Victoria Thomas has just finished her first year at The University of Manchester studying Psychology. Here, she offers tips to the upcoming cohort of freshers and provides some psychology specific advice to those starting the course in September…
Being a fresher is daunting. You might be moving away from home, you are starting at a university that you’ve worked so hard to get into and you turn up to your first lecture not knowing what to expect. Do you take a pen and paper, a laptop, or print the lecture slides? The answer: whatever suits you best. If you do fancy printing out the lecture slides be prepared for the worst-case scenario: printers in the library not to work, computer clusters to be full and lecture slides not to be up.
Leave in plenty of time before the lecture and perhaps get your own printer if your accommodation lets you. Regardless, printing the slides is a good option and the facilities at the University are excellent (despite what I just said!) Alternatively, If you plan to make notes in the lecture, make sure you can write fast as lecturers don’t wait around. However, the podcasts are always available if you do miss something so don’t panic.
I am going to be honest, first year was not what I imagined and it was full of highs and lows. First there were deadlines – you’re thrown in at the deep end with the assignments but eventually, you get the hang of it. Then there was pressure on getting experience, my advice: get some early. I planned to volunteer over summer, as I didn’t want to ‘waste’ time on work experience during term time in Manchester when I needed to revise. I made the wrong choice, and now I have no choice but to get some during second year.
Getting experience during first year is better than having to get it during your second year when grades mean more, work is harder, and time is limited. Don’t get me wrong, I would’ve probably volunteered in second even if I did in first year but now there is much more pressure on it and I have lost a year of adding things to my CV. If you take one thing away from this, listen to the professionals employed by the university, they’ve been there longer than you have and know what they’re talking about.
In terms of dealing with the demands of the degree, make sure to keep on top of your workload and don’t leave things until the last minute because it can make you feel like you’re drowning in assignments. You may convince yourself that first year doesn’t count, but it is more important than you think. Yes, your grades don’t count towards your final degree however they do count towards actually getting into second year. First year also lays the foundations for the rest of your university years.
Leave time to revise, make solid notes after lectures, do the reading and ask questions on the discussion board. Find your interests and do wider research into that, I have said it once and I’ll say it again, get experience. Do not waste £9000 because you didn’t think first year counted or because one topic bored you. On the other hand, don’t let yourself get too stressed, enjoy your time as a fresher. Starting university is the perfect time to get out of your comfort zone, make friends with new people, explore a new city, have fun whilst learning.
Psychology is a broad degree, you’ll go from studying attachment to the anatomy of the eye. Chances are you aren’t going to like every topic, but don’t let that put you off. Remember in second and third year you have much more control over what topics you study and most importantly put your wellbeing as a priority. Being a broad degree, you have so much choice in potential career options and getting work experience in a variety of fields will help you know which career is best for you.
Manchester is a great place to live and I’ve loved my first year here as a student at the University. I am happy with my university choice, and I hope you are too. The university puts on a lot of extracurricular events such as meet the graduates, careers events, psychology networking, and I would definitely recommend going to them. This is part of what you are paying £9000 for. Not many first years go to them but it’s a valuable use of your time if you do and being one of the few first years to go means you are getting almost 1-1 support from professionals.
The most important thing to remember is there is support. Whether you talk to your academic advisor or go to the counselling service, get the help you need. There isn’t any shame in reaching out. Don’t be afraid, do what is best for you, communicate, there are people there to help and are paid to do so. Enjoy the course. I hope my honesty didn’t scare you away, don’t be scared you will get the hang of it. Make the most of every opportunity, before you know it you will be graduating.