Guest Blog: The Reality of Going to University | YouthSight x The OpinionPanel Community

Guest Blog | 16 Mar 2020

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The OpinionPanel Community is more than just a research panel; it's a platform for young people to express themselves, share their thoughts and experiences with peers, learn from thought-leadership articles and hear alternative views on topical subjects.  

Every month we will be bringing to light some of the articles written by our members starting with a post from Jenny Stavert, who lists the five harsh realities of starting university that she wish she'd known sooner. 


The Brutal Reality of Starting University

  • By OpinionPanel Member Jenny Stavert

Starting university is a bit like being born again: you’re crying because it’s all too overwhelming and you’ve no idea what’s happening. Despite reading student forums and guides, I still stumbled backwards into student life, and there are a few things I wish I had known before starting university.


This is exactly what starting university is like… no sugar coating

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1. Leaving parents is hard

No one likes to admit it, especially to said parents, who only yesterday, you were so excited to escape from, but saying goodbye is awful. Imagine the scene: an ‘adult’ who’s been catered for from birth, abandoned in a small, sterile room with all their possessions boxed up around them while they morosely wave goodbye to mum and dad. Tears are desperately held back until after they’ve left…

You want to go home; you wonder if it’s too late to beg them to take you back to normality. You don’t though, probably because you know they’ll tell you to stop being stupid and go back inside. You sit about; contemplating life without them, as if you’ve moved all the way to the Arctic Circle. You try to keep yourself occupied; make the bed, unpack all your new stationery, binge eat all the snacks you brought with you and curl up in the fetal position: the usual.

2. You will join societies you have no intention of committing to

Societies are great when starting university; a chance to engage in activities you already love, or to try new ones and make friends. Nonetheless, writing your email on a sign-up sheet at a freshers’ fair doesn’t mean that you plan on attending. Maybe it’s for a society like pole-dancing which sounds exotic and exciting: university is changing you already and your newfound friends are all signing up too. Later, when you get the email telling you that the first meeting is next week you think ‘I won’t have time for this.’

Maybe you only signed up out of guilt: you made a beeline for the stall with the best freebies only to be accosted by the eager society president. You chatted about how interesting the medieval society is for 10 minutes before signing your name and shuffling off with a bag of freebies and a murky conscience.

3. You won’t become friends with everyone you meet

Fresher’s week was all you really looked forward to since starting your UCAS application. A whole week of wild partying with like-minded people and non-stop alcohol: what’s not to love? You met loads of great people; Sarah who you'd met in a club toilet and became best friends with for a night, Dan who randomly turned up at your pre-drinks with a litre of vodka and knew every drinking game in history and Alex who convinced you that it was a good idea to steal that traffic cone because your room really needed one for decorative purposes.

You will never be friends with Sarah, Dan and Alex except on Facebook. The only thing you have in common with all three of them is that you were drunk when you met. Sober you has nothing in common with them and if your paths ever cross again, you will probably give each other a small nod or smile, but that’s all.

At least you’ll have the memories… and the traffic cone.

4. No one will remember your name

You’ll meet literally hundreds of people in freshers’ week, and you will be lucky if at least 3 people remember your name. As someone who is particularly good at remembering names, it was even hard for me. Being asked by the same person three times in an hour ‘what’s your name again?’ is slightly soul-crushing. Your name is probably the most important thing to remember about you, and being forgotten reveals the horrible fact that you’re just one face among thousands.

It’s totally understandable to forget names during a time like fresher’s week due to the sheer volume of new information. If it’s week 5 though, and a person you’ve met a few too many times has no clue who you are, then it gets downright insulting and you know this person will never ever remember.

5. Living with new people is weird

Let’s face it, you could have the nicest flatmates in the world, but living with them would still be weird. Being thrown into a flat with four strangers is just university reality. It’s basically Big Brother, except that the nation isn’t watching you and nobody wins at the end.

Milk becomes scarcer than unicorn tears and the fridge requires CCTV. You have to wait until 2am to poop because you’re worried someone will hear you, and your new alarm clock is the sound of your flatmate having sex at 7am, and there are so many bin bags waiting to be taken out that a fox has begun nesting in your kitchen. Starting university and living with students really makes you realise that your parents were the best flatmates ever, and weekends trip home become all-inclusive holidays to the Bahamas.


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The OpinionPanel Community is the UK's largest youth research panel with over 150,000 highly engaged 13-30 year olds ready to take part in your research project.  

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