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Life at university

Top 3 ways to make your 1st year count

Your time at uni will fly by so make the most of it – and that includes your 1st year. Whether it's work or play, don't waste a minute.


1. Build a foundation for your university studies

  • Ask your tutor if there's a background reading list to help build up your knowledge base
  • Get into the habit of reading around essay topics, even if they don’t count toward your final grade
  • STUDENT SPEAK: 'I read enough to get pass marks in my 1st year, but only just. 2nd and 3rd year were harder as I had so much reading to catch up on.'
    Rhiannon Bury – English literature, University of Exeter


2. Get your study technique up to speed

  • Make sure you know exactly what your course requires – assignments, seminars and group work can be a big change from school or college
  • Talk to tutors if you're struggling with your new workload – they are there to help
  • EXPERT SPEAK: 'You may hear your 1st year doesn't count, but don't believe it! Pretty much everyone has to change their study practices to cope with studying at a higher level.'
    Michelle Reid – study adviser at the University of Reading


3. Try out new things

  • Check out your university's Freshers' Fair – there's usually a club or society to suit everyone
  • Learn something new – chances are most of the freshers joining will be beginners like you
  • STUDENT SPEAK: 'I joined the women's rugby team for a laugh. I was a fairly shy fresher and wanted a way to make friends. And I discovered I'm alright at rugby.'
    Sophie Ridgeway – History, University of Leeds

3 ways to tackle stress at uni

Uni life can be tough – make sure you know how to spot stress and keep it under control.


1. Beat exam stress

  • Make a schedule and identify your best revision method. Library or bedroom? Morning or evening?
  • On exam day, leave plenty of time to reach the exam venue
  • Divide your time between the number and weighting of the questions
  • STUDENT SPEAK: 'Exams were giving me panic attacks. I went to see my GP and with support through my 2nd year, I felt much better.'
    Clare Finney – English literature, Durham University


2. Tackle homesickness

  • If you're finding the move away from home tough, try talking to your new friends – they might be feeling the same way or be able to help
  • Talk to your university's counselling services – or ask your tutors about help available
  • Register at the university medical centre and have a chat with a nurse or GP
  • STUDENT SPEAK: 'Going to uni is partly about learning to be an adult. I was homesick, but I went to see my uni's counsellors and they were a huge help.'
    Ellie Rose – English, UCL


3. Ask for help

  • Find out what support your uni offers – talk to your tutors, your uni doctor and student counsellors, and look out for mentoring schemes
  • Get some advice – the mental health charity Mind has tips on how to cope with student life 1
  • EXPERT SPEAK: 'If you're worried stress might be part of a wider problem, seek help from a professional, or visit the Students Against Depression 1 website for clinically validated self-help info and advice, with real life stories and blogs by students.
    Dr Denise Meyer – counselling psychologist

3 ways to smarten up your CV

Whether it's a part-time job, a summer internship or a work experience, make sure you have a first-class CV to kick-start your career.


1. Do your research

  • Make your CV relevant for the job you want – include keywords from the job description
  • Find out about the company you’re applying to – check their website, look for profiles online and try and get a sense of what they’re looking for
  • EXPERT SPEAK: 'A good CV matches the applicant’s details closely to the job and the company. Generic CVs won’t impress recruiters.'
    Margaret Holbrough – career advisor, Graduate Prospects 1


2. Get organised

  • Put things in the right order: contact details, academic qualifications, relevant experience and skills gained, relevant achievements and interests and any referees (or simply state they're available on request)
  • Check, check and check again – don't let a typo get in your way
  • If you’re posting your CV, use good quality paper, and if you're emailing it in, PDF it first to make sure it prints out okay
  • EXPERT SPEAK: 'No glitter, sequins or gimmicky fonts. Keep it professional!'
    Margaret Holbrough – career advisor, Graduate Prospects 1


3. Let your words do the talking

  • Keep it to 1 page (2 at the most)
  • Don’t just list your roles and skills – if you play the violin, include the grade. If you play sport, include competitions.
  • EXPERT SPEAK: 'Show readers what you’re like when you’re not studying. It could be an icebreaker at interview.'
    Dan Hawes – head of marketing, Graduate Recruitment Bureau 1
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