I’m nearing the end of my first term of university and kind of wanted to share my experiences, and a few top tips, with you all. I’m not an expert and my top tips certainly won’t cater to everyone however I’d like to think that maybe anyone who reads this who will be off to uni next year can take something away from it.
Before Uni Starts
Search on Facebook for the freshers page for your uni and get yourself added. In here you can find people on your course and in your hall, then once you find out your room and flat details you can find the people who will be living with you. Ask to be added to group chats that are relevant to you, and if none exist, start one.
The First Day
My top tip for the first day is to bring a door stop! You’ll hear this one everywhere, it’s definitely not my idea. Once you’ve unpacked and said goodbye to whoever is dropping you off, you’ll probably want to start getting to know the people you’re living with. There’s no better way to let people know you’re here than to keep your door open so people feel like they can come in and say hi. Now I was quite lucky on my first day because some else in my block decided to go round and knock on all the doors, and, being one of the last rooms, by the time they made it to me there was quite a crowd. But if this doesn’t happen to you, and people don’t come forward to introduce themselves then maybe you need to do it. So my second tip would be go and knock on peoples’ doors and introduce yourself. If like me you’re quite shy then this might seem like a daunting prospect but honestly getting in there and meeting people ASAP is really important.
The First Week
Next come my tips for freshers week. Pre freshers you’ll probably start looking into what events are on. This is where the group chats come in handy, join in or start conversations about what people want to do during freshers. I’m not sure it’s the same everywhere but you may need to buy tickets for events and you’ll want to get in early before they sell out. You don’t want to arrive at uni and on the day of the chosen night out or other activity find that everyone bar you has a ticket. These sort of conversations can definitely take place during the first week but of course there’s the risk of it selling out. Secondly, if nights out aren’t your thing don’t feel pressured to join in as the people who want to go out lots during freshers are probably going to want to keep going out all term and obviously you’re probably not going to want to join them. Instead look for alternative fresher’s events, there’s always going to be some. Here you might meet people who prefer the same things you do.
During the week there’s usually going to be a fresher’s fair where you can sign up for clubs and societies. You don’t have to be good at a sport to join the club as they all cater for beginners, but if you are then trying out for a team might be the right thing for you. I would thoroughly recommend putting your name down for one or two as even if you just go to the taster session it’s a chance to maybe try something new and, most importantly, meet people. Societies are a great thing to join as they usually host plenty of socials, often with fun themes and good nights out.
Meeting people and making friends is probably one of the most daunting things about university, it was for me anyway. However I think I’ve come up with a strategy. Meet as many people as you can over the first few weeks, this is going to increase your chances of finding people you really get one with. Then once you’ve found the people you gravitate towards you should arrange to do things. Nights out are an obvious choice but you could also meet up for lunch, go to the pub, have a movie night or for course friends maybe have study sessions together. Not everyone you meet has to be your friend, so don’t feel guilty about not talking to that person you sat next to in your third lecture (and who’s name you can’t remember) ever again.
In terms of getting to know the people you live with, get their phone numbers and add them on Facebook so you can arrange things with them (obvious I know). If you have a communal area spend plenty of time there, this is where you’re going to bump into the people you live with and have a chance to talk. Knock on bedroom doors, people seem to discard the door stop after the first couple of weeks so don’t be shy and go and have a chat.
Finding Houses for Second Year
The next major stress that greets every fresher around November time is sorting out houses for next year. I have a few things to say about this:
- Don’t commit too early, the people you live with might seem great for the first few weeks but give it some time to see if they start to get on your nerves or if you find other people you prefer. My block all said we wanted to live together at the end of freshers (we were very naive) and now I’m not going to be living with any of them.
- If you end up getting left out of housing plans PLEASE do not worry. The initial groups proposed are likely to change a little before houses are found so you might be able end up being brought back into the plans. If not then look on buy & sell pages and other university recommended websites such as Unipol for people advertising spare rooms. It may mean that you end up having to meet new people and when you sign the contract you may not know them very well but you still have the rest of the academic year to get to know them. You will always find somewhere to live. Also this eventuality has a bit of a silver lining anyway, if you were left out of housing plans then those people probably weren’t ever going to be your best mates so giving it a second shot at finding people really isn’t such a bad thing.
- Don’t sign a two year house contract. You might think the people you’re living with are your new bezzie mates but over the course of the rest of your first year and beginning of your second you’re bound to meet loads more people who you may want to live with in third year, especially people on your course.
- Check which companies to go with as well, not all landlords and letting agencies are great so make sure you pick a good one.
I guess the other thing you need to think about is work (the whole reason you’re actually at uni). The obvious piece of advice is work hard and go to all your lectures but in reality this is probably not going to happen let’s be honest. Instead the advice I would give is to make sure you hand everything in on time, missing the deadline will mean some sort of penalty, such as a 5% deduction from your final mark for every day it is late. 5% may not sound like much but it could quite easily be the difference between a pass and a fail or a 2:1 and a first.
The other thing I would say is that if you do a course where each module if different and second year modules don’t really build on first year modules then you might be able to get away with not going to all your lectures, it just means that by doing so you’re making the exams and assessments more difficult for yourself. But if you do a course and you know that next year there is going to be a module which uses what you learn in your first year one then definitely try and make it to those lectures.
My final bit of advice about how much work you do it to look at anything you may want to do in the future during your time at uni such as internships, placements or study abroad as when applying for these they may take your first year grade into consideration, you don’t want to find out that you can’y apply for something because you didn’t get that 2:1 you needed.
A bit of a random tip is to stock up on pants and socks before you go, head to the nearest primark and pick up a couple of packs of those £1-a-pair knickers and cheap socks. You’re probably going to do washing pretty infrequently, especially if you have to pay to use the machines so make sure you’ve got enough underwear to last you a couple of weeks. Make sure that when you do washing you’ve got loads to do to get your money’s worth or maybe split the wash with someone else. Learn how to do washing before you go, you’d be surprised how little some people knew about doing it.
Going home is something people are going to do over the course of their first term, maybe only once or twice in most cases. Don’t over do it though, if you’re away every other weekend then you’re going to miss out on getting to know people as this is when most people are free and spending time together once lectures start.
The last thing to say is, of course, have fun. Uni really is what you make of it and you can get anything out of it that you want. It’s not unusual to feel a bit lonely or miss home so call your family as often as needed, they’re always going to appreciate hearing from you. Go and visit friends if you can, if you get a railcard then you can get fares to most cities fairly cheaply, and of course invite friends to come and see you.
I hope there’s at least one bit of advice every reader can take away from this, feel free to add more suggestions in the comments! Thanks for reading! x