October, 21, 2013



Name: Amanda Aiken
Member of: Graduate Panellist
Joined: Nov 2011
Amanda's Full Profile

Here’s a cheeky wee list of all the things you thought you should, but really don’t, have to do at university…

1. Be busy.


Photo by Sean Kelly

Before you switch off your alarm and doze all day, hear me out. I’m not saying to give up on work, I’m just cautioning you about doing nothing but work. If you’re the kind of person that’s in the library 24/7, maybe you should think about slowing down a little. Some courses are intense. Believe me, I know. However, I’m keeping one day free every week, and with that day I can do whatever I want. I’ve felt healthier and have done better work the rest of the time because of this.

When you get a project, try to figure out how long everything will take and do work right from the beginning. Overnighters may be essential once in a while, but don’t make a habit of it. When you’re out in the real world you’re not always going to be able to stay overnight to finish everything up … now is the time to get good working habits!

2. Stay on campus.


Photo by Uvu Photos

You’ll probably be surprised at how far public transport can take you. When I was staying in Newcastle I got a Metro pass. This was fantastic as whenever I got a bit tired of the city I could take the train out to Tynemouth and walk along the beach. Most cities have free places to visit like museums, old houses and parks. Now go online to find parks and attractions that you can get to easily!

3. Give up your hobbies.


Photo by Gareth Da’Bell

With that free day, you can do whatever you want. Over the years I’ve used my free time to draw, walk, write, play the piano, ride and work with horses, ice skate, join a film club, and volunteer in various places.

Several of these things have been vital in where my life has gone. The experience I gained while in the film club helped me choose where I went for further study. My work with horses (which I did because I got free riding lessons out of it) has given me a great CV entry, because I helped teach people how to ride.

Even when I’ve been doing something with most of my time that I haven’t enjoyed so much, I’ve always had my passions to fall back on. Keep the ones you love! They will often show you what you’re interested in, and really want to do.

4. Eat junk food.


Photo by Tavallai

So everyone loves a burger, or pizza, or carry-out. You can have a sort of distinction among your peers if you survive solely on baked beans. It’s funny when you look in the fridge and there’s nothing but last week’s milk. Well, okay, maybe it isn’t.

It’s fine if you treat yourself once in a while. In fact, I did today. (The burger was great, by the way.) However, you’re at university to further your education. Part of that education is learning to look after yourself, and food definitely comes into that. You don’t have to be an amazing cook to make healthy meals. Everyone has to start somewhere… Ask people about their cooking disasters, and it’ll cheer you right up. In my first few weeks of fending for myself I burnt pasta (don’t ask me how), dropped my whole dinner on the floor, and set a frying pan on fire. I’ve learnt a lot since then, and so will you.

5. Focus on yourself.

All About Me

Photo by Super Fantastic Bruce

Your first interview is scary. It’s even scarier when they don’t ask you anything about your grades or what class of degree you graduated with. Instead they ask about what teamwork experience you have. You frantically try to remember that workshop you attended three years ago where you completed all those trust exercises. What do you say?

This is where so many education systems completely fail. School and university don’t really tell you how to play well with others. They teach how to take tests and get good grades. Sadly, that’s not what the real world is looking for. Employers want employees with good people skills, attention to detail, a professional work ethic, and experience.
You might think you don’t have any of that, and you might be right. I came out of university without having done a single day’s paid work. However, I had experience from different places.

When asked what teamwork experience I had, I said I’d helped to lead a children’s camp with a group of other young adults. Some situations even got pretty stressful. And there are so many other things I’ve done that can be used in this way… What I’m saying is that those experiences you collect around your time studying can be just as important as what you’re studying. When you give your time to others – and take the focus from yourself – you will be rewarded.


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars6 Stars7 Stars8 Stars9 Stars10 Stars (27 votes, average: 7.52 out of 10)
Loading ... Loading ...

Want to get featured on the site? Click here to send in an article.


Leave a Reply

Connect with Facebook

Or enter your name and email to post as a guest

  1. Bethany Ward

    I’m really looking forward to going to uni and these tips really helped me understand what to expect. I’d love to hear the story of how you set a frying pan on fire though!!

    • Amanda Aiken

      When I first started cooking I fried sausages (I grill them now – healthier, and less chance of flames!) and I decided to save washing-up time later by pouring the sauce right in with them. As I did so, there was a huge rush of steam and noise and, then, fire. My flatmate’s theory is that the sauce bumped some of the oil onto the ring, which lit the rest of the pan.

      Not my finest moment!

  2. Lauren Lee

    Some great tips. Thank you. I look forward to going to university. It’ll be great to live on my own and also be able to focus on just the one subject, instead of 4.

  3. Lauren Smith

    I’m excited to go to uni, bit worried about the workload but I feel like I need to get away from home for a while, be on my own for a bit.

  4. Alice Doolan

    I am excited for university and I hope that the experience is one that i can treasure for the rest of my life. I am looking forward to simply focusing on the subject I love and having time to be myself and have fun. Fingers crossed, hope it all goes well when it come to it :/

  5. Skye Jones

    Im really looking forward to working hard in a new environment while having a healthy balance of work and play! Hope I’m not disappointed when the time comes :(

  6. Matthew Brown

    I believe that many university students could learn for the way of approach, however it more lucky they will learn by doing what did, which was to all night library sessions and that this is not good for you in the long term.

    • Amanda Aiken

      The thing will all-nighters is that they can be necessary when a project deadline is looming and there is literally no time. However, we pay for those missed hours! Especially when a once-off all-nighter becomes a regular habit.

  7. Mariah Hussain

    I’m really looking forward to uni. Well, not the working part but everything else. I consider it as the next phase of my life which is not to be taken over by unnecessary hours in the library. It will be difficult at first but from what I’ve heard it’s a great experience. I really can’t wait!!

  8. jade watson

    I look forward to going to uni, I currently work part time and college full time yet with balancing my time well I have plenty time to still go out with family and friends. this all relies on having my coursework completed though. This article is very helpful on the reality of how things will be and are!!

  9. Jake Phillips

    As long as you have the correct balance of fun and work everything works out fine.

  10. Kevin Madden

    Depends on someone’s work rate though. Some people can do work in half an hour which may take another person three hours. Then the rest of these factors are related to how much free time you have to do other things like cooking or exploring! If you don’t have free time you may end up with fast food & all nighters more regularly.

  11. Ann-Marie Smith

    University sounds so good! Hardwork does need to be put in but in small amounts. As if these are not put in small amounts then you will get stressed and depressed and will not be able to concentrate. University sounds great! Thanks for posting this article!

    • Amanda Aiken

      I think you may have misunderstood me a little. If you work all the time, it’s a recipe for stress. By ‘all the time’ I mean over 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. There may well be some days when you need to work over 12 hours a day to get work done – I have to do that frequently. However, it’s not so much about limiting the amount you do on days that you work. It’s about taking one day off however much work you’ve done that week.

  12. Cayleigh Morgan

    I find it hard to create a good balance of uni work, work and relaxing! When you’re so busy it’s also hard to eat well, you just tend to eat what’s quickest!

    • Amanda Aiken

      Yes, it’s really tricky! This is when it’s a good idea to plan meals, and cook in advance when possible. I would also try to have some quicker, healthier options, like tortellini – a couple of minutes at the boil and it’s ready to eat.

  13. Rebab Saheb

    Well i think its hard to study every day like 24/7 but I guess a little bit of hard work will pay off at the end

    • Amanda Aiken

      There are some courses that require a huge amount of work and then there are some that are more relaxed. My first course was the latter, but my current course is the first.

      It’s important to work hard – that’s another quality employers look for!

  14. Jonathan Lam

    I need to get back in the habit of studying again.

  15. Hana Butorova

    It’s hard to switch back to studying and a busy life after time off for more than three months after high school…

  16. kristin ng

    I’ve been eating junk like pizzas and ready meals for the past week! Need to start eating healthy this week!

  17. Dionne Boyd

    So true

  18. Paulina Wasilewska

    i am the first year student and i think i will try to keep up with those above lol. so true

  19. Kamal Chohan

    Despite pointing out the fact that you require days off, certain courses are bare a certain requirment of hard work, id est engineering/medical courses. To do ‘well’ one must utilise every second one has, to devote it to work. That is if you want to follow an academic route.

    • Amanda Aiken

      Kamal, the course I’m currently enrolled in is a one-year intensive in Classical Animation. It requires a huge amount of work per week, not to study but to draw hundreds of drawings. I often work 12 or more hours a day.

      I believe, from experience, that it’s essential we have one day off – just one. What this has meant for me has sometimes been working later on some of the other days. I do utilise every moment – six days a week. The last day is mine!

      If you are able to work every moment, then I think that’s incredible. I certainly am not able to do that!

  20. Brandon Abraham

    Wow can’t wait for uni