Going to university is an exciting prospect but it’s not always easy in your first year. This is probably your first time living away from home and you will have more freedom and the potential to have a great time but there are challenges too. Feeling homesick, dealing with a bout of flu, getting fed up of having to arrange your own meals and your own washing, suffering after the night before and having no money are all things that affect most students face at one time or another.
Handy for your first week, and well into your first term and beyond:
1. Get stuck into Fresher’s week. You only get one first week at uni, and it’s likely to be one of the best times ever if you have a positive approach, get out and meet people – without overdoing it and blowing your term’s budget or ending up in A&E.
2. Be friendly and meet people. As many people as possible; the people you might meet in your hall or on your course are only the tip of the iceberg. Join a couple of clubs that match your interests, visit different halls, talk to students doing other courses. That way, you can choose which people you want to spend more time with, rather than being stuck with the handful of people you come across early on.
3. Be organised. This may be the first time in your life and it’s harder than you think. You need to remember to eat regularly, have at least some good stretches of sleep each week, get to lectures/seminars and meetings and keep on top of your finances. Get a diary or notebook, keep good course notes and make sure you have spare ink cartridges for your printer.
4. Take good lecture notes: being at uni is a great experience but the pressure is on for you to end up with a good qualification at the end of it. That means working consistently for three or four years or even six years if you do medicine. Read up on taking notes effectively, always take the lecture handouts and file, file file.
5. Get your essays in on time. Writing essays and doing coursework is an essential part of uni life, so don’t stress yourself out by being late. It isn’t school or college and there are no parents to nag you, and your tutors won’t chase you and rarely give extensions. If you don’t do the work, only you will suffer.
6. Balance your budget. Student tuition loans are fixed and pay for your fees, so you don’t have to worry about that when you are at uni. However, your maintenance loan and any money your parents give you is likely to have to stretch a long way. Work out how much you are going to have each month, and then each week and then keep track of what you are spending. If you have a big shortfall, think about getting a job in the holidays or even at uni.
7. Don’t overdo the partying. In Fresher’s week everyone parties a lot, and you are missing out if you don’t have a great social life during the rest of uni. But don’t go overboard with alcohol. Being free of parents makes it tempting but students can and do end up in A&E. You can easily get injured if you are drunk, and being really drunk can leave you unconscious and in need of hospital monitoring. Drink water and non-alcoholic drinks as well as alcohol and don’t mix your drinks. Beer, cocktails and wine followed by a few shots makes the next day very painful.
8. Avoid drugs. Advice you got at school on drugs is all still true, so watch out for the temptation ‘just to try this’. It’s not worth it.
9. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Whether you are struggling with money, your course, or having a spell of feeling down, your uni will have tutors and counsellors who can help with advice, a shoulder to cry on and practical help.
10. Enjoy! Any new experience seems to make time go more slowly and your first term can be exciting, challenging and seems to last ages. But be warned, your time at uni will speed by faster than you expect – so make the most of every minute.