Not sure what to expect from Uni? Don't worry — nobody does. Here's some help, advice and truth about what do expect from your time at Uni.
Your first week
Freshers, Welcome, the start of a new chapter in your life — whatever you call it — your first week is always a melting pot of anxiety, anticipation and excitement. There’s no right way to do your first week: just remember to choose your own adventure, do what you enjoy, and don’t be afraid to try something new and step out of your comfort zone.
Most Students’ Unions offer loads of different types of events to make sure you can still have a good time without a week-long hangover. Instead of spending all your money on drinks, have a look at the more laid-back events like comedy night, morning yoga or the city tours.
If you want a week of partying and meeting as many new people as possible, there will be loads on offer for you too. But remember to pace yourself, know your limits — and if you need a chill night in don’t let FOMO convince you to go out anyway and neglect that all-important self-care.
Whether you’re coming straight from A-Levels or it’s been a while since you’ve been in education, university is probably a completely different type of learning than you’ve experienced before.
The biggest difference is the actual time you’re in uni – the maximum hours in first year tend to be 12 to 15 hours, which goes down over the course. You’ll fill your contact time with:
- Lectures – your lecturer will talk at you for usually an hour with your whole year or everyone on that module. This content will help you with assignments and exams.
- Seminars – these sessions are in smaller groups and will be more discussion and debate. You may have to prepare something in advance, like reading a chapter to discuss.
- Labs – if you’re on a more practical course, this is where you’ll be taught new skills or demonstrating techniques.
You might be thinking you’re going to have a lot of free time – and you’re right. However, you’re expected to fill this free time with independent study, which might be reading course books, researching or writing assignments.
Halls are where most students will live in their first year – they’re flats where you have shared kitchen and communal space, and usually a shared bathroom (unless you splash out some extra cash for an en-suite).
Living in halls can be fun, but if you’ve only ever lived with your family, learning that not everyone has lived the same way as you can be a shock. The best advice is to be sociable and patient with your flatmates – it’s a learning curve for everyone.
It’s important to give halls a chance. It can take a while to settle in and sometimes the whole year. Luckily, you’re not committed for your whole degree, so if you hate it that much you can relax in the fact you won’t have to stay there for another year.
The truth is that you almost definitely won’t meet your uni soulmate in the first week.
It’s really common to feel lonely in your first year – if you’re living at home you might feel like you’re missing out on the excitement of halls, or if you don’t get on with your flatmates you might feel at a loss as to where you’ll find friends at all. You’re not alone in your feelings because this is normal.
The main thing you can do to help yourself though is to put yourself out there. There’s loads of opportunities to meet people like lectures, halls, sports, societies, part-time jobs or volunteering. Try and sign up to anything that interests you at Fresher's Fair — trying some new things with societies is a great way to meet like-minded people in your first few weeks.
Students tend to be open to meeting new people and making new friends, so don’t be afraid to just start a conversation with the person you’re sat next to. Remember every first year is new to this – you won’t be the only one feeling lonely.
Unfortunately, you won’t be able to live off ready meals for the next three years – you will need to learn to cook something. Get yourself a cook book or search websites like BBC Good Food – find simple recipes to get yourself started.
Avoid using express and corner shops for big food shops as they tend to be more expensive than going to a superstore.
If your or someone you’re living with has a car, go and do your food shop together. Even sharing the cooking responsibility can be cheaper as well as a cute way to hang out with your new flatmates.
No car? No problem, supermarkets also delivery for a minimum of £30, and if you’re smart that can be a lot of food straight to your door.
Worst case, it’s very hard to burn pasta.
The ultimate feeling of adulting is having control of your own money and it will be stressful. Your tuition money will go straight to the university, but your maintenance loan will land in your bank termly.
Look into what the options are for student bank accounts – some banks offer free railcards and other discounts, and you tend to get a free overdraft which can save you if your maintenance loan doesn’t cover all of your rent (but remember, it’s not free money).
Try to avoid any nasty surprises by setting a budget. Write down what you have coming in from your student loan, grants, cash from parents, salary etc. Then, figure out how much you’re already committed to spending like rent, bills, travel costs, and so on. Add on anything you’ll spend on things like food, laundry etc. This will help you figure out what you have left and work out how much you have to play with. If you need some help, have a look at the expenditure sheet in the Advice Centre booklet to help get you started.
Another good way of keeping track is using something like a Monzo card and putting your spending money on it each term to make sure you don’t go over budget.
Plus, with your new university timetable, you can work out the logistics of a part-time job to subsidise any bills or just for some extra pocket money.