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Transitioning to university

After what we’ve been through it’s OK to feel differently, and as we enter a new normal it is more important than ever to look after our physical and mental wellbeing.

Starting university can be an exciting step for many young people and marks a significant step towards adulthood and independence. The transition to university can also feel overwhelming and stressful, with many young people having the added complication of moving off island.

Now throw in a global pandemic that has significantly altered the way we live our lives, and we have a potentially challenging transition to manage.

Here are some tips that have been adapted from the British Psychological Society’s “Psychologist Guide to University Life” to support young people to make the transition to university more successful:

Embrace new opportunities
Many people find starting university challenging. It is important to take advantage of the opportunities available to socialise, relax and have fun, both online and face-to-face. Joining clubs, societies and sports teams helps to develop a sense of belonging and support you to develop friendships. The temptation to travel home regularly can impact on new relationships. Try to persevere with the often awkward process of making new friendships. Remember, everyone is in the same situation and many will be feeling like you are.

Managing online
Most of us are familiar with communicating with friends and family over social media and video chats, particularly post-COVID-19. Many universities are offering some element of online lectures, which means you can learn from the comfort of your own space. It is important to consider your learning space and try to become comfortable sharing your video. Sharing video during online sessions can help you to focus on your learning and also support you to make connections with others virtually. Virtual meetings can help make face-to-face meetings more comfortable.

Many clubs and societies are also embracing online group conferencing activities. Becoming familiar with the technology is a must! More so than ever, technology is playing a key role to integrate people into student life and make social connections.

Fear of Missing Out (FoMO)
The importance of social media has become more and more apparent and can address loneliness and support mental health and wellbeing. It is important to ensure you manage your screen time and find the right balance between chatting online, socialising with others, sleeping and engaging in physical activity. The beauty of social media is that chats can always be picked up in the morning.

Managing alcohol
A post-COVID-19 freshers’ week will be a new experience for young people this year. The typical pub-crawl and associated blackouts, hangovers and missed lectures, may not resemble previous years. It is worth noting that we tend to overestimate the amount other people drink and drink more to try to fit in. It is important that you only drink an amount that is comfortable for you, which allows you to have a good night out that keeps you safe.

Money matters
Managing your money and your mental health are important and linked. Spending time planning and budgeting is important and people often find apps and online tools helpful. It is important to have a good understanding of your monthly outgoings, as this will also guide you on how much you have spare for going out.

Enjoy learning & asking for help
Many universities are making lectures more interactive and encourage participation through live feedback and comment threads and mobile voting. The shift towards independent learning can be challenging and requires self-discipline and motivation. It is important to spend time to engage with your learning and think about what you have read, as this will make learning more enjoyable. If you are stuck, staff are always available, so don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Further reading

The following material provides further helpful support and guidance.

Animated video - talking through evidenced-based tips for starting university.

Article - making online lectures and learning from home work for you.