The Pressure of Beginning University – The best years of your life?

Ananya’s words of wisdom demonstrate how everybody’s university experience is different.  

 Starting university is a time filled with change.

It’s a process that begins even before leaving school. From the time that applications begin, we are constantly thinking about where to apply, what grade requirements we need, writing personal statements – all whilst keeping on top of our school curriculum. These are often viewed as life-changing decisions that we are making, with long-term impacts. High school, a place that you may have felt a sense of habit and normalcy towards, is now a chapter in your life that has ended. Whilst a new one has begun; it can still be a source of stress and a lot of pressure. 

University can be very overwhelming, especially when you have just begun. Being in a completely different environment, while often living away from home, can be difficult. Balancing academics, career prospects and building a new social network is a lot to handle in a short period of time. 

University & Social Media

However, by shifting perspectives, it may be easier to cope with the pressures of beginning university. One important aspect that is often overlooked is how social media may add to the pressure that we feel. By seeing friends who are in the same phase of starting university post about their lives, it usually seems like they are enjoying themselves all the time. Whilst this enjoyment may be real, it is important to remember that social media does not reflect real life. People will, for the most part, only post moments in their life that are the most exciting. Similar to a highlight reel, it takes the best part of people’s lives and amplifies it, while excluding the more average moments, or the lows, too. It is easy to find ourselves drawing comparisons between the lives of other people from social media to our own experience, and wondering: why am I not enjoying myself as much? Why do I not have as many friends? What am I doing wrong? In essence, we compare our ‘blooper reel’ to other people’s ‘highlight reel,’ which further adds to the pressure of feeling like you need to live up to the expectations of what university is like. Keeping in mind that we only see a small part of other people’s lives on social media is essential to reducing this extra stress.

University – The Best Years of Your Life?

Additionally, a common source of added pressure is from the notion that university has to be the ‘best years of your life.’ By taking it day by day, and figuring things out as they come, you can build a university life that you are happy with in your own time. We may lose perspective in terms of how much of our lives are yet to be discovered, yet to be lived, and yet to be experienced. Upon graduating university, we are still young, and have our whole careers and lives ahead of us. You will experience so many new things, travel to different places, and meet new people. Maybe your future travels, your dream job, or your future family will be part of the best years of your life. It doesn’t have to be right now, and that’s okay, it’s quite exciting to think about what the future has in store. Undoubtedly, your university years can be the best years of your life, but they don’t have to be.  

A Time of Change

It is not easy to start a new chapter, in which you are surrounded by totally different people while being away from home. Change is not linear, and it is natural for the start of a new chapter to have ups and downs. You will feel excitement, happiness, and joy, but there may also be times in which you feel homesick, sad, or lonely. This is normal, and is an integral part of any learning experience. 

Do things that make you happy, whether that is speaking to family members or old friends, playing your favorite sport, or trying new food – feeling a sense of comfort in these times can go a long way. University is your experience to navigate through, and can be overwhelming enough without added, external pressure. Be kind to yourself and take care of yourself in such a huge period of adjustment. Your experience at university will be unforgettable and unique to yourself, and not the same as anybody else’s. 

Written by Ananya Devraj