The transition from college to university can be a daunting thought for everyone. The safety net of home is gone, your mum won’t be there to separate your washing, or lend you a tenner at the last minute for a night out – even if it is 3 for 2 on shots. To help you settle into flying solo, here are some important things every first year should know about life at uni.
1. Not every friendship you make at Freshers’ Week has to be longstanding.
Now, don’t get me wrong; of course Freshers’ is a great opportunity to meet all kinds of new people and have interesting and different experiences. However, you don’t have to talk to every single person within a 15 metre radius. Freshers’ week is not the be all and end all of your social standing, you will meet people all throughout the year on your course and on campus. Remember that everyone is in the same boat and the majority of first year students don’t know anyone to begin with either.
2. You only need to bring the essentials.
Packing is most likely going to be a stressful event. It is important to remember that not everything is a necessity. Try not to fill the boot of your parent’s car to such a capacity that one wrong turn could end in your cutlery set flying down the M1. Be minimalistic, only take the basics (i.e. towels, crockery, toiletries – if anything just to avoid potential humiliation) and leave the luxuries until when you get to university.
3. Don’t push your parents away.
A sense of freedom can be all too desirable for many teenagers. However, it is important not to forget about your parents. There probably will come a time where things are getting a bit too much and all you want is a cuddle from mother dearest. Whilst it’s important to be independent at university, don’t forget who has spent past 18 years running around after you.
TIP: Maybe you could plan something nice to do with your parents before you officially leave the nest – this should cure any anxieties about leaving home.
4. It’s important to socialise with your flatmates.
When your parents leave you at university for the first time, it is natural to feel lost – the world can be an unnerving place and with all these new people, new surroundings and new responsibilities (by the way what even is tax credit?!), at some point you may want to curl up into a ball and ignore all important tasks that need doing. However, your flatmates are probably the first people you will meet and you will be living with them for the next year, so it is vital not to isolate yourself off. First impressions are important so keep your door open, stick on some music and offer up a cuppa’ (or a tequila shot – whatever the preference).
5. Get registered to a local medical centre.
Don’t be fooled, however strong you think your immune system is you will eventually get struck down with Fresher’s Flu. It is all too real and inevitable. Binge drinking and sharing numerous bodily fluids with people you hardly know is a right of passage for every first year, it is also a recipe for disaster. As soon as possible, register with a local GP just in case any mishaps do occur. This also avoids the embarrassing predicament of leaning over a toilet with a two-day hangover feeling sorry for yourself while simultaneously Googling symptoms and diagnosing yourself with a rare form of lymphoma.
6. Take all the opportunities you can.
University is a fresh start, a chance to reinvent yourself. Away from home, friends and family. It is therefore important you take full advantage of your new found freedom and say ‘YES’ to all the chances that come your way. (Well maybe don’t say ‘yes’ to everything – anything that’s morally compromising may be a no-go). As much fun as getting drunk on a daily basis can be and kebabs being a prime staple to your diet without your mother there to tell you otherwise, it is important to not forget what you’re there for in the first place.
7. Consider getting a job.
Your parents’ generosity will only extend so far, and as tempting as it may be, you can’t sponge off them forever. It’s also wise not to rely on your student loan carrying you through the year – trust me, it will only stretch so far. If you’re lucky, your university may give you a scholarship or provide bursaries. However (unfortunately), this is not the case for many students. Finding a part time job can be difficult, especially when topped off with the struggle of balancing work hours with uni too. Some of the best jobs to get are in bars and call centres (especially if you live in a bigger city), they’re usually always looking for staff and they have flexible hours that can work around your busy schedule.
Take time out to travel around your new home. This is a brand new place that you’re going to be staying in – see what it has to offer. Is there any unique architecture? Find out if there are any galleries, where are the best restaurants, bars, cafes? And most importantly – do they offer student discount?
9. Join societies.
Sign up for everything that takes your fancy. University is probably the best opportunity you will get to try new and obscure things you probably would never have given a thought to otherwise – ever think about trying lacrosse? Well now’s your chance. Try and sign up for at least one of the smaller societies too – they tend to value each member a little bit more, this way you may get more benefits.
10. Share the cost of essentials with your flatmates.
The cost of living can be expensive to tackle this, a good idea would be to share the cost of the basics (bread, milk, pasta…) with your flatmates. This should save quite a few pennies. Rotas are a good way to monitor this.
11. You don’t need to buy all the books on your reading list.
Not only would it be very expensive to buy every single book on your reading list, it’s also pointless. Many of the books on your reading lists will be available to loan out from the library. You can also check websites to see if there are cheaper second hand copies, or people from the years above may be able to lend you their copy. You usually only need the majority of the books on the reading list for a week then they’re thrown into the abyss of other papers never to be seen again – don’t waste your money.
12. Take advantage of freebies.
Student life is an expensive one, therefore many luxuries have to be put on hold. Freshers’ week is prime time to take as many free things as you possibly can. You may not see the need in another free pencil, but take it anyway! It may be useful eventually.
13. Go to as many things in Freshers’ Week as possible.
It doesn’t matter whether you feel too tired from the night before to go to another event – go anyway! Freshers’ Week is the place to be to meet new people and have the time of your life. Also, be sure to go to the non-drinking events too. They’re also a good way to meet new people and have a laugh at the previous night’s stories. Plus, sober events allow you to make a long lasting, good impression of yourself rather than being so hammered that you end up hugging everyone within reaching distance and telling them how much you love them.
14. You need to decorate your room.
Uni halls aren’t known for being the most desirable living spaces on the planet. They can often be very dull. You should try as much as possible to decorate and make your living space to make it comfortable. Posters, throws and photo frames are always good choices to brighten up any room!
15. Try and be somewhat healthy/active.
As much fun as it is, damaging your liver to catastrophic levels and living off Ramen noodles for weeks on end can take it’s toll. It’s probably a good idea to make an effort to exercise regularly and eat healthy foods as much as you can. Even though you’re having the time of your life at university, it’s important not to neglect your physical and mental well-being.
16. A student bank account is necessary.
As painstaking as it is, you should definitely get your admin done early. Opening a student bank account often has numerous benefits such as railcards, nus discounts… the list goes on. A student bank account is a financially sensible option, too. Remember to do your research and see which bank offers the best services to suit you.
17. Try to avoid getting too drunk.
No one wants to be that person who got far too drunk and ends up humiliating themselves beyond redemption. Being so out of it that you can barely remember your own name is never a quality that people look for in others. Be wise and know your limits. And at least try and retain some sense of inhibition.
18. Fancy dress is a must.
University is the place to be to get up to all sorts of different antics. Fancy dress is a staple for every student, first year or not. Where else are you going to be able to dress up as the smurfs and neck jager bombs like there’s no tomorrow.
19. Being shy gets you nowhere!
Try and be as outgoing as possible, get involved in different social circles. This way you make the most of your uni experience. Talk to lots of different people. Ask about different things – this is where opportunities lie.
20. Be yourself.
Yes, as cringey and cliche a statement as it is, there is honestly no better advice than to just be yourself. There really is no need to try and impress others. You will find people who you share common interests with and love you for you. University is a big place, full of all sorts of different people, you will definitely find people you get along with. Enjoy your own university experience.