First year students: you don’t need all the answers

Deciding what, where and if you should even be studying at university is a massive decision. From the age of around thirteen, when students begin picking their GCSEs, they are making decisions about what they want to do for the rest of their lives. However, the scariest part of all is that even once you’ve arrived at university – you still might not be convinced that you’ve made the right choices.

I arrived at UEA feeling incredibly nervous. I wasn’t sure if I’d picked the right course and as a deferred entry student it had been years since I’d seen the campus, one which I’d agreed to live on for the next three years.

Perhaps I wouldn’t be cut out for university level studies? What if I didn’t get on with anyone?

Those first few weeks are now a whirlwind that I can barely remember. I met many people and attended many socials. What quickly became clear, was that everyone was just as scared – some were just better at hiding it than others.

In many ways, university life was different from my expectations:

  • Fresher’s week wasn’t the carnage I had been led to believe
  • Professors aren’t actually that scary
  • Unlike A-levels, you don’t have to live by a rigid marking scheme

That isn’t to say that there weren’t hard times. After my first term I realised that joint honours English and drama wasn’t the right course for me, so I switched to single honours English literature – and it wasn’t a drama (pun intended).

There were times this past year when I didn’t think I was good enough. I once had to complete four essays in one week and there were many tearful calls home. But much to my surprise I managed it. In fact I not only managed it, but I excelled. University pushes you academically and socially, and you will be amazed by what you can achieve.

The biggest piece of advice I can give to someone considering university is that you’re not trapped by the choices you make at school. If the course or the university isn’t working for you you can switch. For the first time your education is solely in your hands, and the exciting bit is that you can make it into anything you want.

I’m looking forward to starting my next year of university. I know that I will be studying something I am passionate about and living with people who support and inspire me. The friends I have made this year are some of the best people I have ever had the privilege to meet; their creativity and kindness are part of what makes university life so special.

Throughout my school career I thought I needed all the answers. The question of where and what I should be studying at university seemed like something I could easily get wrong. What I have learned this year is that choosing the wrong course won’t cause you irrevocable damage, but it will help you find your way to what you really want to be doing. It needn’t be a drama.

(This article was originally posted on The Guardian online)

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