Blog post

How to thrive as an anxious first-year

Success is a hard thing to measure. What makes a successful student? Many would say a first-class grade or a Dean’s Award. All of which is amazing but, to me, success is feeling content within yourself. Whether that’s academic achievements, increase in confidence or simply feeling proud of yourself. 

By Megan Wallbanks - 19 August 2022

Hi, my name is Megan and I have a severe case of introversion. When I first started studying at the University of Derby in 2017, I was extremely nervous and insecure. Of course, like every other first-year student uni student would be, but I was an extremely closed book. I spent the majority of my first year suffering in silence and afraid to put my hand up. Unfortunately, this began to reflect on the quality of my work. 

I wanted to be successful in this thing we call ‘life’. Who doesn’t? But I knew it wasn’t productive sitting at the back of the room in silence every day. So, this is your sign to work hard and step out of your comfort zone! If I'd have read this blog when I first started, it would have made my uni experience a whole lot easier. So here are my four top tips for striving to success as an anxious first-year uni student.

“The comfort zone is the great enemy of courage and confidence.” – motivational speaker Brian Tracy

Don't be afraid to open your mouth

One of the best ways to gain confidence is to put yourself out there. University is a great taster for life after education (aka scary adult life). Making contributions to the workplace is paramount, no matter the industry. Now is the perfect time to start practising this skill. Be the one who volunteers, asks for help, and doesn’t hold back!  

It is so important to make the most out of your tutors and lecturers. Always keep them updated on your progress and listen to their feedback. Join clubs, societies and socialise with your fellow students.

University can be lonely sometimes, it’s so beneficial to talk to people. You can exchange ideas, get things off your chest, and even peer-review each other’s work. I also highly recommended making the most of the support on offer at university, which leads me to the next top tip. 

A person holding their hand up
Don't be afraid to put your hand up and share your thoughts

Use the resources and services on offer

I know how overwhelming it all can feel when you first start university. But, take it from me, the worst thing you can do is suffer in silence. You should take advantage of the amazing services on offer. In fact, I didn't. Not at first. It wasn’t until the end of my second year that I actually reached out for support and guidance.

After putting it off and worrying about my post-graduation plans for so long, I finally booked a meeting with a careers adviser at the University. It was the best thing I ever did. In fact, I probably wouldn’t be here right now, writing this blog post if it wasn’t for my amazing supportive career’s adviser. Shout out to Anna Lisles!  

It’s so important to make the most of all the services on offer, such as study skills (learn how to navigate the library and library plus), careers workshops (such as CV writing tips, successful interview skills etc), and our student wellbeing service. I also highly recommend keeping up to date with the latest events and opportunities by reading YourUniTalk e-newsletter every month, checking the UDo Events tile and following @DerbyUniStudent on social media.

Stay organised and manage your time efficiently

This one goes without saying but having good organisational and time management skills is a life saver! It increases your productivity and reduces stress as a busy student.

At the start of each day, I like to write a to-do list, setting realistic goals in priority order and ticking each task off as I go down. There is nothing more rewarding than an accomplished list at the end of the day. I also think its beneficial to keep daily planners, track deadlines, separate module content, etc. The earlier you begin to do this, the easier uni life will become.

Prioritise your mental health

Always take time for yourself. The quality of work will follow. It’s equally important to not put so much pressure on yourself. Listen to yourself and your body, recognise when it’s time to take a break. Because taking time off is OK! Enjoy your time while you’re a student. It won’t last forever. 

I like to write encouraging affirmations every morning to ground myself and increase positive thinking. As I mentioned above, the university offers a great student wellbeing service you can contact for support at any time.  

A woman sitting on a cliff looking out at the beach
Always take time to look after yourself

If anyone reading this is feeling nervous or anxious about starting university, follow these tips and I am confident you will master uni life! Good luck with your studies and remember … 

“Your success will be determined by your own confidence and fortitude.” – former US First Lady Michelle Obama 

About the author

Media and Communications student - Megan Wallbanks.

Megan Wallbanks

Currently a final year Media and Communications student at the University of Derby. I am also a Marketing Rep and Student Communications Ambassador. Outside of uni, I am a freelance content creator, sustainable fashion blogger, and crazy Frenchie mum!