While the first few months of the year are generally not the most exciting, with cold weather, dark nights and the unenviable exam season, it is also a great time to plan your year ahead and make some all important changes!

A new year signals a fresh start. It provides the perfect opportunity to make some changes in your life that can help make your time at university more positive, productive and enjoyable.

Here, the Lancaster based student lettings company, StudentHQ Lettings, share their top tips for making the most of the year ahead.

Be More Health Conscious
Why not take advantage of your uni’s fitness facilities? Prices tend to be low so it shouldn’t be a major strain on the purse strings! Your university’s sport centre will often offer a range of services including advice on developing a fitness/nutrition plan that fits with your student lifestyle.

While finding time to exercise might not seem appealing for many students, it’s important to try to incorporate physical activity into your student lifestyle. After all, as little as 20 minutes of exercise a day can make a huge difference to your health and well-being. Make sure your goal is specific, so instead of pressuring yourself to ‘go to the gym’, make a resolution to work out for 20 minutes at least 4 times a week. Why not join a sports team or if that’s not for you, why not see if any of your housemates fancy joining you for a run?

Staying healthy is not just about exercise. It is also important to get enough rest to ensure you can concentrate on your uni work, for example try to get at least 6 hours of sleep per night. While uni life is hard and often involves sleep deprivation, making sure you get enough sleep each night is critical for your long-term success and health!

Finally, students are notorious for their unhealthy eating habits. Make a goal to add something healthy at each meal, for example at least one serving of fruit or vegetables. You could also cut down on your caffeine intake so that you’ll sleep better at night. It’s amazing what a difference even small changes to your diet can make!

Broaden Your Horizons
A great uni experience is about finding the right balance. Of course, studying hard, excelling in your course and gaining workplace-based skills is essential. That said, it is also important to make friends, experience new things and have fun. Seek out opportunities to get involved in through your students’ union, athletics clubs or student associations, which can all contribute to a unique and rewarding uni experience.

Many students are keen to get involved in all kinds of clubs, activities and teams, but while this can be great fun it’s important that your involvement doesn’t have a detrimental effect on your academic work. If you need more time, are struggling in your classes, or just overall feel overwhelmed, consider cutting down on your extra-curricular activities. You might be surprised at how much better you feel with an extra hour or two a week.

Sort Out Your Finances
Financial resources shouldn’t be a barrier to education, that’s why financial assistance is available to help students. Create a reasonable budget for each month, considering everything from fees and textbooks to entertainment, food and savings. Apply for scholarships, awards and bursaries that can help subsidise your educational endeavours wherever possible. Students should also review their finances regularly and set achievable goals for the year. Your students’ union is there to help if you need further assistance and they will be more than happy to help you create a personal budget. Never feel ashamed to ask for help if you feel things are getting on top of you.

Get a Part-time Job
Contact your university’s career service for information about part-time work both on and off-campus. They often provide networking events, resources for finding jobs, interview skills counselling and training in the “soft skills” that employers value (such as customer service and communication). It’s also a good idea to start looking for a summer work placement now so you can relax later in the semester when you’re busy with exams, and have less time to devote to a summer job search.

Learn New Skills
Take a course, or find a club with like-minded individuals to enjoy new experiences and develop new skills. Find classes to indulge your love of learning, expand your skills or sample different types of job activities.

Chances are there are things happening on your campus 24/7 and many of them are on topics or involve activities that you’re not at all familiar with, so why not challenge yourself a little by trying something totally new? Attend a lecture on a topic you know nothing or very little about, go to a cultural event you’ve never heard of before, volunteer to help with a cause you know you should learn more about but have just never looked into. You might be surprised at how much you enjoy yourself!

Not only does it feel good to contribute to the community, volunteering also looks great on your CV. Why not contact your students’ union and enquire what opportunities are available in your local area. Some universities even organise group community service activities for student volunteers, so you might make some new friends in the process. The added bonus is you’ll feel great afterward!

Make Plans for the Future
While in university you’re constantly making major decisions that will have an impact on your future, as you plan for further education, apply for jobs and evaluate relationships. At times it can feel overwhelming so try focusing on one decision at a time, researching and evaluating your options to make informed decisions. Student support and advice are often provided by universities, so take advantage of the experts at your disposal and plan for the next stage of your life.

Get Organised
This may sound completely unrealistic and idealistic, but if you look back at your time at university, when have you been the most stressed? Some of the most stressful times are undoubtedly when major assignments are due. Planning to do something the night before is, quite literally, planning to fail! So why not plan instead to finish a little earlier so you can get some sleep, not be as stressed and most likely write a better assignment?

Finally… Have Fun!
Despite all of the above being top tips, the most important thing to remember is to enjoy your time at university. Your time at uni will go in a flash so be sure to create lots of fun memories!

Photo Credit: Mufidah Kassalias via Compfight cc