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What I Wish I'd Known as a Fresher

What I Wish I'd Known as a Fresher main image

When you‘re starting university there can be a lot to get your head around. Whatever it is you’re worried about; from freshers’ week to finding a house for second year, we asked seven students who have gone through it all before for some valuable advice on what they wish they’d known when they started university.

Freshers’ week

Freshers' fair

Freshers’ week is a whirlwind of activities, making new friends and going out. It’s an excellent way to find out about all the different events being held on campus, as well as to grab some free stationery and Domino’s pizza! If freshers’ week turns out to be underwhelming, however, just know you’re not alone in thinking this.

Freshers fairs 

Students say: 

“Go to all of the freshers’ fairs, the sports one, the volunteering one and the societies one.” Says Adam, a University of Reading student. “There’s a lot of stuff that you didn’t know existed that you might be interested in.” He also advises to “go to lots of taster sessions to see what you’re interested in.”

Frankie, a University of Liverpool student, says “Get all the free sweets and pens – you’ll need those pens one of these days! If you think you’ve picked up enough, you probably haven’t.”

“Try lots of sports”, says Rad, a medical student from the University of Sheffield, “If you’re already quite into sports, join the societies for the ones you’re interested in. If you haven’t done many sports before, try some out – there are so many to choose from!”

Going out in Freshers’ week 

Students say: 

“Go out as much as you feel you want to” says English lit student, Ella, “Just remember you’ll have plenty of time to drink in second and third year as well if you want to, so don’t push yourself too much! You will still make friends even if you give it a miss occasionally.

“We had freshers reps who would help you get home after a night out” says Shan, “so if your uni has these, make sure you know who they are.” She adds, “otherwise you and a friend can decide beforehand that you’ll get a taxi home together.”

“FOMO is real,” says Frankie, “but usually you aren’t missing out on anything special, so if you need a night off then just have one”

You can find out more about saying safe while drinking here.

Making friends in first year

Friends having coffee

There are plenty of opportunities to make friends throughout university, especially in your first year. Sometimes, however, it can be easy to feel excluded from certain groups if you don’t get on with your flatmates or your course mates. But what should you do in this situation?

Students say:

“It’s fine if your flatmates don’t become your lifetime best friends” Ella says, “You’ll find your group of people eventually – it just might take slightly longer than you thought.”

“Branch out from your flat and join societies,” advises Shan.

Adam says, “Something I learnt was, when you’re in halls, keep your door open. The people who had their door open you would just go in and chat to, and the people who had their door closed you didn’t see as much.”

“Just be friendly and talk to people” says Bastian, a second-year student at Edinburgh University. “Be generous when you can and let people have some of your drinks.”

Read this for more tips on how to make friends in university.

About finding a house for your second year

Finding a house for second year

Finding a house for second year is a common worry for first year students. You can feel a lot of pressure to find one straight away, even before you properly know the people you’ve agreed to live with. So when is the best time to start looking for a house for second year?

Students say:

“Don’t stress too much, as plans tend to change,” says Rob, a third year finance student. “Obviously don’t leave finding a house until the very last minute, but don’t agree to share a house with people you don’t feel fully comfortable being around either.”

Ella agrees with this; “It’s not worth stressing over too soon – wait a good month or two before deciding.” She adds, “Also, make sure you discuss which rooms you’re having before you move in because there will be arguments about who has to have the box room!”

“Make sure the house has enough bathrooms. Are they clean people?! Remember, you will actually have to live with these people for at least a year, so choose wisely!” warns Frankie.

Adam says “I would get started on it as soon as possible. Even if it seems stupidly early it’s probably not – the good houses snap up quick!”

Find out how to find a house for your second year.

About cooking in halls

Cooking in halls

Learning a cook can be tricky business can’t it? This is especially true if you’ve never cooked before. Basically, don’t burn the house down and you’re all good.

Students say: 

Rob and Bastien give some useful advice about food shopping; “Supermarkets reduce food after 6pm so take advantage of that” says Rob. “Shop at Aldi (or any cheap supermarket)” says Bastien, “oh and buy a frying pan!”

Some excellent dietary advice: “Eating pizza for every meal will probably make you gain weight, just FYI” Ella says. Find out more about how to stay healthy in Freshers’ week here.

Ella also has some excellent advice about drunk cooking; “Don’t microwave spaghetti and try not to scar your stomach getting sausage rolls out of the oven while drunk!” says Ella. “If you make food after a night out, make sure you set a timer, so you wake up and don’t burn your food,” adds Rad.

About relationships in first year

Relationships in Uni

Whether you’ve decided to stay with your girlfriend/boyfriend from home, or you decide to pursue a new relationship in your first year of uni, it’s probably not going to be easy, but it’s not impossible. However if that isn’t for you, it’s equally fine to just stay single and focus on starting university and getting settled in!  

Students say:

“Have fun,” says Shan. “First year isn’t really too serious so don’t worry too much. If you’re in a relationship from home try and keep it up if you want to, but it is quite difficult.”

“Honestly, unless they’re the love of your life, don’t do it,” says Rob. “Especially not with your flatmate!”

Rad agrees with this, saying “Don’t expect your first year relationship to last a lifetime. Only do it if you want to – don’t feel pressured.”

Find out about the five unwritten rules of university dating.

About living away from home

Living away from home

Whether you’re moving from the countryside to a city university, or just to another part of the same town, moving away from home can be quite a tough transition. It’s important to remember that everyone is going through the same thing, and most people you meet will not have lived away from home before either, so you are not alone in this! 

Students say:

“I’m not going to lie”, says Frankie, “It’s horrible for the first month. It took me until the second term to actually be ok with it – at the start I was just going home all the time! I’d say just go home as much as you need to (if you can), and ring your family as often as you want.”

“Just remember lots of people are in the same boat as you,” says Bastien. “Just talk to people about it if you need to.”

“Make sure you make an effort to stay in touch with your family, because it’s quite easy to forget to, and they’ll appreciate it if you do” says Adam.

“Call home as often as you need to and stay in touch with your home friends” says Shan.

Here are six things people don’t tell you about leaving home for the first time.

About going to your lectures

Going to lectures

It’s 8:30am, you know you should probably get up to go for a lecture but you’re exhausted from the night before. Missing one lecture won’t hurt, right? Or will it? 

Students say:

“Go to all of them, even if you’re hungover”, says Bastien. “Even if you only take a few notes or listen a bit, it gets you into the habit of going, which’ll be good for you in the long run”

“At least go to most of them” says Rob.

“Yes, if you go out on Wednesday night and have an early morning Thursday, you should at least go sometimes, because otherwise you won’t have a clue what’s going on!” says Rad

Shan gives some advice on how to get up for a lecture after a tiring night; “get a friend to wake you up to make sure you’re going” adds Shan. “Then you might actually go!”

“I guess it depends if they’re recorded. Even if they are, mix up which lectures you skip (if any)” says Frankie “because let’s be honest, you probably won’t get around to listening to the recordings that day, and then you’ll be behind.”


What advice would you give about starting university? Let us know in the comments below.

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Written by Chloe Lane
A Content Writer for TopUniversities.com, Chloe has a bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Reading and grew up in Leicestershire, UK. 

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