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2 young men, 1 wearing a blue jumper and 1 wearing a grey one are playing pool


After the excitement has settled, the reality of why you’re at university will hit you.

You’ll suddenly be required to take personal responsibility for your own studies – deciding when, what and how you’ll study, as well as who with. You’ll be balancing a new social and academic life – forming new relationships and developing bonds with lots of people inside and outside of university. At the same time, you’ll be building your independence – working out how to manage your own finances and to look after yourself well. To top it all off, you’ll be doing it in a place you’re unfamiliar with, without your trusty support network around you.

However, please don’t be put off. As you heard from Dan in the previous Step, it can be done. University will be the making of you and you’ll have an experience like no other. You may even surprise yourself with what you can handle. Knowing how to balance your social, study and work aspects of your new life is and will always be a work in progress and university is a good way to start practising.

Here are some common examples of when things can become ‘unbalanced’:

  • When you’re studying hard and you don’t look after yourself by eating unhealthily and not exercising.
  • You’ve left your course work to the last minute and now have to deal with multiple deadlines which are all due the same week.
  • You hang out with all your new friends who all have different timetables and workloads to you, leaving you with no time to yourself or to study.
  • You have to work your part-time job instead of revising for an upcoming exam.
  • You meet that ‘someone’ and nothing else matters now.

We break down each of these aspects of the balance a little further to help you prepare for what’s to come.


Finding this ‘sweet spot’ will be unique to you and it’ll be different to your friends. It’s important to have fun and to socialise because that’s part of the university experience, and where you begin to build your emotional support network.

However, this is probably the most difficult aspect to balance for many students and it is often overdone. No one wants to suffer FOMO (fear of missing out) and peer pressure can be difficult to manage because of the want to be included in a group and participate in activities together. However, you need to prioritise what’s important for you.

In order to deal with these situations, keep in mind what’s of value to you, take a moment and ask yourself: ‘Is this the right thing for me to do?’ Think about the consequences if you go against what’s right for you and consider what you have coming up over the next few days, weeks or months.

Delay your response to invites and say that you’ll think about them if you’re unsure about how you feel. It may be that you don’t take part in the activity today, but you can next time. Below are a few things to consider when finding that balance:

  • It’s OK to say no and to do what’s best for you at that moment in time.
  • In return, respect someone’s decision when they say no.
  • This one requires absolute will power from you. If you really want to go out socialising, try compromising with yourself and tell your friends that you will join them later or just for a few hours. If you don’t succeed in this, then you know what to do next time.
  • Know your limits! Don’t stay up partying all night if you know you can’t handle it or drink the same amount as your friends if you have a lower tolerance for alcohol. The only person who suffers is you.
  • Be prepared to miss out on some things.
  • Be compassionate. Everyone has their own ideas of what socialising is, be receptive to people’s ideas and try something new if it suits you.

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This article is from the free online course:

Live Smart: Your Essential Guide to Living at University

University of Reading