Blog post

Taking the steps to make the right choices for you

It can be exciting and daunting when starting university, but however you are feeling there is good advice available to help you to make the choices that are right for you. Joanna Baker, Psychoeducation Co-ordinator and Therapist at the University of Derby, explains the steps new students can take to prepare themselves for the leap into higher education.

4 August 2020

Preparing for university always involves a degree of uncertainty but even more so this year. We know that many students have had to make some tough decisions about their future. Here at the University of Derby we want to provide you with the best possible support.

Even if you are sure that university is for you, it is still worthwhile spending some time thinking about why you want to go. Having a clear idea of what you want from your university will ensure you get the best from your experience and will help you to stay motivated.

Try to visualise your time at university and focus on what you want (not what your parents, partner or previous school want). Will you be coming into Halls? Why have you chosen this subject – can you imagine studying it for three years and enjoying it? Why this university? Consider that to start with you will experience blending learning, with some on campus time and some online delivery. 

You’ll have benefited from thinking about these things before you arrive and if you do realise this isn’t what you want – it isn’t too late to change your mind now.

Gareth Hughes, Psychotherapist Research Lead, talks about how to view the Clearing experience positively.

View How to view the Clearing experience positively video transcript

Get the practical stuff done now

To ensure that you are choosing the right course for you, you need to understand how your programme is taught and assessed and what you will be required to do. Ask detailed questions of your programme team about how the programme will be delivered and assessed, during the Covid-19 pandemic and afterwards. Remember to ask whether it includes fieldtrips and/or placements.

Don’t put off those forms and practical arrangements. Having everything in place before you go to university will make the process much less stressful.

Sit down and work your way through any forms or emails you’ve been sent by your university – if you aren’t sure about something call them and ask. There will be staff available to answer your queries.

Have you applied for your funding? If you need extra support, have you applied for Disabled Student’s Allowance? The Student Finance website can provide you with all the details of what you’re entitled to and how to apply. Try to plan out a budget before university starts.

If you are leaving home to go to university make sure your accommodation is sorted before you leave. Most universities have accommodation offices that can help you find somewhere but don’t just turn up expecting to find a place to stay. If you do you may end up having to take inappropriate accommodation a long way from campus.

Familiarise yourself with your new university

Universities exist in their own worlds – they are unlike any other environment you will have encountered before. We know that being in new environments, whether on campus or online, can feel stressful and feeling alienated can make the early weeks of term more difficult.

You can explore the University of Derby virtually.

You can also find online forums for most universities, where you can meet some of your new classmates or flat mates. It will make it easier when you arrive if you know some people and feel that you have started making friends.

Try to spend a little bit of time familiarising yourself with your chosen subject, especially if it’s one you’ve never studied before. Don’t go overboard – you don’t need to know everything yet, but familiarising yourself with some of the language and ideas will really help you early on.

Believe you can do well

If you get a place at a university then you have the ability to be there. Trust in the judgement of the professionals at your new university and start planning to do well.

Those of us who work at universities know that this can be an emotionally turbulent time – exciting, scary, stressful, uncertain… whatever you feel, it’s okay. Use your imagination to help you get beyond this time. Imagine how you will be in six months when you’ve settled in, made friends, are working hard and enjoying university life.

Simple mental exercises like this can help you feel more confident and make the process of going to university more enjoyable.

There is a clear link between wellbeing and academic success

Student Wellbeing are still here to support you during this unusual time.  We’re currently available on the phone and via email from 9am – 5pm, Monday – Friday, except bank holidays. Appointments are being held over the telephone, SKYPE for Business and Microsoft Teams, dependent on practitioner/therapist.

We understand these methods of delivery won’t be suitable for everyone, but we still urge you to get in touch with us if you wish to discuss something so that we can advise you further. 

For further information contact the press office at