Getting started: what to expect at University

Thursday 07-09-2017 - 16:38
Getting started cover

Starting university can be both exciting and daunting, so we’ve pulled together some help and advice to get you started and give you a heads up as to what you can expect in these first few weeks, whether you're a brand new student or returning to your studies.


Meeting People

Sharing the experience and getting to know people from different backgrounds and cultures is part of the joy of university life and there will be lots of chances to do this. Many of you will meet your closest friends at university, be it on your course, in halls, or participating in the many opportunities on offer, such as joining sports clubs or societies.




- When you first arrive to your lectures or in halls it can feel daunting, but just remember: everyone’s in the same boat and feels as nervous and excited as you do. Friendships will develop naturally. Everyone’s different so just be yourself and you will find people who share your interests and views.

- Make the most out of Welcome Week, which is designed  to help you meet new people, have fun and get to grips with university life, no matter how or where you study.

- Join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter – find out who’s going to be on your course, commuting from the same place as you or staying in the same halls before you arrive.

- We offer a huge range of activities for you to try out, join and enjoy while at uni – most of which are run by students. This is a great way to meet new people – have a look what’s on offer on our website.

- Everyone’s in the same boat in the early days, no matter how confident they seem. On your course, make sure you make the effort to chat to the people sitting next to you in lectures and seminars – you might end up meeting your best friend!

- Expect to spend lots of time chatting when you move in to halls or in those first few weeks of lectures. Getting to know your flatmates and fellow course mates will help you settle in to your new life.


Your Money

Exciting? Yes. A little nerve-wrecking? Definitely. And, whether you’re commuting, living in halls or fitting university into your already busy family life – university can be expensive.

So here are some tips to help you keep on top of your finances:

- If you are getting your student loan through Student Finance, remember that it doesn’t come through until you have registered with the university and collected your student card. So make sure you have enough money in your account for the first week and a little bit beyond.

- Don’t spend it all at once. It can be tempting to splurge, but a little discipline goes a long way. Use a budget planner to work out exactly how much you’ve got to get you through the term – there are some great free apps that help split your budget into daily amounts.

- Be savvy; make the most of student discounts. Buying an NUS extra card is a good start it gets you discounts on big-name and high street stores. You can pick one up at The Union.

- Make sure you’re getting the right level of funding, including benefits or any other sources of financial support that you might be entitled to. If you’re unsure, pop into the Advice Centre.

- If all of this has left you feeling a little overwhelmed, the Advice Centre is also on hand to help. Get specialist, free, confidential and student-centred advice from them if you need it.


Your Studies

You will be taught by staff who are experts in their field, but you will also be expected to study by yourself – this is called independent learning. On most courses you will be taught through a mixture of lectures, seminars, practical classes and tutorials, and some courses will also include placements. This is only the starting point for a subject matter.

Here’s an idea of what else you can expect:

- Independent learning
This is the learning you do outside of lectures and classes and, for most students, is what takes up most of your time. It is essential to do further reading and research beyond core texts and lecture notes to gain an in-depth understanding of your course content. This will help you to get the best results in your assignments and exams. Independent learning also includes group work and assignments that you do with other students, which help you to develop communication and other skills necessary in life and the workplace. It helps you to develop the critical thinking and complex problem solving skills that graduate recruiters are looking for.

- Reading
Most courses will have extensive reading lists and suggested information sources to help you to explore the subject matter in depth. You can learn effective reading and note-taking strategies to help you to get the most out of the texts you use, but it is important to ensure you dedicate enough time to do it in order to get the best results.

- Academic writing
Writing at university is different from school, college, or anything you might have done before and might take a bit of getting used to. As you will need to read widely and research a range of views for your work, proper referencing of information sources is essential otherwise you could unintentionally plagiarise someone else’s work or ideas.

- Assignments and deadlines
Your first assignment will probably be a key milestone in your first year. It’s important to know that deadlines are fixed, so make sure you give yourself enough time to do the background reading and research, complete your assignment and check it thoroughly before you hand it in. Once it’s been marked, make sure you take on board the feedback you receive for your next assignment and if anything is unclear, ask for more information.

- Study support
Most students at some time or another will feel anxious about their academic ability, no matter how confident they appear, and this is perfectly natural. The key is not to struggle on if this happens to you – talk to your tutor or get support from the services MMU provides, to help you learn and get the most out of your studies. This includes advice and guidance from student support officers and the online resource – ‘skills online’ – which provides resources in time management, help with assignments, working in groups, writing, giving presentations and reading and note-taking. Log on to Moodle and choose the skills online option or contact your Student Support Officer for help.


Your Time

Your time is your own, and you’ll want to stay organised to keep on top of your workload, balance your commitments and also have some free time to enjoy all uni life has to offer.

Here are some of our top tips:

- Know your own strengths and weaknesses – understanding if you work better in the mornings or evenings can help you decide what to prioritise, and realistically, what you are likely to get done. Do you work better with background music or silence? Find what works for you.

- Use diaries, or any scheduling tool of your choice, to help structure your day and dedicate time to what you need to do. Whether this is a beautiful book (hello again Paperchase!) or just the calendar on your phone, it’s a great way to list everything you need to achieve, and schedule and prioritise it – plus you’ll get the satisfaction of ticking ‘done’ when you’ve finished it.

- Avoid procrastination – it may seem tempting to check Facebook or Instagram or make, but step away from the screen. You can reward yourself with free time (and a well earned cup of tea) after you have completed your work.


- Ask for help if you need it – if you are struggling to stay on top of everything, have a chat with a lecturer, Student Support Officer or another member of University or Union staff. They might have some advice that will help put you back on track.  


Helpful links

Getting started: Undergraduates -

(with tips for International students, finance and commuting) 

Clubs and Societies -

Counselling and Wellbeing -

Advice Centre -

Study Support -

International -

Equality & Diversity-





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