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  • 14 November 2018
  • 12 min read

My first year university experience and advice

  • Chloe Lawrence
    Registered Mental Health Nurse

Chloe studied Mental Health Nursing at LSBU. In this video she talks about her first year university experience and offers advice for anyone looking to study nursing at uni.

Play video: Chloe talks about her experience during her first year of university, and gives advice to prospect students.

I'm about to start my second year at university and I've been reflecting back on my first year recently so I thought I would share with you my experience, maybe some tips, and what I'd recommend if you are going to be starting University soon.

The things I'm going to be discussing are like pre-university so A-Levels, the second thing is going to be halls housing, the third is going to be social life, the fourth is going to be academic life and the fifth is going to be what I want to do better next year and what I’d change if I did it again.

A-Levels

Before university I did A-Levels and I studied film, politics, biology and psychology. My plan was to carry on with all four A-Levels right through to the end but and I just I couldn't keep up with the workload because three of them were essay based subjects and I just didn't physically have enough time to write that many essays, so I ended up dropping politics and only carrying on with the other three all the way from AS to A2.

I achieved ABC which is a lot better than I expected to do and higher than I actually needed to get into University.

I found A-Levels really difficult, I didn't enjoy them at all.

Thankfully I have enjoyed University a lot more so I guess it was worth it.

University Halls

I chose London Southbank because where I wanted to be a mental health nurse, the hospital trust that is associated with on the south bank in South London and it is one of the best mental health trusts in the country so I knew that I wanted to go to one that worked within that trust.

My three options were Greenwich, South Bank or Kings - I didn't particularly like Greenwich, I applied and and got in but I just I didn't really like it so I chose not to go there, plus I really wanted to be in central London.

So then the decision came down to King's or South Bank - I really quite like both and I probably would have preferred to go to King's clearly because it's reputation but for me the deciding factor was accommodation.

I literally could not afford the halls at Kings and their cheapest halls were like forty pounds a week, more expensive than the cheapest choice at South Bank so unfortunately I had to make my decision based on money.

It's not what I would have liked to make the decision on but it was a decision I made that I'm quite happy with.

They're pretty unorganised but then I've heard Kings students and Greenwich students that I meet on placements say the exact same thing, so at the end of the day so long as I get my degree and I can work as a mental health nurse I'm not hugely bothered.

So as I previously mentioned I chose to stay in halls; I would definitely recommend to stay in halls even if you're going to uni as a slightly older student.

I met people that were in halls that were 26/27 and in my flat we were a flat of six and two of them were 23 so it's not like you can't stay in halls if you're older than 18.

The majority of the friends that I've made at university I've made through halls, they're the people you socialise with the most and they're the people that you do things with.

I chose to stay in halls that have communal bathrooms: I would definitely recommend this depending on the university.

In my case we were in flats of six and we had two bathrooms between the six of us but if you're staying in University where there's like two bathrooms between 20 of you maybe don't stay in communal.

If I were you, I’d try to find out what the ratio of bathrooms to bedrooms is.

If it's a good ratio, staying in communal you'll save so much money and I never had to wait for the shower, there was never a case when I couldn't shower because there were two bathrooms and it again saved me so much money - I think I literally saved thirty pounds a week by staying in communal which, when you're a student, is a lot of money.

Just be prepared that it's not all gonna be fun and games. There's a lot of bitchiness, a lot of cattiness, a lot of different personalities, which is a good thing but obviously sometimes you're just not going to get on.

As a whole my flat got on pretty well but there were a few kind of big explosions because there was a massive clash of personalities and everyone has their own issues.

Also it can get quite noisy so if you're a very light sleeper or you like your sleep just bear that in mind that like 11/12 o'clock it's still gonna be pretty noisy.

You get ambassadors, which are older students that live in halls to keep an eye on everyone and things like that, and you can ring them if people are being noisy.

I don't think we ever rang the halls ambassadors, plus you really don't want to be those people that get the reputation as being the tattletales because then if you do the tiniest thing wrong other people are going to jump on it and they're going to love to grass you up because they know you did someone else so generally people don't complain to the halls ambassadors.

Something else I know people are quite worried about is people stealing your stuff and stealing your food.

Personally I never had anything stolen, no food or anything like that and I don't know anybody that did so if that's something you're really concerned about it's not something to worry about.

I'd say if you are really concerned, most halls have locks on their cupboards.

Social Life

In terms of social life, my university isn't very good for that I have to admit.

The Student Union doesn't do a lot, you tend to find that London universities will hold big events between all of them so your Student Union won't really organise much but there will be London universities events, so you'll go but there'll also be Kings students and students from this university and that university which is quite nice actually because it means you get to make friends all over London.

I mainly went out during freshers, I haven't really got out much since then because as a nursing student I don't have a lot of time so I didn't really go out much after freshers but there were events throughout the year, so if partying and clubbing is your thing that will be going on the whole year.

In terms of clubs and societies I personally didn't join any; I know a lot of people suggest that you should and again if I had more time I would but as a nursing student you work full time.

Some people that I've met, on the courses they're on they literally do like two days a week and they're in for like three or four hours on those days.

My course is not like that at all - when I'm at uni it's Monday to Friday and when I'm not at uni I'm on placement, you work 37 and a half hours a week and then I'd be doing my part-time job on top of that, so for me I just didn't have time to join any clubs and societies but I don't feel like I've missed out at all.

Academic Life

In terms of academic stuff I definitely struggled with referencing and it's really not an easy thing to do. It’s kind the sort of thing that you just need to sit and read about and get your head around because you have to do it in all your essays there's no getting around it.

I know some people that have to do it at A-Level, but it won't be as strict as University referencing so definitely get yourself a guide to referencing and get your head around it because you do lose a lot of marks if it's not done correctly and it's stupid because you would never need to do that in any form of normal life after university unless you do a master's a PhD.

I'd really suggest is get a planner, get some sticky notes, get some coloured pens however is that you keep yourself organised.

It's really important because nobody is there to hassle you; it's not like when you're at school or college, nobody's gonna hassle you.

If normally you need your teachers or your parents to push you to get things done it’s not going to happen. You need to do that yourself, you need to push yourself, set yourself deadlines that are sooner than the actual deadlines.

Something I always do is if my essay is due on the 14th of January and I'd have my personal deadline as the 1st of January and then I would make sure that by the 1st of January my essay is done.

I would ignore it for a few days, go back to it and read it.

It was like a fresh pair of eyes because I feel like sometimes you miss mistakes because you're just reading it over and over again, little mistakes you just skip over that your brain doesn't notice because you've become so familiar with the text, so get it done really early, leave it for a few days or a week or however long you can afford to leave it for and then go back to it read it with a fresh pair of eyes, and then get it in early.

As far as I'm aware all universities like you to hand things in online, but if your internet goes down the day of your deadline or the website crashes because everybody's trying to hand in their essay at the same time you are screwed.

The same goes for revision: just get it done early. Don't panic yourself.

In theory you're choosing a subject at university that you enjoy so you should enjoy revising but, for example, I know quite a lot of people that do English at University and they love English but they hate for example like the history of the English language so that particular module might be horrific, but don't forget you've got to get that done to do everything else so you've just got to motivate yourself.

What would I do differently if I could do my first year again?

In terms of things I would have done differently, I'm actually pretty happy with how I did my first year.

I would have liked to have done a bit more social stuff, like I said I didn't really get involved in any of the social stuff at my university just because of how busy I was so I think if I could do first year again I would try and make more time to go and do some more fun stuff.

For me clubbing and nightclubs isn't really my thing but I really wish I'd made more time to do things like bowling and going to the cinema and having a movie night, things like that that's what I wish I'd done a little bit more of.

I have made some brilliant friends but we rarely do anything together so I would suggest just go out of your way to try and do things no matter where you go to university there's always going to be cheap or free things in your local area.

A lot of places give student discounts and make sure you've got like an NUS or a student ID card or something like that because you do get student discounts.

I think the one thing that I forgot last year is that I am young and these are meant to be the best years of my life.

Yes getting my degree is super important and earning enough money to pay my rent is super important but I should be enjoying myself at the same time so I think if I was going to give you one piece of advice for university is: yes work hard, yes have a part-time job if you want to, yes do everything you want to do but just make sure that you enjoy yourself because it is meant to be the best time of your life.

It is a time in your life when you have the most amount of Independence with the least amount of responsibilities.

The biggest thing that I would suggest and it's something that I'm gonna actively try and do more in my second year like I said I'm considering joining a club you know I'm not too bothered if I don't do that but I really want to go and do things go to events that don't involve alcohol and go to the cinema, go bowling and go for walks along the river that's the kind of thing that I really want to do next year. 

My second year university experience

About the author

  • Chloe Lawrence
    Registered Mental Health Nurse

I qualified as a Mental Health Nurse (RMN) in August of 2018 and started as a newly qualified nurse shortly after. On top of nursing I juggle creating content for both my YouTube channel and blog.

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  • Chloe Lawrence
    Registered Mental Health Nurse

About the author

  • Chloe Lawrence
    Registered Mental Health Nurse

I qualified as a Mental Health Nurse (RMN) in August of 2018 and started as a newly qualified nurse shortly after. On top of nursing I juggle creating content for both my YouTube channel and blog.