‘I wish I’d known this when I started uni…’

You’ve just got your results and are ready to start your future at university. We’re sure you’re full of excitement and can’t wait to start meeting new people, studying your course and taking in all that uni has to offer! Guest blogger and Masters student Julian wanted to let you in on the things he wished he’d known when was an undergraduate, so you’re prepared with the right attitude to starting your new life 🙂 Thanks, Julian!




I remember talking to a friend from uni and us both saying that uni was harder than we let on to each other at the time. I wish I’d had a wise mentor when I started uni, during it and at the end of my studies. For me, the biggest change was not being in an environment I had gotten used to over many years – the same school, the same family and friends etc.

I look back at my transition from school life to university, and wish I’d known the following things that would have helped a lot. Hopefully, sharing these with you here will help you to gain a different perspective on things as you start life as a student.

  • It takes time to make good friends: It’s good to keep in touch with old friends while we make new friends.
  • It’s tough being away from family: I believed the ‘hype’ that it’s amazing to be away from family and have so much freedom. In reality, it helped me to keep in touch and visit family.
  • You don’t need to fit the ‘student’ mould: I know people who made a few good friends and did not need to take part in all the activities going on. Follow your heart, rather than your head, in the activities you do and the people you get to know
  • Everyone else is finding things hard too. It can seem everyone, or many people, are having a great time, effortlessly making friends and getting their studies done. The reality is that almost all students look back at their student days feeling they were pressured and difficult, and that if they had them again, they’d do them differently.
  • See the Big Picture: I got bogged down in the details when at uni. Trying to step back and look at the skills and experience I’ve gained, as well as the people I’ve met, is helpful.

Isoloation student journeyAbove all, I wish I’d known I wasn’t the only one finding things difficult and confusing.  University will test your resilience and knowing that you aren’t alone can help to build this. You’ll not only learn about your degree subject, you’ll also learn a lot about yourself and will make mistakes in the process.   The biggest mistakes I made were these:

  • Looking at other people and thinking they had it all sorted out
  • Comparing myself to other students
  • Not being myself
  • Trying to fit into the ‘student model’

I thought I had to be like ‘everyone else’, and so focused more on other people than on my own path. I thought I had to live up to other people’s expectations, and now realise I can trust my own path through uni and beyond. There is no ‘model student’ and if I’d have known this, I could have become my own person (as I subsequently have become) instead of just copying what other people were doing.

I am now studying a Masters course, and am approaching it in a very different way from my first degree. I have learnt from the mistakes I made in my undergraduate degree, and would love to see other people avoiding the mistakes I made, which have delayed my growth into the life I truly want to live. Wishing you every success for your time as a student.


Julian Wood


Hi, my name’s Julian Wood and I work for the University of Bristol Library Services. I have a passion for supporting students when they first make the transition to university and are going through this difficult stage of student life. I have volunteered for Bristol International Student Centre.





To find out about other mistakes to avoid and how, sign up for our free guide here and discover what you can do to have a happier and more successful time as a student! 🙂


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