5 life skills you’ll learn in your first year of university 

photo of students walking on campus - life skills at uni

A lot of students step onto campus for Freshers Week thinking they’ve got the world pretty figured out – but after the fun vibes of welcome events start to fade and you get into your new routine, it’s going to become crystal clear that you’ve still got a few important lessons to learn about adulting. 

That’s ok. 

So do yourself a favour, and don’t stress. You’re going to learn all these lessons (and more) as you progress through your first year. Some new life skills might come pretty naturally to you – while others are going to take ages to master. 

Just take your time, be open to new things and remember: you’ve got this!  

To help you prepare for the year ahead, here are five important life skills that we’re sure you’ll have totally down by the time you’re wrapping up your first year at university. 

Budgeting – A key life skill

You might already have some experience with making a budget – which is great. But heading off to uni is going to take your budgeting skills to the next level. 

This may be the first time in your life that you’re 100% in charge of your own finances, or it may be the first time you haven’t been able to make immediate withdrawals from the ‘bank of mum and dad’ if you run out of dough before payday. 

It’s also important that you think hard about your income and where it’s going if you’re receiving a student loan, bursary, or allowance from relatives that’s supposed to last you for a number of weeks or months. 

If you need help creating a budget, there are loads of great templates or apps you can check out. Our Student Support Hub also offers money support if you need advice or access to discretionary funding. 


Arriving at uni for the first time is so exciting. There’s new people, new places and new experiences you’re going to want to check out – and the FOMO is real. You’ll probably want to get involved in everything, but it’s important that you learn how to turn down an invite. 

You’ve got to get a firm grasp of your responsibilities in terms of studying, part-time work, time for you and time to maintain existing relationships that are important to you. You can’t do it all – and as per the life lesson we’ve just covered, you probably won’t have enough money to do it all, either. 

That’s why it’s important to learn to say “no” sometimes (both to yourself and new mates). This sense of self-control will help keep you balanced, and it will protect your finances, too. 

Time management 

In high school, teachers often push back deadlines or let you redo assignments on a whim – and although university lecturers are super accommodating if you’ve ever got an illness or a genuine personal emergency to deal with, they’re not going to cancel an essay just because you “forgot”. 

That’s why time management is critical to your success – both in your studies, as well as in the world of work after you graduate. 

To make sure you’ve got enough time for all your commitments, you should create weekly and monthly timetables at the start of each semester to block out slots for lectures, seminars, study time, work shifts, training or anything else you consider essential.  

That way, you’ll always know the score – and you’ll never have a deadline sneak up on you ever again. 

Putting yourself out there 

Let’s face it: we’re not all extroverts. A lot of people have trouble mingling with new crowds and breaking the ice, and it can cause a lot of social anxiety. 

You’ve probably been embedded in the same group of friends all throughout school, which was great. But now that you’re at university, you’ve got hundreds of new people that could end up being amazing friends, too. You’ve just got to make an effort. 

So do yourself a favour, and learn to take the plunge.  

Open the door, get out of your room and just start chatting with other students. Yes, it can be a little bit awkward at first – and yes, not every person you strike up a conversation with is going to end up being your best mate for life. 

But you won’t know until you put yourself out there, right?  This is a social skill that will serve you well at uni, and will also help you loads when you’re job hunting after graduation day – so take a deep breath and introduce yourself to strangers

Asking for help 

As a first year at university, you’re going to have a lot of new responsibilities and competing pressures. You’re going to have to start cooking for yourself, cleaning up after yourself and doing your own washing, sure.  

But this may also be the first time in your life that you’re expected to do certain types of coursework or navigate confusing social dynamics you’ve never had to worry about in the past. 

If you need help with anything – whether it’s uni work, social stuff, work, accommodation, or anything in between – you’ve got to ask. Asking for help is an incredibly important life skill, and it’s often the quickest way to resolve a problem you’re having. 

It can be a bit scary or disheartening admitting to somebody else you’ve got an issue you can’t sort out alone. But here at Stirling, we’ve got a strong student community that sticks together – and no matter what’s going on in your life, the team at our Student Services Hub will do everything they can to make sure you overcome any obstacles you’re facing and thrive here at uni. 

It’s worth noting this list is just the tip of the iceberg. You are totally unique, and so the important life lessons that you learn during your first year at university are going to be unique, too. 

But if you can master these five life skills by the time you’ve finished Year 1, you’re going to be well positioned for an amazing Year 2 of university – not to mention a bright future ahead.  

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