Careers Advice Blog

How an older sibling can help you with your university career

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The best advice I could give anyone about to embark on their university career is this: have an older sibling. The lessons of what to do, such as get involved in societies, and what not to do, such as bring a toaster, can be learned through the lives of others as easily as through your own, and this method can save a lot of heartache and Google-searching.

However, I appreciate that not everyone has access to the valuable resource that is a brother or sister, and even less people have access to having one that can guide them through university life, so here at the biggest ways that having elder siblings changed my time at university.

I knew what to pack

If it weren’t for my siblings’ contrasting opinions, my mum’s compulsion to hoard might’ve convinced me that I really did need to take a toaster, kettle and every piece of clothing I have ever owned.

However, due to my brothers’ minimalist approach (he could survive on a spice rack and a laptop for at least a month, I’m convinced) of taking a single frying pan, sauce pan, knife and chopping board alongside a week’s worth of clothes, bedding and technology, I felt far more comfortable leaving things behind. I was also more confident in my ability to return and collect any forgotten essentials, knowing that it was common to come home in the first term at least once, which was not a disposition I might have otherwise had.

I knew that the union was more than a nightclub

Up until the dawn of her third year, my sister was a shy but friendly girl who kept to herself, a close group of friends, and her course books. She left university a confident woman with far more wit (or at least far more bravery to use it), a louder voice and a wider circle of contacts than she’d ever had before. My brother became far more athletic throughout his first undergraduate year and went on to become even bossier than before in his second.

These transformations were due to their involvement in societies, Nightline and Fencing respectively, that had given them just as much, if not more, to develop via than their degrees. Hearing these stories drew me into the mystique of union activities outside of freshers’ fortnight early in my university career – and though I couldn’t possibly comment on how I’ve changed – involving myself in so much, so early is definitely the best thing I’ve done.

I knew that my first few grades would suck

I came from a family of high academic expectations – we all did our absolute best, and were disappointed with anything less than the highest grade. As such, when hearing that a first-class qualification from a university only required an overall grade of 70 percent, my siblings and I were all filled with hope.

My sister emerging with a 2:1, and my brother ranging from anywhere between 50 and 80 percent in his first year set me up to know that this first would not be as easily achieved as we might’ve expected. It also helped me adjust my expectations and desires to a 2:1 when I first got some unfavourable (but constructive) feedback and removed the shock of the experience that some of my hall mates had to bear through.

If you don’t have an older sibling who went to university, then the advice above might just help. And if you do – against perhaps your preferred judgment, ask them for advice!

Have your siblings helped you with your university career? Let us know in the comments below.

Photo: Ryusuke / Flickr

Final year undergraduate at the University of Warwick. President of Warwick RAG (Raising and Giving), National Student Fundraising Association committee member, former Community & Events intern of Breast Cancer Campaign. Stand up Poet. Overdraft abuser. Doer of things.
Andrew E. KingHow an older sibling can help you with your university career

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