Overcoming Your Fears | Tips for Starting University

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Date of Publication: 22 July 2021

Has the prospect of going to university started to settle in? Starting to feel nervous by the thought of arrivals day?

For many students, the fear of the unknown and anticipation of starting university can be overwhelming. In fact, it can seem especially overwhelming when you start thinking about all the changes that are going to happen during your time at university. And in the end, everything you try to think about just seems to link back to the same questions like, ‘what if this’ and ‘what if that?’

Whether it is the fear of moving away from home for the first time, making new friends or planning your budget, when you start to do your own research, you can see that you’re not the only one with those fears, with the most commonly noted themes of what students fear the most including:

  • Releasing it’s harder than you thought
  • Not fitting in
  • Cooking your own food
  • Not knowing anyone
  • Paying back debt
  • Having bad grades
  • Not sure what to do after your degree 

Does this all sound familiar?

Having all these worries in your mind may meddle with your decision because you’re scared – not because you don’t want to attend university. Let this article ease those fears; we’ll be sharing some tips on starting university, and help you see how the overwhelming benefits that you could gain from attending university can often supersede those initial nerves.

Read them carefully and be inspired about the next exciting chapter in your life!

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Should I go to university?

When we’re feeling nervous or fearful of a new situation, one of the big questions we all ask ourselves is whether ‘should I go to university?’ If so, ‘why should I go?’ And, ‘is it worth it?’ 

Unfortunately only you can decide that. But fear not, we are here to give you some advice on how you can make the best decision for yourself.

There are many reasons why each year, hundreds of thousands of students apply to study at university, with the obvious benefit being that university allows you to get into a particular career. Many students that go to university may have a particular career in mind, and many degrees offer practical elements or placements to help you develop those skills, getting you ready for the working environment. 

But outside of your degree studies, what else can going to university do for your personal or professional development? Let’s take a look at some of the added benefits below.

1. Build self-confidence

University is a great place to reinvent yourself, to find that independence that you may have thought you couldn’t imagine. Your time there offers many opportunities to make new friends from all over the world, whilst helping you increase your level of responsibilities.

For many students, university is the first time they’ve lived away from home too. This comes with it a whole range of fears, including ‘how do I cook, pay bills, or even manage my own weekly food budget?’ But it’s also a fantastic opportunity to experience living independently, sample new experiences, and boost your self-confidence.

Take comfort in the fact that you’re not the only student with those concerns. In fact, you’ll probably find yourself surrounded by groups of students with the same fears as you. But navigating this next exciting stage of adulthood together will make you feel much more confident and comfortable. 

Making new friends may also sound daunting at first, however, it is the first step for you to gain more confidence. When you start to put yourself out there and learn about other people, and what they may be experiencing, you begin to realise you’re probably not the only one with these worries. Building your confidence is a great transferable skill in life; you’ll start to notice you becoming more active in social situations, and this will help ease you into university life. 

2. Learn how to manage your own money

When you head off to university, chances are you will have full control over your spending. This is a great opportunity to learn how to best budget your money ensuring you have enough to pay your rent, do the food shop and buy all your essential study materials. 

The thought of taking on all these responsibilities may seem daunting at first however, once you begin to understand how much things cost, and how much you have left to spend on going out, it will become second nature.

When it comes to being a graduate, you’ll be far more aware of how to manage your salary money each month, ensuring you have enough to pay for the cost of living, social activities, and possibly some savings too.

3. Opportunities to explore the social aspects of university life

Another of the main appeals to university is the social aspect of student life. 

When you go to university, you have the chance to discover new cultures and expand your social circles. Students from both your home country and internationally will be joining your university, giving you plenty of opportunity to make new friendships, network with others, and establish friendship groups that will stay with you for a lifetime. 

Another great way of expanding your social circle is by learning what societies your university has on offer. Societies are great ways of networking, taking new hobbies, building new friendships or even a way for you to continue a current hobby you may already have.

Societies are limitless. They range from sports to clubs such as baking, creative writing and art. If you can’t seem to find a society that stands out to you, there are always opportunities for you to start a new society. 

Feel apprehensive at the thought of having to make lots of new groups of friends? Remember, this isn’t a must, as some students do just find a small selective group of people and stay with them. So don’t think there is a pressure to be a huge social butterfly. 

4. Gain transferable skills

Now, one of the most obvious reasons to go to university is to improve your job prospects. But a degree isn’t purely there to benefit your potential career, it will also teach you all the soft-skills you need to “thrive in a workplace” (Hurcum, 2021). 

There are lots of soft skills which employers look for, with some of the most frequently requested including; communication, time management and critical thinking.

Ultimately, to answer the question ‘should I go to university?’ – only you know whether university is right for you. Before deciding, ask yourself what are my goals and aspirations, how will it help me reach my future goals?

There’s so much to gain from attending university, and you’ll find that any initial fears you have are quickly removed once you’re settled in. Do your research, speak to families and friends and make sure you’re choosing the option that is best suited for you

4 Tips for Starting University

Despite all the exciting opportunities that you can look forward to enjoying, we know that starting university can be a hugely daunting time. 

After being through the experience ourselves, we’ve collated four helpful tips for starting university, to make arrival day feel a little less overwhelming. 

1. Leaving home for the first time 

Going to university is often the first time that many students may be leaving home for the first time, especially for an extended period of time. 

Understandably, this can come with many feelings of apprehension. Many experience this for a number of reasons, with a common emotion felt by nearly all students is the build up and anticipation of packing your belongings and moving to an unfamiliar city. 

This will feel daunting at first, and you may start to doubt if you picked the right university – especially if you’re miles and miles away from your parent or carer’s home. It is a common feeling to get scared when you see all your belongings packed away in boxes, ready to set off on your adventure. 

The best way to channel these new feelings is to make the most out of attending open days prior to going to university. This is the best opportunity to look around campus, as well as getting a feel of the overall atmosphere for your new home. So, when you arrive on your first day, you feel more comfortable in your new surroundings.

After taking that leap to choosing your university, the next part is the arrival day. That is, the first day you arrive on campus. Leaving home for the first time can be the biggest concern for most young students. The thought of leaving your comfort zone can be hard to accept, but fear not! In most shared experiences, students do settle in fast, and  “by week two, 84% of students claim to feel completely at home” (Hudson,  2016). 

If you are still feeling uncertain, Oxford Summer Courses offer a great  opportunity for you to live the life of an Oxford student. This could help  relieve those initial nerves, whilst allowing you to explore the city, make  new friends and experience a more independent lifestyle. To find out more take a look at the summer courses we have on offer

2. Is it normal to feel like this? 

One of the most unsettling feelings we can experience as humans is that of change. No one really likes change – well, not until they have become adapted to that initial change. 

If you find yourself experiencing feelings like this, do not resent yourself  for having those fears and uncertainties. Going to university is a big change in your life and leaving your comfort zone is hard. 

But once you arrive and realise that everyone feels the same way as you do, you will ease into your new university lifestyle and start having fun. 

But don’t just take it from us, hear from other students that have gone through it already: 

“There is a bit of pressure when starting university – meeting new people and  going new places – but I’m so glad I did it. As well as trying something new it also  made me aware of other things to do that were more up my street.” (Mihaela, 2020


It is normal to feel uncertain and uneasy about this change, and the last thing you want to do is convince yourself that you are the only one going through this, and invalidate your emotions. Your emotions leading up to choosing whether to go to university, or arriving on campus for the first time is important. You should recognise it and not dismiss your feelings – reach out to someone you trust, and talk about your fears.

3. Technology is your friend 

Even though you may be moving away from home, don’t feel as though you won’t be able to contact your family or friends ever again. Especially in those first few nerve-wracking days, video calls with your friends and family can help settle those nerves. And who knows? Maybe by talking to your school friends going through the same experience together may reassure you that you are not alone in your feelings of uncertainty. 

Worried about feeling homesick? During your first few weeks at university, between when you are moving into your student accommodation, getting to know your new course mates and friends in accommodation, and getting settled into the excitement of your new course, you will be extremely  busy. Before you know it, you’ll be heading back home to see your friends and family in no time.

As well as using technology to stay in touch with friends and family, there are many apps which can also help you to thrive at university. 

For example, for students who feel apprehensive about having to do lots of independent studying when they reach university, you can use apps and other software to help keep yourself organised. Evernote has been known to be one of the best apps to keep your life organised. Not only does it work as a normal note taking application, it allows you to add photos, files, websites and voice recordings (for all those lectures you can’t keep up with). Best of all, it is free!

And lastly, if you haven’t signed up already, Unidays is another must-have app for students. The cost of living as a student may come as a bit of a surprise in your first few weeks of study, especially when you start going out for food and drinks with your friends. However, Unidays is a great app at saving you money on all of the things you love to do during your time at university. As a student you can get discounts on thousands of beloved shops, restaurants, cafes and brands – this is not one to miss!

4. Find the inner adventure in you 

There are fantastic opportunities to help you grow throughout your journey. 

Moving to university presents many opportunities for you to explore your new surroundings. Being in a new university city you can discover new cultures and make new memories with friends that you will meet on your journey. You may be thinking right now, that this seems impossible, and you can’t imagine yourself being adventurous. Once you start exploring, the city you were once afraid of will become your second home. 

Google Maps will make your exploration limitless. For example you could have a go at: 

  • Finding the city’s hidden gems 
  • Learning the local vulture 
  • Supporting local businesses 
  • Go punting with the locals  

The hardest part is getting going, but once you start to let go, and open your mind to the possibilities, you will soon forget about those initial doubts you had, and start having fun. You might find your best friend for life, or even pick up new hobbies you wouldn’t have thought of.

Summary

We hope from this article you feel more comfortable knowing that you are not alone tackling this new chapter in your life. We want you to make the best decision for yourself, because ultimately it is your life and we want you to have the best experiences possible! 

As mentioned before, university can be a great avenue at helping you build your professional and personal life, and we’ve highlighted the fun aspects as well as the life skills you could gain choosing the university path. 

If you ever feel overwhelmed, many universities can offer you support. Most if not all universities have well-being teams and student support services that are always happy to talk, and give you advice.

But university is not the be all and end all. If your aspirations and goals don’t coincide with university, there are other paths you can take such as apprenticeships or work placements. Don’t be afraid of doing something different – just make the decision that will benefit you the most!

Discover an authentic university experience next summer

If you are eager to start your exploration now, you can gain an insight into what it’s like to move away from home and study at university. We offer summer courses for ages 13-24, which provide you with an authentic Oxbridge student experience. 

Having over 50 courses on offer, a range of flexible start dates, as well as an enriching socio-cultural timetable, our courses are a great way to experience student life, make your UCAS application stand out, and most importantly, challenge yourself academically!

To find out more about our award-winning summer school, browse the courses we have available for next summer. Alternatively, you can contact our admissions team to speak with an advisor.

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