Returning to university

Gareth Hughes

Gareth Hughes is the Clinical Lead for Student Space and is a psychotherapist, researcher and writer on student wellbeing, including the book Be Well, Learn Well

If you are returning to university, you have clearly demonstrated that you have the ability to navigate student life. However, each year at university is different, with differing challenges and opportunities. You can ease yourself into the next stage by taking a few steps to prepare.

Review the last academic year

Reflecting on our experiences gives us the opportunity to learn, grow, avoid the same mistakes and open up new opportunities. It may help to think about:

  • What went well last year?

  • What didn’t go as well as you’d like?

You may want to review everything that goes into making up your uni experience – course, friends, accommodation, social life etc. It might help to make a list of good and not so good experiences. Then think about how you could increase the number of things that go well next year and reduce the number of things that don’t go well, by applying what you’ve learned this year.

Try to be realistic and plan to do things that you know you can do. And remember support is available to help you with any problems you encounter.

Be prepared. Write a couple of goals or things you want to achieve for the new academic year and problem solve any potential barriers that might get in the way.

Counting down to the next academic year: managing the fear - Emma

Changing relationships

Just as people change when they go away to university, they can also seem to change when they have been at home for the summer break. Don’t be thrown if relationships seem a bit different to how you remember them last term or if your best friend has a completely new look and interest.

Remember that relationships do change and grow and that you may have changed too. If you can roll with these changes, then your friendship may deepen. However, it’s also important to remember that it isn’t too late to make new friends. People find new friends all through their university journey, it can help if you take a structured approach to making new friends and make the most of the opportunities university life gives you.

Managing your money

Remember that your loan won’t come through until after you’ve enrolled so make sure you have some cash to see you through the first few weeks of term.

If you are going to be a bit short of money it might be wise to let your friends know that you won’t be able to join in all of the socialising that often happens in the first few weeks. If you are experiencing significant financial difficulty, help may be available from your university. You may also want to look at our pages on managing your finances and finding paid work.

Sorting your accommodation

Get your accommodation sorted before you come back to university. It is sometimes possible to find accommodation late but it can be a stressful start to the year if you don’t know where you’ll be living. Also, make sure that you and your flatmates are clear about how bills will be paid etc before the year starts, particularly given the predicted rises in energy costs this year – a lack of clear understanding at the beginning can lead to arguments and problems later in the year.

Making time for study

It's natural to want a break after the end of the academic year but it isn’t wise to avoid everything to do with your course for the whole summer. Coming back to university can be a real shock if you haven’t even thought about your course for months. Just reading about your subject or practising key skills can make a real difference to your performance next year.

For anyone struggling through second year, recognise the steps you could take to make that week a little easier on yourself. It’s OK not to be OK.

It’s never Wednesday forever… - Sophie
Page last reviewed: September 2022