Education

5 Ways Students Can Boost Their Confidence At University

In an ideal world, your university years would be a time for worry-free exploration and adventure, given solely to expanding your mind with new knowledge and experience.

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In reality, student life can give your confidence a kicking – whether you’re up against seemingly impossible deadlines, stressing about how you’ll pay your rent or paralysed by existential angst about what you’re going to do with your life.

The usual rules apply for maintaining a base level of wellbeing: make sure that you get enough sleep, eat well, and get outside regularly (rather than festering in your room or the library). But there are lots of other ways to give yourself a confidence boost in times of crisis.

1. Take an academic approach to problems

When it comes to dealing with a crisis of confidence, try employing the same skills that you use for your studies, recommends Katie Finnimore, mentoring coordinator at the University of Essex.

“Create a mind-map of your concerns,” she says. “This can help to clear your mind and identify where your lack of confidence is coming from. Get a big piece of paper and some felt tips and get it off your mind as you write. Don’t try to edit your thoughts; just get them onto the paper, however small or daft they might seem. This will help your subconscious to identify your true feelings.”

Anoushka Bonwick, projects and relationships officer at Student Minds, agrees. She says approaching challenges as a series of small steps can be helpful. “It’s really difficult to think of passing an exam,” she says. “That’s a very big thing to do and it can be intangible and daunting.

“Instead, break it down into a series of achievable goals: think ‘OK, I’ve got an exam, so that means I need to revise. What would a good day’s worth of revision look like?’ – and do that. This works for all kinds of issues.”

2. Create the social life you want

Don’t feel pressured to conform to the stereotype of spending all your free time staring into the bottom of a pint glass (regardless of what your housemates and friends are up to). If the party lifestyle isn’t your thing, try finding a new social landscape.

“There are a lot of students who aren’t into going out all the time and they are in much a bigger group than they might think,” says Bonwick. “Societies and clubs are a great way to meet new people and find things to do that aren’t just about drinking culture.

“You know yourself best. If you know you don’t enjoy clubbing, for example, ask yourself what you can do that will be fun and enjoyable.”

3. Get a mentor

When you’re feeling like you can’t manage, it’s helpful to remember that others have been in the same position – and survived. Many universities offer access to mentors, who focus on topics varying from emotional support to career development.

Therese Reinheimer-Jones, head of student engagement and enhancement at Kingston University, says: “Current students can play a vital part in welcoming new students and sharing their own experiences. This helps to reassure them that they are not alone and that many before them have felt exactly as they do at the start of this new chapter in their lives.”

Liz Guyar-Brown, senior employer and internships manager at the University of Essex, also highlights the benefits of the process: “We bring in alumni role models who come to talk to students about their career paths and the twists and turns within them. It’s really helpful for students to see what people have gone on to do and how they have coped with life outside of university.”

4. Make the most of university services

 

Your university will offer support in managing the nitty-gritty of day-to-day life, whether the issue is getting a new room or sorting out your council tax exemption. So if you find yourself swamped with life admin, try student services.

Anoushka Bonwick says: “People don’t always think about student services, but they offer guidance on all kinds of problems you might face at university, like money troubles and housing, and offer very practical solutions.”

Katie Finnimore adds: “If you’re worrying about the future, you can visit your careers centre for personalised and confidential information, whether you have no idea where to start or are preparing for the final stage of the interview process. You should also speak to your tutor or a lecturer you get on well with for ideas that are specific to your sector or course; they might have great contacts who can help.”

 

5. Share your problems

When you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s easy to hide away. But the simple act of sharing your worries with peers can make a world of difference.

“Reach out to friends and fellow students, because they will be going through the same things,” says Bonwick. “The key to coping with the difficulties of university is to talk about them. You are surrounded by people who can relate to you and what you are going through, so don’t suffer in silence.”

“Above all, be kind to yourself,” says Finnimore. “Release some of the pressure you’ve put on yourself. We’re usually our own worst critics. Congratulate yourself for every action you take; success is built from many little achievements and your confidence will grow with each step.”

In reality, student life can give your confidence a kicking – whether you’re up against seemingly impossible deadlines, stressing about how you’ll pay your rent or paralysed by existential angst about what you’re going to do with your life.

The usual rules apply for maintaining a base level of wellbeing: make sure that you get enough sleep, eat well, and get outside regularly (rather than festering in your room or the library). But there are lots of other ways to give yourself a confidence boost in times of crisis.

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