Starting university: a guide for students

White curve
Leaving your problems behind you

Coming to university may give you the chance to leave your past behind you, at home.

However, don’t assume you won’t still be affected in some way. Counselling services, wellbeing support or NHS services in your university town can all help you to explore and process any hardships you may have faced.

Remember that you may feel under a lot of pressure from all the new experiences you are having. This can increase feelings of anxiety or low mood if not addressed.

Ask for help; you are never on your own.

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

Optimist or worrier diagram

The Optimist

This is the chance for a fresh start. You may feel that you’ve had mental health challenges at school and college, but that everything will be fine at university - you will cope with everything and still have room to party!

If you’ve had a difficult time at home, university offers some space and personal responsibility. However, your past will still be there and can affect the choices you make.

This might be your chance to seek support for past issues - your university may have an advice service that can help you explore your experiences. While you may cope brilliantly, mental health problems don’t usually disappear overnight. Try to be self-aware and notice when you’re dipping. Seek support and find out who to speak to if you need help.

Men holding books smiling at camera

The Worrier

You’ve had past issues with anxiety, depression or other mental health problems but don’t want anyone to judge you or avoid you. You struggle to cope day to day now; thinking about all the extra things you have to cope with is terrifying. Everyone else will be having a great time and you will be alone, feeling unhappy.

These are all valid thoughts; after all, starting university can be an unsettling time. If you have suffered with mental health problems in the past, you may find it worse at uni without your usual support systems in place. Yet mental health services will be available at your university and in your local town, so don’t ignore your problems. Help can be more effective if you access it before you become completely overwhelmed.

It may be that your home life was difficult - maybe you were a carer or have a parent with alcohol dependency or their own mental health problems. Remember that you have the right to a life too; you shouldn’t feel guilty for enjoying your time at university. You’ve earned this experience.

Teenage girl studying at table

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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