Starting university: a guide for students

White curve
COVID-19 and your university experience

Nobody expected this pandemic; it’s turned things upside down for us all and we’re still adjusting to it. Yet humans are pretty adaptable and universities have spent the summer preparing for different eventualities to make sure that your studies can still go ahead.

All universities have been adapting their courses to manage in the new circumstances. They may be more focus on online work, but there should still be opportunities for socially distanced small group work where possible.

Your university will want you to feel safe and still get the best of your student experience. Things may be different for a while, but you should still be able to apply yourself to your studies and achieve a good degree at the end.

We all have to be prepared for more change on the horizon and the chance of another national or local lockdown. We don’t know how long this will last for, and all hope that it’s a temporary state of affairs.

It’s helpful to remember that you’re in the same boat as your fellow students across the globe. This has been a part of history and our lives that we will never forget, and when things ease again we will truly appreciate our health and freedom.

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

Optimist or worrier diagram

The Optimist

The pandemic will mean that there are some things you can’t do, but you’re not going to let that get in the way of having the best experience you can.

Whatever comes next, you can make the most of the opportunities that present themselves, even if it’s not what you were expecting.

However, you may still be affected in ways that you’re not recognising: take time for self-care, reflection and being there for others. Try to stay safe and well and always follow the latest guidance on mask-wearing and social distancing.

Female student with hands out

The Worrier

You may have an underlying health condition and worry about being at risk.

You could have suffered with people in your family being very poorly with Covid, or be frightened of another lockdown, unable to see your family or loved ones if you’re far from home.

You could also be angry that you’re having to do so much learning online and that, right now, you’re not able to use all the facilities or join the groups you wanted to at uni.

It’s fine to feel all of these emotions. All of us are still adapting to unexpected times.

Girl looking thoughtful

If you have an underlying health condition, inform your university as soon as possible to discuss arrangements for social distancing so that you can remain safe.

If you have poorly family members, or have lost people you love during the pandemic, seek advice and support from the counselling or wellbeing team at your university as soon as you can. They will help you make sense of your loss, give you space to talk about your distress, and ensure that you are provided with academic support if you’re struggling with your workload.

Clubs and activities will be run in safe, socially distanced ways - it may not be what you were expecting, but it’s just how things are right now.

If another lockdown happens, it will of course be disappointing. But it will be less scary than last time as we know what to expect. Universities will also have contingency plans in place to cover this, minimising disruption. It may be helpful to talk your concerns through with your family as well, just in case, to be as prepared as possible.

Nothing is certain, however. Sometimes we just have to accept the uncertainty and how that affects how we feel. Prioritising mental health and wellbeing self-care helps, as does planning activities that reduce anxiety and help you to feel calm.

Male student with bag on

Resources

Resource

Starting University

A resource for young people about to start university

View resource
Resource

Wellbeing Action Plan (child)

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

View resource
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.

View resource

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