Starting university can be quite a challenging time for any student. Moving away from home for the first time might mean leaving behind all your family and friends you had back home. You might even have moved to London from another country to study, and so a completely new life can take its toll on your levels of self-confidence and your mental health in general. The most important thing to do is to remember that you won’t be the only one feeling this way. And there are plenty of things you can do to help boost your confidence. So, if you’re wondering how to be a confident student, here are a few things you can try.
Embrace all the new faces
University is a time when you’ll be meeting lots of new people. Those being in an academic context, through lectures, your seminar groups and in university-related events. You’ll also be meeting new people in social situations. And, later on, you’ll eventually be meeting a whole new set of people in a professional context, whether that’s as part of work placements or your first role after university.
It’s a good idea to embrace all those new people that will come into your life. They could well be the reason you get that first job, that next apartment, great friends or even a partner you’ll be with for the rest of your life. So, even if you’re not feeling too up for it, try to get to know people on a personal level. Yes, it can be uncomfortable to spend time with new people if you’re feeling low in confidence, but opening yourself up to others is how you will gain that confidence. After all, putting yourself outside your comfort zone will always enlarge that comfort zone.
Try not to overthink it
We understand that this is much easier said than done! But, allowing your mind to spiral will mean that you end up with worries and beliefs far from reality. Like all of us can be at times, you might be someone that spends a lot of time in your head. You might spend a lot of time thinking about what others think of you or whether they like being around you. If you’re self-conscious about how you come across at university with your friends, flatmates, classmates or even your tutors, you’re much more likely to withdraw and be reserved. Not showing others your true self in this way can sometimes hold you back from making genuine friendships and working relationships.
So, when you’re going into a social situation, and you start to feel more self-aware than you would like to, try to clear your head of those feelings. One way you can do this is to use mindfulness techniques. There are plenty of mindfulness techniques online for you to choose from that involve concentrating on something mundane around you or on your person, which allows you to clear your mind of its unproductive thoughts that tend to get in the way. As well as this, you may have heard of this trick – if you’re doing something like a presentation or find yourself in a challenging social situation, try just imagining the people in front of you naked. A little strange, yes, but it means you might just lose the feelings of importance you’re subconsciously holding them at.
Always be yourself
Being yourself is the best way to make sustainable relationships. Yes, there is some truth in fake it ‘til you make it when it comes to confidence, but equally, it’s a good idea to allow yourself to show some of your vulnerability and your true self when meeting new people. This will allow you to find people you connect with genuinely, and you’ll therefore make many longer-lasting relationships. We are social beings, and genuine connections are one of the things that can really boost our confidence and our self-belief.
Don’t feel you must conform to certain societal expectations to make friends. Use university as an opportunity to create the kind of social life you want for yourself. Whatever you enjoy doing in your spare time – playing board games, rollerblading, life drawing or whatever else, there will be others at university who have that interest too. So aim to seek out like-minded people and you might just find that you will be your most confident self around them.
Consider taking on a new role
There will be plenty of opportunities at uni to take on a new kind of role that you mightn’t have done before. This is one of the best things you can do for your self-confidence. Yes, it could be challenging at times, but it will also be really rewarding. Becoming a student rep for your course or area, for example, will involve having lots of conversations with your class and your tutors or other university bodies. You might have to do some problem-solving, too, which is a really useful self-development tool. Becoming a class rep or a rep of any kind of a great way to work on your communication skills and build up your confidence. It allows you to get to know your classmates without having to be the one to put yourself out there – by being the class rep, people will come to you directly about any concerns etc, and all you really have to do is pass on that information to the relevant people.
So think about being the brave one and putting yourself forward the next time an opportunity like this comes up. If you’re a member of any clubs or societies at uni, there will probably be opportunities to put yourself forward for roles like treasurer or events organiser, so you can choose something where your strengths lie. If this is something you’d like to do but you can’t find anything you’d like to get involved with, you could even set up a new club or society. This would be a wonderful addition to your CV, a way to make new friends and a great confidence booster too.
Let go of unrealistic expectations
Some students might feel their confidence is lacking because they’re concerned about their academic capabilities. Or, they might have certain goals they want to achieve during their time at university on other levels. Keeping an eye on your performance is of course, the right thing to do, but it’s easy to slip into having an unhealthy relationship with it. University degrees or diplomas are usually a considerable step up from A Levels or whatever you might have studied beforehand, and so you might find that you struggle a little more than you have done in the past. Plus, you’re in a brand new city (or even country) with an entirely new life, so continuously achieving the top grades at throughout your time at uni might be a lot to ask of yourself.
With this in mind, don’t be downhearted if you get lower marks than you were expecting. Understand what you’re capable of and set realistic goals for yourself to achieve them. If you don’t perform so well in your exams or assignments as you would have liked, always read the feedback from your tutor and try to act upon it to make improvements for next time. Your tutors and lecturers will always be more than happy to provide tips and guidance too.
Finding what works for you
There is a lot of information online about building up your self-confidence. A lot of it can be a little contradictory. For example, sometimes we read that we need to fake it ‘til we make it, meaning we can eventually gain some confidence essentially by acting as if we are confident. Other times we read that it’s best to show our vulnerabilities and be open about our lack of confidence. Well, it might be that you can find a balance between these two mindsets. There are also lots of more practical confidence-boosting techniques out there, like body language tips and breathing exercises. There are also countless books available to read on this subject.
So whatever school of thought you subscribe to, give things a go. Completing a degree or a university-level course should hopefully give you a confidence boost in itself, knowing that you are proactively working on your future career path. And, just by being at university, you will find that over time your confidence grows due to all the experiences you are having.