5 things I wish I knew before coming to university

AKA 5 things I wish I knew before coming to Edinburgh University.

This may be very philosophy-student centred, but I thought I would share a little insight for all interested in studying with the PPLS school, or Edinburgh University in general. I’m currently a first-year single-honours student, but here are some things I gathered over the semester-and-a-bit I’ve been here.

1. It’s okay to not know exactly how you’re doing academically.

It can be quite a stressful change, given the nature of most education systems feeding you grades every hour of every day. Handing in your first essay is particularly scary in the first semester of the first year, it seems. I had no idea what to expect. The nice thing about going to University here is that you do have two whole years to make these mistakes and, honestly, I somewhat prefer the method of assessment to what my friends in other courses or other universities describe to me. I would recommend looking at assessment styles when deciding on which university you choose/which courses you choose as it does make a huge difference to how you will be feeling. 

2. There are more study spaces then there seem to be.

Did you know the library has a basement floor no one ever goes to? Did you know Teviot had like…a lot of rooms? There’s also so many cafes and nice spots around campus. My friend recently exposed me to a philosophy and psychology library I had no idea existed. I also figured I am allowed into a building on Forrest Road on the day of my tutorial. I’m not sure I’m allowed to be there, but the staff tend to ignore me. All in all, if you’re quiet and don’t draw attention to yourself, anywhere can be a study zone – or at least I haven’t been kicked out yet! 

3. It’s okay to ask for help. Talk to lecturers about essays. Use office hours.

You will have a lot of responsibilities at university; don’t make it more difficult by struggling with more personal issues. I had a really large disruption one week of semester 1 and spoke to my personal tutor; all I really needed was a couple days to get back on top of things in one course and he helped me out a lot. Don’t be afraid of your personal tutor, or any staff for that matter. They’re here primarily because of, and for, you.

4. Stay on top of things.

It is so easy to say this and I understand it is extremely hard to stick to it. Sometimes life gets in the way, sometimes other things but the more you try to do your readings ahead and start your midterms before the day of, the less stress you will expose yourself too and the better you will get on. Stop saying you will read Book II of the Republic for tomorrow’s lecture... Just go and do it. What’s nice is that, if you do fall behind at university, you do not only have a myriad of staff to help you, but you also get to start from zero next semester since most courses are only a semester-long! Again, you get to make mistakes for two years and allow yourselves to explore what works for you in studying.

5. Do reading outside of your courses.

It doesn’t even have to be reading; do something related to your subject that you may very much enjoy but perhaps the area isn’t something you are studying right now. Watch YouTube videos, watch films, go to a society related to your course – anything that keeps your interests alive aside from the coursework which unfortunately can feel like a chore a lot of the time.

Perhaps these are a little bit vague, but I hope they give you at least some insight into being a student here!