Siân Duffin – Student Support Manager, Arden University
There is a lot of advice on how to prepare for university life; what to pack, what to buy and so on. But how do you prepare to maintain your wellbeing at university? Starting a new course, potentially in a new place, or starting a distance learning course will be a big change – and change is well known for impacting a person’s mental health.
Here are some tips to think about prior to starting:
1) Non-negotiables – what comes first for you
As university isn’t just about your face-to-face sessions, you will have to consider making some sacrifices to fit in your studies. There is lots of reading and research to do, typically outside your formal contact hours. You should think about any extra activities that you have and how they impact your wellbeing. If you go for a daily run and know that missing it would cause a drop in your mood, this is a non-negotiable you must keep that in your routine. If watching an hour less of television a day won’t impact your wellbeing, then this may be something you can drop.
2) Relationships – family, friends, and the people that matter
Relationships are a source of strength and support. Working out how you maintain those relationships while you are studying is crucial to feeling positive. If you are moving away from home, discuss how often you’ll visit home or when your friends and family could visit you. Talk about how often you want to call or text and taking sentimental items like photographs can help when you’re feeling low. If you’re staying at home, you should discuss your new commitments with friends and family and what that will mean in terms of your time. Be clear about when you’ll be available to see them and when you will need to study.
3) Social Media – when to engage and when to logoff
Manage your use of social media carefully. Before you start your new university, using it to connect with other students, especially those studying your course, can really help settling in. However, it’s important to be aware of the pressure to seem like you are always having a good time at university. There will be some fantastic times to be had, while others are more challenging. Take regular breaks from social media to recharge yourself and limit the impact it has on you. Remember not to feel pressured to pretend everything is perfect when it isn’t.
4) Support Systems – what is there to help you
If you think that you may find the transition tough, make early contact with the student support services at your university. They’ll be able to listen to your concerns and direct you to sources of support, even before you start. Maintain contact with them when you arrive to ease your concerns and try to speak to the same person each time if you can. If you have mental health concerns, make sure you ask about the support that is available. This can range from wellbeing and welfare advice to extensions and periods of leave if you are struggling.
5) Remember – you’re not alone
Being a university student is an exciting time as it’s an opportunity to learn and grow, gain skills and experiences, socialise with others and come to know yourself better. All new students will feel nervous when they begin their new studies, so remember that you’re not the only one worried about what university life may hold. Express your thoughts and concerns with those around you and you’ll realise you’re not alone.