I’ve never been the sentimental type. When people used to tell me that uni would be the best three years of my life, I would smile and nod, inwardly thinking ‘how depressing is that’. As much as I loved my time at university, I couldn’t wait to go out into the real world and finally become an adult.
Now that I’ve graduated, I can’t help but long for that halcyon time when the biggest stress in my life was getting to the club in time for free entry. In a desperate attempt to re-live my glory days, I’ve compiled a list of nine things I would’ve done differently if I could turn back time and experience my final year all over again.
1. Get involved in more societies
Freshers’ fairs are a mad rush of optimistically signing up for societies you know in your heart-of-hearts you’re never going to attend. The only positive thing that ever came out of my freshers' fair experience – other than the free cupcakes and Domino’s vouchers – was that it taught me how to find the unsubscribe button.
Nevertheless, I regret not taking part in societies. Not only are they a great way to meet people, but you get the opportunity to try out things you previously never had the chance to. Moreover, they act as microcosms of real-world companies: becoming the president or treasurer of a society helps develop employability skills and looks impressive on a CV. I wish I had become more involved in my university’s Amnesty International group or taken my love for Anthony Joshua one step further by joining the university boxing society.
2. Attend all lectures
As boring as it sounds, I regret opting for a lie-in rather than attending some of my lectures. While I maintain that 9.00 am lectures should be classified as a human rights’ violation, some of the most interesting topics were covered during that god-forsaken hour of the morning. As a humanities student, I only had an average of seven contact hours a week, so lectures and tutorials were vital: missing just one of my lectures cost me about £428 in tuition fees. It’s also worth remembering that, at university, you are taught by world-leading scholars. Being lectured by renowned experts, even when hungover on a rainy Monday morning, is a rare privilege.
3. Make good use of the welfare services
For me, like many others, final year was one of the most stressful years of my life. I put immense pressure on myself to achieve top grades and practically lived in the library. This, combined with copious amounts of coffee and a lack of sleep, did not make me a particularly happy person.
While I had access to university counsellors and college welfare officers, I suffered in silence, not wanting to a) burden people with my problems and b) waste valuable time that I could spend revising by talking to people. Looking back, this was obviously a mistake. It’s not a weakness to admit that you are struggling; university counsellors are there to help you and speaking to them will most likely help you with your studies. After all, a stressed-out brain is not a productive one.
4. Keep making new friends
I went to a collegiate university, which meant that most of my friends were from my college rather than department. By the time I’d reached my final year, I realised that I knew hardly anyone on my course. I thought that it was too late to get to know new people as everyone had their own tight-knit groups, but after speaking to other graduates in my year, I realised that many were in a similar position and would have loved to meet new people. If I could do it again, I would make more effort to speak to people during lectures and tutorials and attend more faculty-specific socials.
5. Start thinking about possible careers early on
Between lectures, essay deadlines and club nights, there seems to be no time for career planning. I ended up prioritising my studies over job searching and, although I don’t necessarily regret this, I wish I had at least considered my future in more depth. I could have begun researching careers and narrowing down my options. This would have enabled me to apply for work experience and insight days which would have clarified whether a specific job was right for me. Even if I ended up ruling out a career after having done an internship, any experience is good experience.
6. Take advantage of office hours
Professors don’t vanish into thin air as soon as their lectures finish. They have office hours for a reason – if you are struggling with a certain concept or need advice for an essay, you can always drop by during their office hours and have a chat. I didn’t know that I was entitled to ask my tutors for advice until after I’d graduated. I never approached them for advice or help as I thought that I would be bothering them. Nevertheless, it’s part of their job description and, nine times out of ten, they are more than happy to help. Establishing a more personal relationship with your tutors is also helpful as you can then ask them to be your referees when applying for jobs or further study.
7. Use your uni careers service
Free, personalised careers advice is hard to come by and having face-to-face meetings with advisers is invaluable: you can tell them what you are specifically looking for in a potential career and receive advice that is tailored to you. Mock interviews are also offered by most careers services and are so helpful for those who are terrified of the interview stage. I personally hate writing cover letters and wish that I had gotten an adviser to help me with a few applications before I graduated. While my university continues to offer its services even after graduation, I can’t afford to travel 270 miles for a 20-minute appointment.
8. Go out more
Final year may seem like an endless flood of deadlines, exams and stress, but university is so much more than a degree. In my final year, I resisted going out because I always felt guilty for not working, but I would just end up staying home by myself and binge-watching Game of Thrones, which was definitely not a productive use of my time (especially in light of the final season). When I look back on my university experience, the moments I remember aren’t the nights I spent in the library, but the time I spent with my friends. As cliché as it sounds, you’re only young once. This is the age when you can drink two litres of tequila and still feel fine the next morning! (Don’t quote me on this.)
9. Appreciate your time at university
The three years are over in a flash, and your final year passes by even more quickly. Take a step back and remind yourself of all the things you love about your university. If I could go back, I would spend more time eating dinner with my housemates, studying in my favourite coffee shop and picnicking by the river on the rare occasions that the sun decided to make an appearance. University is a period of freedom and independence that vanishes for so many once they graduate. Enjoy it while it lasts!
Kyriaki Kyriacou, University of Durham and University of Oxford English graduate