Tutor Maddy and her mother standing outside Whitworth Hall, University of Manchester.

What I wish I'd known before starting university


  • Time to read: 4 minutes

I started at The University of Manchester to study a BSc in Educational Psychology in September 2020. After the disruption that the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic caused to my A-Level education, I was excited to have finally made it to this point and begin the next chapter of my life. However, this excitement was, of course, accompanied by many worries: would I manage to make new friends? What if I didn’t like my course? How do I make a bolognese?

Two years later and that nervous 18-year-old feels like a different person to who am I now. Becoming a tutor at the Tutor Trust has been one of the best decisions I’ve made whilst at uni. I knew I’d need to get a part-time job to help with living costs, and I stumbled across the Tutor Trust on my university careers site. I completed my application and attended my interview in the first couple of weeks and have been working as a Primary tutor ever since. It’s great to have a focus outside of uni; having one that gives back to the community and really makes a difference to children’s lives is incredibly rewarding and fulfilling – not to mention the great people you work alongside too!

So, as I approach my third and final year of university, here are my 10 top tips for having a successful start to your uni experience:


1. Time flies...

...so make the most of it!

You’ve probably heard it before, but time flies by at university. When you start your first year, graduation feels like a world away, yet, before you know it, you’ll be entering your final year, thinking, ‘how have I got here so quickly?’ You don’t want to look back on your time with regrets; say yes to making memories with your friends, join a society and get stuck into a volunteering role in the community. Explore all the opportunities given to you to enrich your time at uni, alongside getting your degree!


2. Try to initiate friendships

Everyone is in the same boat!

It’s that typical phrase thrown about, ‘Everyone’s in the same boat’, but it’s true! Everyone is nervous about meeting new people and making friends, so be the person to make the group chat and suggest meeting up. Someone has to do it and everyone else will be thankful for you doing it!

I found potential course mates through UoM Freshers groups on Facebook, then made a group chat where we organised to meet up and go to events together during Freshers’ Week. I now live with two of the girls I met that night and we’re best friends with some of the others.


3. You may not become best friends with your flat mates and that’s okay! 

I felt lots of pressure to become really close friends with my flatmates and had all these expectations in my head of what our time together would be like. Unfortunately, this didn’t go to plan and whilst there were no major issues, we did not become best friends. However, as I had made the effort to get to know course mates (who I had more in common with), had met friends through Tutor Trust, and through volunteering as a Rainbows leader, this didn’t matter.


4. Get organised

Grab a diary and get (at least) one step ahead.

You should be able to connect your university timetable to the calendar on your phone which makes it so much easier to keep track of your lectures, seminars, and exams. I like to add in all my deadlines on to it too, as well as work and social events, so it’s all in one place.

By working out what a typical week looks like for you, you can figure out when you’ll complete your uni work and have time to do extra research into the topics you’re particularly interested in. Whether you prefer to do this digitally or by hand, getting organised will help you to balance all your commitments without feeling overwhelmed.


5. Start to budget

Don't underestimate the important of saving.

Managing your money is a big part of being a student. It’s easy to get carried away when your student loan comes through, but if you work out a weekly or monthly budget, you can avoid being the student who has no choice than to live off noodles and beans every day! Save the Student has some useful resources to help with this: How to budget at university - Save the Student.


6. Using colour catchers in your washing helps to save money

Use colour-catchers in your washing to reduce the need for separating colours, as student accommodation washing machines can be very pricey!


7. Bring your own travel mug to uni 

It is also worth investing in a good travel mug to bring hot drinks to uni from home and you will often get money off in campus cafés when using your own cup.


8. Find a part-time job 

As I’ve touched on already, getting yourself a part-time job is a great way to increase your income, meet new people and have a focus outside of uni work.

For example, tutoring with Tutor Trust is the perfect student job, as you’ll apply for work that fits around your uni commitments. Plus, you'll earn from £22 to plan and deliver each hour of tutoring.

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9. Find out who your academic advisor is and make the effort to check in with them regularly

When you start uni, you’ll be assigned an academic advisor who will be your go-to person for any issues you may encounter, or questions you have, while studying. Your need for their support may not be apparent straight away but making the effort to build up a relationship from the beginning will benefit you later on. If your academic advisor knows you well, as well as your interests, they will be better equipped to offer advice, and even a job reference, later on.


10. Reach out for support and advice when you need it 

Be prepared for university to not always feel like the ‘best years of your life’. University can be hard and there’s often a lot of adapting and new experiences to navigate. It’s normal to feel lonely or be struggling with things from time to time. Reach out for support from your peers and those close to you, your academic advisor, and look into the university services on offer to you, as well as those from established mental health organisations in your area (for example, Samaritans and Mind).

Now that you have some tips up your sleeve from a fellow student, hopefully you feel more prepared to start your university adventure. Good luck and enjoy yourself!

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