Words by: indiekelly
University students in lecture hall As starting university in September gets closer and closer, getting the inside scoop into what to expect – and what to focus on – can help in buckets. TSR member indiekelly, who works in a university admissions department, shares some advice for those of you contemplating life as a fresher.

As part of my role involves pastoral support, I thought I would write from 'behind-the-scenes' to get you clued up before university starts this autumn.

Here are the top five 'reflective' statements I hear from graduates who have gone on to conquer the big wide world: take their wise words on board and you'll be ready to take on university - and all that comes afterwards.

1. It’s okay to not know what to do after university.

Your final year will fly by, and after three or four years of hard slog and studying, most graduates will need some time to breathe. Take time to relax and appreciate what you have achieved, rather than hit the ground running into a career you might not be sure about. Remember, many graduates won’t find their ideal job until four or five years after graduation, so you have plenty of time to work things out for yourself.

2. It’s okay to take on a career in no way related to your degree.

Plenty of people go into a career that is not related to their degree. We hear the term ‘transferable skills’ all the time and many graduates believe they possess them from the three years of study. But, skills go way back to primary school when you start communicating, team work and adapting. As long as you can apply one of these ‘buzz terms’ to the environment you are interviewing for, the company won’t want to miss out on you. Most people on my Psychology course didn’t become psychologists: one of my classmates worked her way up in Barclays and has never been happier.

3. Academic achievement alone is not always key.

All universities will (hopefully!) encourage you to volunteer in something or other, in order to build your practical soft skills and to have something for your CV. DO IT! The wackier the better. Something different on your CV is definitely a talking point for employers and will ensure they will remember you. Once you get full time employment there will be limited time to volunteer, and you’ll wish you used those free hours in your timetable to do so.

4. It’s okay to change your course - or even drop out – if your subject or university is not for you.
I have seen friends stick out subjects they didn’t enjoy, only to end up unmotivated, depressed, failed and in the same amount of debt as the rest of us. If you aren’t enjoying your course, seek out advice and options, as staff are being paid to provide it. But if university isn’t for you, don’t force it. You will still have gained some skills and knowledge from time there. With tuition fee hikes, it is becoming more commonly acknowledged that apprenticeships and direct employment are just as viable as options instead of university. It was almost a natural progression at my sixth form to sink into UCAS mode; it was even slotted into the A Level timetables! Although I adored my time at university I do feel a bit cheated that I wasn’t encouraged to look at other options.

5. It’s okay to live in the now.
I saw (and still do as an employee) some students who spent their three years at university trying to plan ahead as much as possible, becoming very stressed as a result of this. Plan as much as you want but don’t miss out on the culture because of it. Remember: the career world is changing so fast, that it’s almost impossible to stay one step ahead.

Even though university is a vital part of a graduate's life, it is easy to forget that those three or four years are just a small chunk of life. You might have a down period after graduation, but it does get better and there will be another 60 odd years or more to fill with new chapters and memories. So give yourself a break…

More on TSR:

Read our guide to A-level results day

Check out our 'Alternatives to university' article

Thinking of doing a gap year? Click here for our top tips

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