Starting university, or even returning after the summer can be daunting.
If you’re a new starter then there’s so much to consider, so much to do and so many worries. For example: how many will be in my class, can I manage the workload, and will I make friends? All these are common, and honestly natural fears.
Whether living at home or in halls, you never know what you will be faced with, so much still remains unknown, and for Autistic people this is where the anxiety sets in. One thing I recommend is if you have any questions, email ahead beforehand to ask these – this can reduce anxiety and help you prepare for your first day.
Secondly, check if there is a reading list – this can be super helpful. If there is have a look at books/papers ahead of time, just to brush up on knowledge and give you a head start with processing time.
Next comes the classes, the lecture halls and the people. I would advise heading there in advance to check it out in prep for the day. Also, on your first day head over there early to beat the rush and pick a good seat (note: this may be your seat for the year, so choose wisely!).
There is so much to consider on the first day, one being making friends – everyone is in the same boat here, granted NT’s don’t have as much to worry about. Just smile, and someone may start conversation – remember they are just as nervous as you! You’ll settle in eventually and this will become more natural once everyone gets adjusted. And don’t worry about your wardrobe, this is another new student thing, eventually it’ll get to the point where you don’t care what you throw on!
In lectures (if allowed) I recommend recording classes, that way you can play them back at a later date to allow processing (it takes me days to process information, sometimes weeks!). This can be really helpful when revising too as you can hear all the extra tips/tricks without missing something that could be potentially important. Taking notes can help too, I used coloured Irlen paper and coloured pens, one because they stand out and two because then things look pretty!! Flash cards are a life saver too, especially when it comes to revision!
Its important to also be aware of deadlines, because things can pile up! I’ve had three classes each with two assignments each and a 10,000 word project all on the go! It can be hectic, but with good organisation and scheduling it can be manageable. Make a schedule/plan of when to work on each item or module/class, that way it’s a visual and helps organise your time. Make a list of each assignment and deadline date, again a visual to help keep on track, and once one is complete you can cross it off and move onto the next.
For returning students, it can feel odd coming back after such a long time off. You may have forgotten everything – this is pretty normal after a break, be sure to revisit old notes for a refresher!
Its like starting all over again, depending on what you are studying class sizes can be smaller. For me, we were split into three pathways, which meant bye bye large lectures (YESSSSS!). One good thing is you’ll still know people, and won’t have to make friends all over again, a huge weight off your mind.
One thing you won’t have missed – the early starts and late finishes, along side the essays and exams. Deadlines are looming and work begins, so be sure to prioritise and get back on track!
One important thing to remember throughout all of this is that if you are struggling then ask for help. That is what lecturers and support services are there for, to help, to provide guidance. Several times throughout my undergraduate degree I had to ask for help, for clarification – it is not a sign of weakness and will most probably give you a push in the right direction.
University can be overwhelming, noisy, crowded and too much at times, so be sure to make a note of quiet areas, places you can go for some space, to just chill out. Its important to look after yourself along your journey, and recharge when you need too!
University is such a challenging yet rewarding place, full of ups and downs, like a rollercoaster, but I loved every minute (hence why I’m carrying on!). Being a student is full of pressure, but it will all pay off. You’ll learn and grow with every minute of every day and become a brighter better version of yourself!
University however, isn’t for everyone, and that is perfectly okay. Whatever you do, just be yourself, your Autistic self, be wonderful!