Feeling a bit liiiittle qualified now to give advice on starting university as I've almost completed my first semester (Yay!) though surprisingly it has gone incredibly fast.
So here's a few things to keep in mind as you prepare for that first semester.
1. As much as we all loooove fresh new stationary, you really aren't going to use most of it. I tend to fall victim to the sales of all the pretty notebooks in Typo and the back-to-school pen selections. Whilst 10 different notebooks and 20 differently coloured pens may seem extremely appealing, in reality you're only going to need a handful of blue or black pens (depending on your preference) and some highlighters. I personally recommend getting the Stabilo highlighters as they last forever and are the perfect width for highlighting and tend not to bleed through the page.
2. As far as notebooks and writing pads go, the smarter option is going for loose leaf lined paper and carrying it around in a document holder or stiff plastic sleeve to keep it straight. You don’t know how many pages you’ll need in a notebook – some lecturers have a million things for you to write down, others will give you handouts. For decorative purposes you can get a pretty binder, but make sure it’s a lever arch file as you will be opening and closing it a lot to store away new notes.
3. A laptop isn’t necessary but it does help a lot when it comes to note taking. However if buying a fast laptop isn’t exactly realistic, paper notes are fine. Most universities will provide you with a logon that will give you access to lecture powerpoint slides so you can go over those at home before or after your lecture and add to your notes.
3a. A quick sub-point – there are tonnes of ways to take notes, I personally like to have brief printed notes as well as hand drawn graphs and brainstorms. You’ll find you need to print a lot in university and buying ink for a printer can add up if you don’t use it often and it dries out. Try and find somewhere near your school or home that does relatively cheap printing.
4. Try and source a good backpack. No one really cares what bag you’re using and the only person that it’s truly going to effect is you! Whilst a handbag may seem like and appealing choice, it will really screw with your shoulders, especially on a large campus. A laptop bag with lots of padding can be okay, so long as you swap shoulders often and don’t plan on carrying it for too long.
5. When it comes to navigating your campus, everyone gets lost all the damn time. A lot of students will be given new lecture halls and labs to go to and if the building layout is relatively open this can make it very tricky to figure out. Most offices will have paper maps to hand out, and school sites will have downloadable PDF maps, but asking people is definitely not embarrassing. Unless they’re in a hurry and/or rude, no one takes it personally and is usually more than happy to point out the building.
6. Lastly, don’t be fooled by the illusion of having tonnes of free time. There is always study to be done and assignments coming up. A typical university semester is only 13 weeks long (excluding exam weeks) so you have to be super careful with how you spend your time. Hold off on getting that part-time job until everything’s settled down and you have organised a study routine or study time.
That’s it guys! All you really need to know before you go to your first semester at university or college. Whilst it may seem daunting at first, don’t stress too much as everyone else has been in your shoes before.