy uni schedule: housework!
Cooking is a much cheaper alternative to getting takeaway and eating out (and making food from scratch is also cheaper and healthier than ready meals!), and your student flat’s kitchen is a great place to socialise with your new flatmates (at least, it’s better than the hallway. Or the bathroom, which is just awkward). So you’ll really thank yourself for practising a bit of cooking – even if it’s just following a simple recipe – when you’re trying to make passable food before you go out or sit down to study.
As for cleaning, while many halls of residence have cleaners, bear in mind they won’t do your dishes or your laundry for you, and they also will only clean communal areas, and only if they’re tidy enough! Besides, even if you don’t need to clean much during your first year, you’ll almost definitely need to during your second and third years.
And yes, you could learn to do these things once you’re already at uni, but don’t forget you’ll probably have enough on with studying, and it’s easier to get a parent or sibling to teach you these things in person rather than via text or phone.
Lastly, I’ll remind you of something else you’re probably aware of already: this is your last chance to meet regularly with your existing friends. While it may seem difficult to find times when you’re all free now, it’ll be even more difficult in a couple of years, when you’ve all made connections and created independent lives in your university towns/cities and you’re all far busier. Uni summers tend to be full of to-ing and fro-ing between home, your university home, visiting friends you’ve made at uni in their hometowns, jobs or internships, holidays… So make the most of the time you have with your existing friends (and the time you have for yourself) while you have it.
What do you wish you’d done to prepare yourself for uni? Let me know in the comments!
If you’re interested in anything else I have to say about university, look out for my future posts on tips for fresher’s week and starting uni (I’ll likely be posting these in September or early October), and I may post updates on my final year of uni once I start it. In the meantime, you can also read my posts on the pros and cons of uni, and my posts on my semester abroad.
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