Starting university: a guide for students

White curve
Being authentic, making mistakes and missing people

Being yourself can be tricky: if you’re lucky, you’ll have been encouraged to do this from childhood, but for many of us, it takes a long time to learn who we truly are.

Being away from home for the first time can be a chance to explore your nature and learn to be your authentic self. Do you do things because you like them or because other people like them? Can you try new things and experiences that might be great for you?

University can also be a time to make mistakes - an important life skill. Everybody gets things wrong from time to time; how you deal with that and learn from it helps you grow as a person. If you have done something wrong, own it and see if you can fix it. You may not be able to, but if you can accept the lesson then all is not lost.

Missing people is also an inevitable part of the university experience. If you love people, it’s totally normal to miss them when you are away. Schedule regular check-in times with those important to you and try to keep to any plans, while also accepting that life goes on for people at home: while you’re experiencing new things, your friends and family will also be living their lives too.

In general, students tend to fall into one of two categories:

Optimist or worrier diagram

The Optimist

If you’ve found yourself pigeon-holed at school or college, university can be a chance to break out and explore who you are. Experimenting is fun and good, but try to be true to yourself: you’ll make better friends in the long run if you’re authentic.

Recognise that making mistakes is an important part of personal development and nothing to be ashamed of; we’ve all made bad decisions in the past and it’s just part of being human.

Try and stay in contact with people you love, and also accept that it’s ok and normal to feel sad that you are not physically with them or miss them. Plan a level of ongoing contact that feels right for you - allowing you to keep close connections while also enjoying university.

Boy Reached Top Of Hill

The Worrier

Liking yourself is the starting point to better relationships. Being more compassionate with yourself can help. Notice if you’re being overly critical in the language you use to yourself - would you speak to a friend like that? Be more forgiving and accepting of who are you, even if things go wrong sometimes.

Owning your mistakes is an important part of personal development; finding solutions increases your own growth and gives you life skills.

Seek help if you need it. Don’t isolate yourself. It will be ok.

Missing people you love is normal, yet there are many ways to stay in touch - texts, emails, FaceTime - all offering contact when not physically together. If you see that friends and family are having a great time on social media, just remember that we only tend to share the positives about our lives: it’s not always a true reflection and doesn’t mean that they’re not missing you too.

Planning to go home every weekend might seem like a good idea, but it may also alienate you from others at uni and get in the way of you making new friends and having shared experiences. Try and make the most of your time at university: it won’t last forever.

boy Staring Out Of The Window



Starting University

A resource for young people about to start university

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Wellbeing Action Plan (child)

A simple, resource to help young people keep themselves well and get them through difficult times

View resource

Warning signs poster

A bold A3 poster showing the warning signs that tell you when someone may be depressed. This poster could save a life.

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