Advice for Freshers
So you’ve confirmed your place at university – now what? We asked members of our student panels for their advice for freshers, covering everything from what you can expect on your first day to how to deal with homesickness.
We asked our panellists how they prepared for starting university and if there was anything they’d do differently now. Along with useful practical advice like “go and look at the accommodation itself rather than relying on the website or prospectus” and “spend some time walking around the campus and working out where everything is” their main suggestions were:
- Get on social media. Your university will have an official Facebook page and Twitter feed, and there may also be specific groups for freshers that you can join. Some universities will also have separate groups for subject areas or courses, or for halls of residence. Join the ones that are relevant to you and start getting involved – you don’t have to stay a member forever but it’ll help you get to know some names and faces before you even arrive. You’ll also be able to get some insider information from students who have been to your university, studied your course, and lived in your halls.
- Do a bit of preparatory reading. You don’t have to read everything on your booklists before you arrive (and don’t try – some of it just won’t make sense until a lecturer has explained it!), but having a little bit under your belt will help you start your lectures with a bit more confidence. This is especially important if you’re studying a subject that you didn’t do at school. You might get some suggestions for introductory reading from your university, or you can ask advice from current students on the groups you’ve joined.
- Make a checklist of things to bring with you. There are tons of these online, but don’t feel you have to stick to them rigidly. Two of the most important things to remember according to our panellists are copies of your passport and a few passport photos – there’s lots of admin to be done in your first few days so having these to hand will make everything a bit quicker (also you won’t have to hunt around your new home town searching for a photo booth…) See the 'moving away' section below for more advice about what to take and what to leave at home.
Above all though, don’t panic! There’s only so much preparation you can do before you arrive, and support will be available if you need it after you’ve started.
Your first day at university may be a little overwhelming – again, don’t panic! It’s completely normal to feel nervous and you certainly won’t be the only one feeling a little out of their depth. Try to remember that everyone is in the same boat. Looking on the bright side, you’ve automatically got something in common with everyone you meet!
See how our panellists felt on their first days below:
Sarah (going into her third year at Sussex) puts it well: “I don't think you can anticipate exactly what it is going to be like. And no matter how tough or brave you are you can still get homesick. [But] you quickly learn your way around, get into a rhythm and you start to feel more prepared and settled.”
A common fear for freshers is not making any friends, but almost all of our panellists told us that making new friends and meeting new people was one of the major positives from their first few days at university. You won’t be lacking for opportunities to get talking to new people – there will be all sorts of events organised for you when you first arrive. Keep an open mind, attend any events you’re interested in (even if you don’t know anyone), and talk to as many people as you can.
But don’t forget, the people you meet in your first few weeks won’t necessarily be your best friends for the rest of your life, or even your first semester. You’ve got plenty of time and the opportunities won’t stop after fresher’s week.
If you’re moving away from home for university, you might already be thinking about trying to pack up all your belongings and squeeze them into the limited space of your parents' car. We asked our panellists what they couldn’t have lived without in their first year:
- Winter clothes
- Extension cord(s)
- Friends box set
- Teddy bear
- Microwavable bowl
- Bottle opener
- George Foreman grill
- Family photos
- Post-it notes
- Voice recorder
And the things they maybe should have left at home…
- Half my clothes
- So many kitchen things!
- All my books
- General clutter – too many mugs, too much soap, too many notepads
- Mini fridge
- Extra saucepan, steamer, blender…
- My 15 other teddy bears
- Stationery (I should’ve waited until I arrived to get it)
- Summer clothes
- Powdered oats
Image credit: CC0 Public Domain via Pixabay
Fresher's week: what to do
Pace yourself! (Sarah, University of Sussex)
Don't sit in your room and do nothing. Even if you just go to the campus coffee shop - you'll start to see people and recognise faces so you start to feel more comfortable. (Ellen, Queen Mary University of London)
Get involved as much as you can and get involved in the more relevant things to your course. Making friends is one thing. But making friends studying the same course as you and with the same life goals are another. (Ali, University of Hertfordshire)
Don't be too shy, approach it with an open mind. But don't feel like you need to be someone else, or change in order to fit in. (James, University of York)
Decide at the beginning of the week on what you want to do- and go! Don't expect to enjoy everything. Go along to a few events with your friends even if you don't think you will enjoy it, you might change your mind. Don't let others stop you from going to events that you want to, you can always catch up with them later. (Holly, University of Exeter)
Just go for it, involve yourself in as much as you can and talk to anyone - they'll be just as nervous about it as you. (Hollie, University of Nottingham)
Try to attend as many social things as possible - pub crawls, coffee crawls, tours of the city, talks, etc. (Joseph, University of Edinburgh)
Don't feel like you have to outdrink everyone - other people will be just as nervous as you (Thomas, BPP)
Go to a lot of things, be open and friendly. Don't worry if you never speak to someone again. (Kate, Cardiff University)
Go to Fresher's fair. Join a society that will challenge you and meet as many people as you can. (Zahraa, Lancaster University)
Chances are you won't be the only person that is nervous. The only thing you can do is 'bite the bullet' and throw yourself into getting to know other students. It will be a massive help for when lectures start and will make things easier. (Nihal, University of Salford)
Say hello to everyone on your corridor (Tom, University of Nottingham)
GO! Even if you do not have a friend to go with, I would recommend going because this is an excellent opportunity to meet new people (I did not realize that back then) (4th year, University of Aberdeen)
University is one of the best opportunities you’ll ever have to try new activities. They’re usually cheap, look great on your CV, and you’ll get to meet new people from all around the university.
Have a look around your university’s student union website for an idea of what’s available, and make sure you go along to the fresher’s fair. Not only is this a great place to bag a load of freebies, you’ll also be able to sign up for any activities you find interesting.
Put your name down for as many as you can, but don’t hand over any money to start with! It’s worth trying lots of different activities in your first term: taster sessions are usually free and you’ll be able to work out which ones you’re actually interested in sticking with. The emails from the societies you’ve dropped might get a bit annoying but it will be a small price to pay for finding a sport or society you’re really passionate about.
Image credit: CC0 Public Domain via Pixabay