The new academic year is finally here. Even in the best of times, starting university can be a hectic, overwhelming, or stressful time. That’s especially true right now during the pandemic. That being said, there are still core things one should think about when they are starting their undergraduate degree. I want to talk about some of that here to help alleviate any anxiety you might be feeling. I wish I knew this when I started university in 2013!
I think the biggest thing a new undergraduate student should do is find your support networks early. Like I said, university can be a scary time, but it doesn’t have to be an experience you go through alone. Making friends and finding people you trust will be more tricky now with COVID-19, but wherever you can, reach out to people, introduce yourself, and try to make connections. Everyone will be going through the same thing as you and feel the same way, so don’t be scared to put yourself out there. Identifying LSE support services and resources that are there to help you thrive during your degree is also vital and will help dramatically improve your university experience.
On the academic side, it’s important to get a handle on your coursework early. Now, I don’t say that to put undue stress on you. This will certainly take some time since university work is a big step up from high school for most students. However, it’s good to start figuring out how to achieve success in your classes right at the beginning. If you’re starting a humanities degree, this means figuring out the most important readings to do and trying to discern what the key takeaways are each week. When I first started university, I always tried to do every reading and got very overwhelmed with my work. It wasn’t until later when a professor told me that part of why they assign a lot of reading is that they want us as students to determine what is important that I figured out this was a key thing to do. Talking to your professor/graduate teaching assistant or to your classmates is helpful in getting this done.
Finally, I think the biggest thing you need to ask yourself is what you want to get out of your degree. This probably sounds corny, but it’s true. Everyone goes to university for different reasons, so staying true to yourself and why you’re there is crucial. Once you identify this, you’ll want to try to do things that will help you further your goals. A lot of people will tell you going to university is just about getting a job, but it is so much more than that. A university education is about exploration, taking chances, failing, and learning more about who you are. Even during the pandemic, take this as an opportunity to do things you wouldn’t have done in the past. You likely won’t be in this type of environment again, so try to enjoy every minute of it!