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Mental Health

Three Things I Wish I’d Known Before Starting University

As I begin my second year of university, I have found myself reflecting on the previous twelve months – more than anything, I can’t believe how quickly they have gone by. However, I am also reminded of where I was this time a year ago: trying to squeeze an unnecessary amount of clothes into the back of my dad’s car, entering my halls address into the satnav and religiously watching YouTube videos titled ‘Things to pack for university,’ ‘Dos and don’ts for living in halls’ and my personal favourite ‘What I wish I’d known before starting university.’ Inspired by my YouTube history, I am going to tell you just that. While it would be easy for me to list off the reasons you should invest in a doorstop, the pros and cons of a cleaning rota for your flat and how many societies you should join in first year, I thought it would be better to share a more personal reflection of what I really wish I’d known this time twelve months ago.

1. Imposter syndrome is real

In my first week of lectures at King’s, I was met with a feeling extremely foreign to me: the feeling of being an outsider. I quicky became aware that all my course mates had done very different A-levels to me (in a cohort of Religion, Politics and Society students, I was one of very few that did not do Religious Studies at A-level) and I immediately felt ten steps academically behind my peers. This catalysed my anxiety and made me question my own ability; not only was I finding my feet in the jump between school and university, but I was also grappling with the feeling of not belonging and doubting my decision to pursue a degree in the first place. While I have overcome this feeling of self-doubt, by no means did it happen overnight. Truthfully, it lingered throughout first year and intensified during exam periods, but it was definitely a case of reminding myself that I had earnt my place at King’s the same as everyone else, regardless of the way self-doubt was trying to convince me otherwise.

2. At some point you will feel lonely, and that’s ok

Loneliness is the last thing any of us want to feel, let alone admit. Orientated by a mindset of likes, follows and comments, we are all constantly trying to have the best time and simultaneously let everyone know we are indeed having the best time. While your first year will include so many high points, it might also include a few low points – being disappointed in an essay mark, homesickness, struggling to make friends, or perhaps you aren’t as close to your flatmates as you would like. Nevertheless, it’s important to recognise that loneliness is perfectly valid, and just because you find yourself in one of these low moments you haven’t ‘failed’ at university, nor are you doing student life ‘wrong.’ You are only human, and therefore its perfectly justified to feel down from time to time. That said, if you do feel like your mental health is deteriorating at any time during university do reach out. You can confide in a friend or member of staff or look into your university services for guidance and support.

3. Self-care

Your first year at university will be a fun and exciting part of your life, but there will also be moments where it all gets a bit too much and may start to feel overwhelming. Essay deadlines and exam seasons are intense at the best of times, so its no surprise that emotions can run high under moments of stress. I’ve learnt through a fair share of trial and error how to properly take care of myself when feeling under pressure. I’ve personally made some habits like making time to get some fresh air, choosing an early night now and again instead of a night out and investing in a planner to keep myself organised. Studying towards a degree will inevitably lead to moments of stress, so it’s worthwhile to have some mechanisms in place to avoid a complete burnout. Maybe it is arranging a specific time each week to phone a family member, meditation, or having a film night with a friend. Whatever it is you do that helps you unwind, do it and do it often – you deserve it.

University is a learning curve that no amount of blogs or youtube videos can prepare you for, so despite all the pearls of wisdom you might receive, it’s also okay to ignore all the friendly advice. So, spend your student loan on clothes, write an essay the night before a deadline and have a bit too much to drink at sports night when you know you have a 9am the next day – you’ve got another two years to get the balance right.


Victoria is a third year Religion, Politics and Society student at King's. She is considering a postgraduate degree in Gender Studies and a future career in journalism. She enjoys yoga and reading classic English literature.
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