A brief guide to surviving university: Balancing academics and having fun!

In this must-read blog for new students, Physiotherapy student Saffron shares her tips for surviving university – the academic and the social side of it. 

Headshot of Saffron wearing sunglasses, with the sea and some rocks behind her in the distance.

Saffron Campana

Congratulations! You have been accepted to university… But what comes next?

University is arguably one of the best times of your life: you will meet new people, experience different cultures, learn (A LOT!), and hopefully grow and develop as a person. Unfortunately, it isn’t all fun and games, you still need to study and do work.

Each course is run differently but there is often a mix of exams and coursework; on top of this you may even have work placements or choose to adopt a part time job to bring in some extra cash. This can become stressful, so you need to find time in your busy schedule to let loose and have fun too!

Sounds complicated? No worries! I’ll break down my top tips of how to find the perfect work-life balance and how to find some peace amongst the chaos.

Organise and Strategize

Spending 10 minutes a week planning your time will save hours of stress when you overbook yourself and suddenly have an assignment due in two days.

Saffron's colour coded study timetable.There are multiple ways that you can organise your time effectively: diaries, apps, to do lists, planners, even excel spreadsheets. Over my three years at university I have tried pretty much every way possible and found that post it notes on my wardrobe, paper planners, and the ‘Microsoft To Do’ app (which you can sync to your uni email) work best, but try them yourself and see what works best for you.

Saffron's planner app on her desktop.When planning, put in exam dates and deadlines first (so that you can’t forget them!) and block yourself equal amounts of time for each module including revision and assignments.

You will get told this over and over again… but, completing your coursework asap is essential in preventing unnecessary stress. If you can’t complete it early, allow yourself enough time to complete it without rushing and submitting at the last minute – this causes unwanted anxiety, pressure, and its often where mistakes are made.

Placement prep

For those lucky few who get to take on placements, take every opportunity you are given even if it seems difficult. Also, being prepared for your placement will help remove some of the unease. Here are my top 5 tips to prep:
1. Revise the subject area you are going into
2. Have a pen and new notebook – to keep notes and make reflections
3. Plan your route and do a dummy run before so you know where to go and when
4. Get your uniform and bag ready the night before
5. Take a treat to work (a small cake, piece of fruit, etc.) – this works as a mid-day pick me up!

Whilst university and the academic side is important, you also need to book some ‘me time’ and fit in important events – this ‘down time’ is where you can just unwind and be YOU! (We will get to this later on.)

Saffron's arm with pen marks on it showing different parts of its anatomy.Finding what works for you

Revision is one of the essential but annoying things that we HAVE to do (unless you are incredibly gifted!). Everyone will have their own unique learning style and it may even be a combination of different ones. Take time to try all different styles and see what sticks.

For those studying health, the things I found most helpful are anatomy colouring books, physically practicing things (i.e. muscle tests), and drawing where anatomical structures would be, helped me to understand how they move and work.

Making some ‘ME TIME’

Self-care has been mentioned a lot during the Pandemic, but it is still something we often forget to do for ourselves. Make sure to set aside at least five minutes – one hour a day to do something for YOU.
This doesn’t have to be a big thing, here are some easy examples:
• Take extra time to make a nice meal and eat without distraction
• Make time to go to the gym/play sport
• Read a good book in the sunshine
• Face packs and follow a skin care routine
• 10 minutes colouring/drawing

Spend time with people that make you laugh until it hurts! Grab your bestie, order food and throw on a good film; doing this especially after a rubbish day or to celebrate after a big exam is golden.

Saffron and three of her friends sat around a table at a restaurant.ENJOY!

The most important thing about being at university is to ENJOY IT! Most people only get one run at it, so make the most of every opportunity and don’t be afraid to try new things. Take a chance on a new sport, sign up to a society you have never heard of, try new foods, or learn a new language – you never know when these things might come in handy.

Having fun and being organised with your time will allow you to make the most of university life and keep things stress-free!

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