Getting started: what to expect at University

Thursday 06-09-2018 - 17:11
Getting started cover

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


Meeting People

Sharing experiences and getting to know people from different backgrounds is one of the most exciting things about university life. Whether it be on your course, in your halls, at a club or society, university is a fantastic place to meet your future besties.


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

- Make the most out of Welcome Week! It’s the best time to 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 as you, before you arrive.

- We offer a huge range of activities for you to try out 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 might seem. On your course, try and 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

You might be just starting out your new independent life, or you might have managing your money already down. Whether you’re commuting, living in halls or fitting uni study into your already busy family life, we’ll be honest with you – it can get expensive. However, the experience is invaluable. 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 cash 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 a Totum Card (previously known as NUS extra) 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. They’re on hand to support you with specialist, free, confidential and student-centred advice, covering everything from finance to academic issues.


Your Studies

During your degree you will not only be taught directly by expert staff, but will be expected to get down to some studying on your own. For the majority of courses, you will be taught through a mixture of lectures, seminars, practical classes and tutorials, and some courses will also include placements. Here’s an idea of what you can expect your studying to look like:

- Independent learning

This is the learning you do outside of lectures and classes and, for most students, it’s what takes up most of your time. It is essential to do further reading and research beyond core texts and lecture notes. This will enable you to gain an in-depth understanding of your course and in turn help you get the best results in your assignments and exams. Independent learning also includes group work and assignments that you do with other students. They are a great opportunity to develop the skills necessary in life and the workplace, like how to communicate effectively and get things done. It helps you to develop the critical thinking and complex problem solving skills that graduate recruiters are looking for. Need a space for your group projects? You can book a room in The Union or the University. 

- 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 also important to ensure you dedicate enough time to do it in order to get the best results. Head to the library to grab your books – they’re a lovely bunch in there who’ll do their best to help you out.

- 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. Need help? The uni run loads of study skills workshops and there are Student Support Officers on hand to get you prepped for this new way of working.

- 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, and 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. 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 own life commitments and at the end of that have some free time to enjoy all uni life has to offer. Here are some of our top tips on getting the right balance:

- Spend some time getting to 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 and go for it.

- Use diaries, to-do lists, or any scheduling tool of your choice. These are great for helping you structure your day and deciding on what to prioritise. Whether this is a beautiful book (hello Paperchase!) or just the calendar on your phone, a planner is a great way to list everything you need to achieve, schedule and prioritise – 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, 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.

- The lovely Andy Cunningham, one of our post grad students and student staff members, has offered his top time management tips. Check them out.

- 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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