Fees may be on the rise once more, but a record number of 18 and 19 year olds are going to university in England. With so many of our peers attending university there are bound to be certain expectations of what the next few years will be like, fostered by a representation of higher education in popular culture and resulting in a widely felt pressure to become someone you’re not.
‘Easy A’, ‘Mean Girls’, ‘10 Things I Hate About You’ – the list goes on; a plethora of movies presenting coming of age tales with a depiction of higher education, even if not all are specifically university. The key elements of each higher education experience remains the same, from the parties and wild nights out to the bustling social lives that somehow don’t seem to affect a student’s grade average. It is common knowledge that the first year of your degree doesn’t contribute to the overall grade, so the expectation for drinking and clubs to dominate one’s social calendar is increased evermore.
Older relatives recount their university experience to be the best years of their lives, telling stories of excitement throughout the course of their degrees, and all of it tells us that university will be something that we won’t forget. While that seems to be the case, the picture that is painted of a stereotypical university experience is not one that everyone wishes to follow, and the belief that all students are interested in constant partying and sleeping through lectures can put a lot of pressure on a fresher’s shoulders.
No student wishes to waste their time at university, academically or socially, and the pressure not to do so is substantial. The pressure to fit the mould of the stereotypical student and act as you’re expected to rests on your shoulders, as you think about the first week of many to entail endless drinking. The pressure is there, but it doesn’t have to be a drawback. The right kind of pressure can nudge you out of your comfort zone and leave you better off.
Your own personal university experience is going to be whatever you make it, whatever you want it to be. In your first year, the ball is in your court, unless you fear the university contacting your parents if you miss too many seminars. You will meet an endless supply of people, have opportunities to join societies you never imagined to exist and study with like-minded peers that want to be there just as much as you.
If you want to go out every single night, do it. If you want to stay in every night, do that. But let the pressure you feel in sometimes. Let it encourage you to go out as per your flatmate’s request, because it’s a chance to get to know them better. Let it push you into signing up for that society, even though none of your flatmates will go with you. Make university anything you want it to be.
Image: University of Leeds