‘If I could tell my first year self one thing it would be…’
- ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’
Starting with a rather philosophical quote here but, put simply, my advice would be to do as many things that scare you as possible. I’m speaking from experience here when I recommend getting out of your comfort zone and taking part in as many societies/clubs/sports teams/voluntary and academic opportunities in your first year when free time is a lot more available.
I told myself in my first year that I was going to let myself adjust and settle into university life before venturing outside of my studies (which there is absolutely nothing wrong with at all) but in my second and third year I partook in the Lancaster Bombers American Football team, the Defying Dementia Student Society, the creation of this blog as well as a number of voluntary placements. These opportunities enabled me to network with peers outside of my course and opened a lot of doors for me so I wouldn’t change anything. However, it took a lot of proactivity and time management to ensure I was allocating my time effectively throughout my last two years of study and I couldn’t help but sometimes wish I had started at an earlier stage in academic career.
Don’t get me wrong, everything worked out perfectly for me but do yourselves a favour and start sooner rather than later. Your future self will thank me for it!
(Maybe you could begin by writing an article for your BLS Student Blog 😜)
– Jed, Blog Creator, BSc (Hons) Biological Sciences Graduate
2. First year DOES count
One of the most frequent phrases you will hear in your first year of uni is “first year doesn’t count,” which is accurate regarding your final degree classification, however it doesn’t mean that your grades are completely meaningless. First year in BLS is one of the most intense in my opinion, as you are doing 15 modules in one year whereas most other courses will cover around 8. This means you are expected to learn a lot, and of course it is nearly impossible to be amazing at EVERYTHING. However, I would definitely say to try your hardest and not give up just because it “doesn’t count,” as when it comes to applying for second year summer internships, and even your dissertation topics, your first year grades will be taken into account.
Don’t get me wrong, missing a lecture or two after a heavy night isn’t going to doom you to failure, and in BLS we are lucky enough to have lecture recordings so we can catch up, but don’t pass off first year as a doss year, make the most of your contact time!
– Maya, 3rd year Bsc (Hons) Biological Sciences Student
- Everything Will Work Out In The End
When you first come to Lancaster, your degree can often take a backseat. There are so many challenges to overcome, from personal relationship problems to mental health issues; I think it’s fair to say that not everyone has a smooth ride over their first 12 months here. But whatever you do, don’t let that deter you. As someone who has switched their degree scheme multiple times since they’ve been here, bounced around a number of societies and felt like university wasn’t for them more times than they can remember, trust me, it all works out. Going into my third year now, I am totally focussed on who I am and who I want to be, and I wouldn’t be able to give my degree my all this year if I hadn’t gone through those experiences in my formative years.
In retrospect, if everything had gone to plan, there are a few things I wished I’d have done. Attend every lecture, gain as much insight as you can and grasp every opportunity available to you. Your last year at Lancaster may seem a million miles away, but your time here will vanish in the blink of an eye, so utilise it well. Now is your chance to really develop who you are as a person and discover what you want to do when you finish your time here – it truly is never too early to think about this. Grasp every internship and work experience placement with both hands, but don’t forget the fun stuff too. If anything, I should’ve joined more societies – there are clubs here that you will rarely get the chance to participate in again, so if you want to join kickboxing, or motorsport, or ultimate frisbee, do it. It’s important to get that life-work balance just right. Work hard and don’t let yourself down, but crucially try to enjoy yourself in the process and hopefully any anxiety you may have will simply wash away.
– Hannah, 3rd Year Natural Sciences BSc (Hons) Student
- It’s never too early!
By the time I started my first year I figured that it was the time to really enjoy myself as I already made the big decision on what and where I want to study and therefore I wouldn’t have to think about my future until my third year. When I had my first careers workshop in third year though, I realised how wrong I was. In a competitive and constantly developing industry such as sciences work experience is essential and makes you stand out. Going back in time, I can recall how many opportunities I lost just because I did not appreciate the skills I would gain or I did not put enough effort into my applications and even missed the deadlines a few times.
I did try to get involved with activities aside from my course such as volunteering for two weeks in Bulgaria. That was a great experience from which not only I met great people and had fantastic memories but also helped me build up my CV and gain a variety of skills. Apart from that, I believe I should have paid more attention to gaining experience in the field, especially in a great university like Lancaster where they offer 12-month placements across the country, summer internships etc.
Although that did not stop me from doing what I wanted to and I have moved on to do my Master’s on something that I really love, I wish that I was more pro-active and grabbed the opportunities when I had the chance to.
– Maria, Biomedical Sciences Graduate
- Making the Most of Every Page
If I could go back in time I would give myself some rather plain and practical advice! In my first lecture at Lancaster I had been warned that the volume of content I would cover compared to A-levels would be dramatically different. This was absolutely true. Even now I’m surprised at how much information can fit into a fifty minute lecture. As nerdy as it sounds, I wish I would have experimented with different note-taking techniques early on. I spent way too much time scribbling, illegibly at times, trying to keep up with everything the lecturer was saying – an impossible task believe me! Take the time to find a way of making and organising notes from lectures, whopping text books, and long articles. It improves your efficiency, leaving you more time for the fun stuff, and makes exams seem much less daunting. Finding the perfect nook to study in as well as having a ‘study buddy’ can also make pouring over notes that bit easier too! Rarely will you have this opportunity to devote so much attention to learning alone so get ready soak up as much as possible!
- ‘Don’t Forget to Have Fun’
When I first started at Lancaster University I was excited at the prospect of starting anew and learning about something that I have chosen and love. However, when you’re told that there is a big leap from A-Levels to University, they are not wrong. I was so overwhelmed with the quantity and the difficulty of the work, and was so concentrated on getting the best grade that I possibly could, that sometimes I forgot to have fun.
If I could rewind to my first year at Lancaster I would have gone out more with my friends and stressed less about the work. The workload is sometimes overwhelming and can be stressful, but if you work out a time for you to do all the work, you also have time to go out with your friends rather than stressing about an essay at 12am that you have due for the next day. It is incredibly important for you to have fun so that you have some way of relieving the stress that will consume you if you’re not careful.
– Molly, 2nd Year Biomedicine BSc (Hons) Student