Advice I’d give my 18 year old student self.

Every year when all the young people go off to get their A level results I experience a twang of jealousy. Not because of the actual results, obviously, that shit was horrible, but usually if A levels are important to you it’s because you’re planning to go to university and your grades determined where you were going. A lot hangs on these results.

Not if you’re an art student though. I did try hard during my A levels but mainly for potential bragging rights, but to get on to an art degree you first need to do an Art and Design Foundation course for a year to get the diploma which qualifies you to apply for a degree course. I only needed one C to secure a place on the Art and Design Foundation course at Loughborough University, and then I only needed to pass my diploma (i.e. not necessarily a merit or distinction) and I was sorted for degree level. Crazy really, especially since a few years later you’re expected to crack out a 10,000 word dissertation and for all they know you can’t even write your own name, but that’s another story.

Anyway.Most of these young hopefuls open their envelopes and are off for a 3 or 4 year piss-up, probably some of the best years of their lives.

I had an amazing experience, but if AdultCarla could go back and have a chat with StudentCarla, there are definitely a few things I’d warn myself about:
  1. You’ll never be this free again, so make the most of it.
    University was a wonderful time where I was no longer treated like child whilst having very few of the responsibilities of being an adult. I rented a house and lived on a shoestring with four other girls so you can imagine the carnage, but I didn’t have boring things like council tax to deal with and my landlord took care of the bills for us, sorted.
  2. Work hard, but not too hard. Your degree means fuck-all once you’ve got your first job.
    Like on most university courses, I only needed to pass my first year in order to make it on to second year. That means I only needed to get 40% of the marks in order to progress. But still I busted a gut working all hours to get the best grades I could possibly get, even though they did not count. Whilst this is generally a good work ethic and it was definitely useful to be in the habit of working hard when third year raced around, I think I took it all way too seriously.
    Since I graduated I haven’t been asked ONCE what grade I got at uni. Not once. And- this may be art specific- but looking back on the work I produced, I was no where near as imaginative as I could’ve been considering I had full creative control over briefs. Something, incidentally, I’d die for now in my paid work. I creatively cock-blocked myself because I was so focused on grades, grades grades! And they really didn’t matter that much, most of the time.
  3. Spend more time getting relevant work experience.
    One of the reasons I struggled so much to get work when I graduated was I had no relevant experience. In the four years I spent at Loughborough, I had 4 months every summer where I did nothing. Well, not nothing. I would work in a bar and try to stack money for the upcoming year. But if I’d thought more seriously about life after the bubble and got myself some internships and work experience before I graduated, I may have realised I suit freelancing way sooner than I did.
  4. Just because you’re cooking for yourself now doesn’t mean you can have 8 meals a day.
    During my first year I gained three stone. That’s a lot. Don’t do that. It’s not sexy and it takes forever to lose.
  5. Be more of a slut.
    Because why the hell not?


17 thoughts on “Advice I’d give my 18 year old student self.

    1. Yeh, good old UNITE catering to all our needs (!) I lived in The Holt in first year, where did you live? I live on the outskirts of London now, so opportunities are close by, thankfully. Do you still live in Loughborough?

      1. I think the place where I live demolish, the village ? Near David collett I think , I don’t even remember . I’m back in Singapore now , lol I only met u once at the griffin on the day before we fly back.

      2. I wish I’d lived in the student village! It looked way more fun than The Holt, which was a bit formal. I remember now, meeting you in The Griffin :) Your guy’s work was AMAZING! It put most of our work to shame! What are you working on now?

      3. Other than my blogs which I have procrastinated on ;-; , nothing much but a part time job and some crafts . Too difficult to get a design job here . Actually thinking of changing professions ><

  1. I Toooooootalllly agree with #5!

    Altho as a current grad student, I am biased to think grades ARE important especially if you want to further your education. Plus it’s important to take school seriously and not take it for granted and be a total young overprivileged dick about it. Again, as a lifer, I am biased :p

    1. I’m glad you agree with #5! Not in an over-the-top way, of course, but just a chillax-what’s-the-worst-that-could-happen, kinda way! :)

      Grades are certainly important, especially if you need certain results to get on to a degree course. Similarly, degree grades are important if you want to get on to a particular post-grad program. What I mean is however, even though I was perfectly able to (and did) pass my A levels to a good standard, it wasn’t actually necessary for me to do so, because the Foundation course I needed to qualify for degree only required one C-grade pass at A-level, which admittedly is laughable.

      Again, I was only required to get a Pass (as oppose to Merit or Distinction) at my foundation course in order to get in to degree, so when I busted a gut and got significantly more than the requirement it wasn’t acknowledged, and for me personally (because of the limited way I approached the work) it didn’t extend my creative growth. Then, similarly, when I got on to my Illustration degree course I was often reminded that 40% was all I needed, and again I worked beyond that and it wasn’t recognised, nor was it helpful to my studies, again, because I personally, was close-mined in my approach to the work (wanting to get ‘good grades’ as oppose to really learning the trade).

      Throughout my education I always tried as hard as I could. My point in hindsight is: if I’d just relaxed a bit, I probably would have done pretty well (or as well as I could have done) anyway!

      I agree though that grades, studying and a good work ethic are definitely important. What do you study? Also, ‘grad student’ isn’t a term used frequently where I’m from, are you a U.S student? :)

      1. Hahaha Canadian :D
        Getting my MA in clinical psychology

        And I agree… when you’re young you think whatever is happening right NOW (i.e. ur school, grades, or even your BF) is THE most important thing EVER and it isn’t in the long run…

        learning to put things in perspective is a great life lesson.

        If I had to meet my 18 year old self right now I’d high five her and tell her “You are WAAAAAAAAY awesomer than you give yourself credit for”

      2. My goodness, me too. 18 year old was didn’t do too badly!

        Oh wow, MA in Clinical Psychology, I bet that is insanely interesting. I studied Psychology at A level. We just studied twenty psychological experiments across the 20th century and then regurgitated facts for an exam, which I found gripping enough as it was, but I bet 18+ studies is proper engaging and interesting! Do you get to conduct your own experiments?

        Plus, if uni/ college in America and Canada is anything like the teen movies have been lead to believe then I bet you’re having a whale of a time! :)

      3. Hahaha well graduate school is POST undergrad so it’s more mature/serious LOL.Not that much partying going on here (unfortunately)

        and YES I Do get to conduct my own experiment… I am looking at the cognitive (read: brain) and emotional differences in women who take the birth control pill and women who don’t ! no results yet !

  2. I was in BillMo and studied Design at Loughborough, and couldn’t agree more….although I studied there too long ago to remember all the fun I had! Love your blog and your work.

    1. Ah, jealous, I would’ve liked to have been in BillMo. It had all the room-luxuries of The Holt (where I lived) but with added socialising and a general charismatic air that The Holt so unmistakably lacked. I had fun too though, and I can’t remember 50% of it either. Although I’m pretty sure this is because of alcohol, not time!

  3. Uni was awesome, but you are so right about not trying too hard. I worked my arse off for my Masters and had a very limited social life for 18 months. I graduated with distinction, but the only person to care is my Mum! Career wise it hasn’t helped a dolt!

    1. Same, same, same! Distressing, isn’t it? Like I said though, I reckon it’s generally a good life skill to get in the habit of working hard for things you care about.

      I feel like I’ve loosened up since then (how else could I freelance?!) just hope I’m not on my death bed laughing at TwentiesCarla and ThirtiesCarla, chastising myself for being so serious!

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