UCL News


A student survival guide: advice from UCL academics #4

30 October 2017

Meeting deadlines, adjusting to new surroundings, navigating relationships - just some of the challenges that can often make life as a student feel like a bit of a rollercoaster.

Matthew Beaumont Check out our fourth round of advice from UCL academics, based on their own experiences of being a student at university, which could help make the ride a little smoother.

1. You are not an imposter

You will naturally assume, as you attend your first seminars and lectures as an undergraduate student, that everyone else is better educated, better informed, cleverer and more articulate than you… It isn't true! Don't forget that, however under-qualified you might feel, you wouldn't have been given a place to start your degree unless you were supremely qualified to study at UCL. You are not an imposter… Don't forget it. Don't forget, too, that the individuals who, in class, and in their interactions with lecturers and professors, seem most self-confident, most talkative and, superficially, most intelligent, are often simply the most socially entitled ones - and the ones who, to their detriment, are least self-aware - so don't feel over-awed by them. Don't let them corrode your confidence. Secretly, of course, however privileged they are, socially and educationally, they're just as insecure as you feel. If you can keep this in mind while all around you are showing off, you'll start to enjoy being a student.

- Professor Matthew Beaumont (UCL English), studied English at the University of Oxford

2. Don't be afraid to ask for help 

Elinor Jones

Making the leap from a tiny rural community where I grew up to attending university was rather daunting. I had a classic case of imposter syndrome to boot, and thought I had to figure out everything on my own. I was wrong. We could all do with a bit of help sometimes, so never be afraid to ask. Whether you're having difficulty with a module, or want to voice your concern about your own or a friend's physical or mental health, there'll always be someone to turn to while you're at university.

So while you're busy deciding how to make the most of your time at university by (hopefully!) balancing your studies with getting involved with student societies and volunteering, be honest with yourself and ask for help when you need it. 

- Dr Elinor Jones (UCL Statistical Science), studied Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Warwick

3. Get involved

Jane Burns
  • Download UCL Go! It is brilliant for helping you to navigate your way around UCL and check your timetable, particularly important at this time of year because of the possibility of changes. 
  • Get involved, have a go and join in. The temptation to appear mysteriously aloof doesn't work... nobody will notice.
  • Buy some Resolve... it's good for hangovers.

- Jane Burns (UCL School of Management), studied Education at the University of Sheffield 

4. Find yourself in novels 

Volker Sommer

Joining university is akin to being flung into that ultimate unknown. However, more sustainable explanations - while probably all wrong - are hidden in good old novels. 'Old' means: written any time before you were born. So, my advice is: go on mental journeys into the hitherto untold, employing time-honoured classics as guides. That's at least what I did during my first year of studying biology, physics and chemistry; as formulae just weren't affable companions to share my adolescent angst with... Four decades on, over the past year or so, I have re-read my favourites. It was a joy. It felt like I was 20 - just with 40 years of experience. I only wish my former annotations would have been in pencil - for me to quietly erase the most embarrassing marginalia. Like: "Who am I?"

- Professor Volker Sommer (UCL Anthropology), studied Biology and Chemistry at the University of Göttingen, Germany

View 'A student survival guide: advice from UCL academics #1'

View 'A student survival guide: advice from UCL academics #2'

View 'A student survival guide: advice from UCL academics #3'