Stepping out of your comfort zone can be overwhelming (Picture: Metro.co.uk/Getty)

Change can be scary, and stepping out of your comfort zone, leaving home, moving into a new place and starting a new life can seem very daunting.

But starting university can be exciting; you get to make friends, have new experiences and gain independence.

It is an opportunity to have a fresh start, but in case you are feeling a little anxious, here are some top tips on how to make the transition to university as smooth as possible.

Overcoming loneliness

‘Don’t worry if being a student isn’t immediately the fun-packed experience you were anticipating – that will come in time as you settle in,’ says Dr Hayley van Zwanenberg, a Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist at the Priory Wellbeing Centre in Oxford. 

‘University can be highly isolating. Moving away from home means students are often left without their safety blanket of friends, parents or siblings. 

‘Find at least two university clubs or societies that appeal to your skills, whether it be rowing or the student newspaper, and join. You are then instantly matched with like-minded people. Make the most of freshers’ week, where clubs and societies urge you to join them.’

Try going to your Freshers Fair in the first few weeks of starting uni. They will provide information about upcoming events and socials, and you may find a new sport or hobby to take up.

But if hobbies aren’t your thing, then try making other plans, such as cooking a meal with your housemates, going for coffee after a lecture with your course friends, or checking out talks given by your faculty.

They are all great ways to connect with people and make new friendships.

Throw yourself in there (Picture: Getty Images)

Focus on the moment

‘You may feel overwhelmed, but everyone is in the same boat,’ adds Dr van Zwanenber. 

‘Enjoy the moment. You have worked hard to get to university, but it should not feel like a hothouse, and it is ok not to know what career you might follow at the end.’

The first few weeks are undeniably the hardest, but as time goes on, things will start to become easier.

As you get used to your new home, new timetable, different routine and flatmates things may even become fun.

Beware of social media

Social media can make it look like everyone is having a wonderful time except you.

‘Don’t judge your social status or life by what others are doing online,’ says Dr van Zwanenber. 

‘It’s a false measurement. A lot of people have left behind their friends and are starting afresh at university. Some people find this easier than others.

‘It can be hard work being away from home, but see starting university as a new challenge and an opportunity to try new things within a safe and like-minded environment.’

Personalise your Room 

‘When moving into Uni halls, you’re likely to spend far more time in your bedroom than you ever would at home,’ says Darren, a Marketing Manager at Glide.

‘At university, your bedroom isn’t just where you sleep and chill out; it’s also likely to be your study space and even, in some halls, your social space too. It’s important to get it decorated and personalised.’

Homely features you should bring to your Uni Room, according to Darren:

  • Duvet covers and pillows – Bringing some from home can give you that extra bit of comfort.
  • Photos – Bring pictures of family, friends, and pets with you to have on display, so you can see them at any time.
  • Childhood Favourites – It may help you to feel less homesick if you had a favourite toy from your childhood to squeeze.
  • Use things that remind you of home – If you think you might get homesick when you move into university halls, bring things with you from home that will help you settle in better, study better and sleep better. Such as your favourite mug or the washing powder your parents buy.
  • Keep up with your at-home hobbies – whether it’s crochet, stamp-collecting or DJing, keeping up with your hobbies can help you to feel at home much more quickly.
It will get easier (Picture: Getty Images)

Money worries

Going to uni and suddenly having to be financially independent can be daunting, especially because budgeting isn’t something we are taught in school.

Struggling with finances is very common, especially if your schedule doesn’t allow you to get a job. This can start to become a problem, especially once course materials, leisure time and nights out start to add up.

Tips for budgeting:

  • Apply for student finance to receive student loans while you are at university. They can help to cover tuition fees and maintenance costs. You can still apply for 2022/2023 now, although you may not receive your first payment in time for the start of the term.
  • Some universities have bursary funds you can apply for throughout the year. Check out your university’s website to see if you are eligible to apply.
  • Get a student discount card. They are valid at many different shops, including restaurants and clothes stores and offer great reductions.
  • Buy second-hand university supplies. Second or third-year students may be selling their old textbooks, so keep an eye on your uni Facebook groups.
  • Make a budget plan – work out what you expect to spend from week to week. This way, you can see which societies you are able to join and which nights out are doable.

Phone home

It’s ok to call family and friends – you don’t need to cut them out.

‘Have open conversations with family and friends about how you feel,’ says Dr van Zwanenber.

‘Encourage them to visit. Always have someone to call. While sharing living space with people outside the family is part of the student experience for the majority, it is not always easy. 

‘When it comes to your flatmates, learning to compromise will help and negotiating is important, so you can voice what you need without getting into arguments.’

Preparation

Tom Davis, Principal at David Game College Liverpool, says: ‘Accept that there is going to be a change or set of changes in your life, and mentally prepare yourself to be open to those changes.

‘If you’re a new student, then get yourself organised – whether this is asking for reading lists from the university or signing up for online resources – start thinking about your subject early so that you can acclimatise to it. 

‘Beyond the academic preparation, think about other ways you can feel ready. Every bit of preparation sorted before your first week is a last-minute panic averted.

‘It’s also ok to feel nervous. Everyone does – even especially the ones who don’t seem to be nervous at all. 

‘University is new to everyone, and they all have challenges they will have to overcome. So, focus on overcoming your challenges, and perhaps also on being welcoming to everyone else – then you might be helping someone else overcome their fears as well.’

Manage your time

University tutorials and writing dissertations can seem alien after life at school, Dr van Zwanenber adds.

She says: ‘There’s often lots of independent learning. Try creating a written work schedule, breaking your tasks down into manageable chunks and planning accordingly. 

‘Divide your work into urgent and non-urgent tasks, and important and unimportant tasks.’

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

‘Whatever your age, interests or academic ability, I cannot stress how important it is to open up and talk,’ adds Dr van Zwanenber.

‘There is no shame – and certainly should be no stigma – in admitting you are feeling overwhelmed, unable to cope or experiencing feelings of depression and anxiety. 

‘As a society, we may also need to accept that student days have changed over the decades and whilst there’s no reason they shouldn’t still be some of the best days of your life, teenagers (and their parents) may have to learn to adjust their expectations and be prepared for some pitfalls and pressures along the way.

‘Many universities offer fantastic counselling and welfare support services, which provide an ideal opportunity to talk through problems – whether practical, emotional or financial.’

Make sure to sign up with a local GP and if things get too overwhelming, then use the uni’s confidential counselling service to seek extra help.

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