16 September 2014

Some Advice for University Pups

This year I finished my three year university journey and it is bizarre to think how much I've grown over that time but I also can't believe I was left to decide what degree I wanted to do at such a young age. What I plan to write today is advice I would give to someone about to go in or is halfway through that journey having come out on the other side completely lost. Obviously, we could be completely different people and you might not take much from this but hopefully this can help someone with their university journey.

Save up a little money

Having come out the other side with very little money I've realised what a Godsend my student loan was. I wish I was about to receive some maintenance just to live off but now if I want money I have to work for it - it is completely unheard of. Right now I wished I'd saved just a little bit more of my loan away; in first year I managed to save quite a bit but for second and third I was paying rent or materials costs and I quickly became familiar with my overdraft. Look at what you spend your loan on and ask yourself if you really need it. Imagine if you just put a little £20 here or £10 there, by the end of three years you could have nice little sum: £10 a month =£360 extra, £20 a month, £720 extra, £10 a week, an extra £1,440! It's just a tenner but what I wouldn't give to have that right now to help with post-university costs like interview outfits or little treats.

Use your time well

I hate myself for saying it. I can't count how many boring pre-university talks I went to or CV building talks where people's advice was "Use your time well" and "volunteer". Doing something for free, what an awful idea. I did it anyway, and at first I was very reluctant because imagine how I could be using my time instead, all the fun I'd miss. In reality, I was probably just going to waste my time in front of a computer or distracting myself from actual work and you know what the highlight on all of my cover letters and applications is: the fact that I spent 4 years volunteering in my local community. The worst thing about volunteering is that you do something for free, and yeah that can suck, however with volunteering you normally pick and choose when you want to work, get transport or meals paid for you or a kind of allowance (so it doesn't cost you money) and not to mention what you'll actually be doing will be much more fun if you pick the right place. You don't really need qualifications and get so much experience doing something that will help you later in life: I use my volunteer time to show an example of me working with young children, planning and organising events, assisting with workshops and even teaching thanks to the opportunities I had. What's more impressive is that I did it over the past four years but in reality that was on a once a week basis and then even less frequently than that when the funding got cut or University work demanded my time.

Learn to drive

I'm a driver and I am very lucky to own a little car that I can just afford to run around (although the parents help with most of the bigger payments, the angels). I started my lessons at 17 then gave up until my second year of University. Why learn to drive at University? It costs a bomb. You'll pay around £16-20 an hour for lessons and you'll need around 40-60 hours worth to cover everything and feel confident before you do a test which you also have to pay for. Don't think that you shouldn't because you'll never be able to afford a car at any point in the near future - it's true you might not - but it's still good to put on your CV that you can drive. Some graduate jobs provide cars for work purposes. A change in circumstance means you might actually be able to afford it. It's unlikely that you'll be in a situation in the future where you're given a big chunk of (student loan) money and a generous amount of time away not working (there are very few Uni courses out there that are full time 9-5 Mon-Fri) so you'll have time to do one lesson a week without it taking up too much of your social calender.

Think about afterwards

I don't want to scare you and lay this on you, I really don't, but I went through University thinking "planning for the future is Future Fiona's problem" and now I am Future Fiona and I am clueless what to do. Most of the time I wish I had a time machine to go back and change what course I did or found out things that could help me prepare for life after University. I'm not saying every <18, or whatever, year old can't make the decision to go to University and know they are on the right path (I'm practically married to someone that knew Medicine was for him and didn't stop until he got in - even then he keeps working hard to be the best he can be) but for me I needed a lot more time but felt pressured to go to University straight away. I bet there are people out there just going to University, because like me, they didn't really know what else to do but getting a degree seemed to be the right thing. Here are some options on degrees and jobs with help on where your degree could lead you, skills for your CV and what other graduates did. That doesn't mean it is your path, it's just an option. At the end of the day I think you can do anything you put your mind to, it's just got to be enough to persuade the person who is going to pay you.

If you don't like your course, leave or change it

I had such a love hate relationship with my course for so many reasons and I don't want to drudge it all up and bum myself out. I've left and got a degree out of this so it's all fine now. However, if you are currently, or in the future find yourself, in a position where you dislike the course for whatever reason then speak to an advisor about your options. I was so sick I wanted to quit after my second year but the voice in my head said "Oh, it's just one more year" - Do not be swayed by this voice. I went in to my third year and really didn't enjoy myself and in a few short months I tried to swap course. Due to funding reasons you can't change course in third year - your student loan only covers you for 4 years or something to that effect so I wouldn't get the funding to do any extra years, really. I'm not saying just drop your course either because you can get in a lot of debt if you just leave as you have to pay the tuition from your own pocket and for some jobs showing you can work to a degree level is good no matter what subject it is in. As soon as you start to feel like you've made the wrong decision just talk to someone, preferably an advisor from the University who can give impartial advise.

Yes, so that is my advice so far when reflecting on my University life as well as the usual - enjoy yourself, make friends etc etc. You might not agree with it, but if we can send this back in time maybe 5 years so Past Fiona can see this I know she would appreciate it.

 photo fiona_zps1032f091.png
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  1. Great advice! I'm about to transfer to a university in a year or so, and already I'm feeling the pressure of Future Katy decisions coming down on me. Definitely going to follow some of these to help ease the pain of schooling. Congratulations on graduating! :)

    1. Thank you! It's not all bad really, its just that pressure, I hate the idea that you're supposed to have aplan and know what you're doing, I just can't deal with it haha! I hope it goes well for you :)

  2. Love all the points you make in the use your time well section. Volunteering isn't full-time and doesn't even have to be once a week, yet it still looks impressive on the CV! Plus as you say you normally get costs paid and you will also make friends and contacts.

    Amy at Amy & More

    1. Thanks :) I actually really enjoyed my volunteering, it was with an art gallery so there was loads of stuff to get involved with and I still keep in touch with the people I worked with :) but yeah, less than part time is the best way to put it, and you can just stop whenever too :)