Have you recently started university? Or are you moving to student halls soon? You probably have a million-and-one questions and concerns about what it’s going to be like and how you’re going to manage. Part of the fun is the fact you’re venturing into the unknown, however, you’ll no doubt be aware of certain stereotypes, from the infamous crazy freshers’ week to cheap beer, and maybe even the occasional lecture! But what else can first-year students expect from their first year at university?
They say that your student days are the best days of your life, that you will meet lots of new friends and learn life lessons. While the freedoms that come with leaving home for the first time will occupy many students’ minds, the reality of studying at an undergraduate level is much different to being taught from the confines of a school classroom.
According to Which? University, 51% of first-year university students found moving away from home a lot easier than they had first expected. Additionally, 54% said that making friends was easier than they thought it would be. So, while moving into student accommodation can be scary, be confident in the knowledge that most new students do actually enjoy their first year at university (and the rest of it too!). Your first year at university may be the first time you’ve lived away from family. While this can sound daunting, it’s also incredibly exciting. You’ll soon settle into a rhythm however it’s worth keeping yourself busy in the first couple of weeks. You’re not moving to university to sit indoors all day, so get out into the city and take advantage of all that’s on your doorstep!
New Friendships and Relationships
One of the best parts of moving into student accommodation is all the new people that are quite literally on your doorstep. It is natural to feel shy but remember that everyone is in the same boat. If you are moving into university halls for your first at university, then leave your door open and invite others in to say hello.
Make the most of freshers’ week. There is no better time in the university calendar to get chatting to other people. However, if you can’t make freshers week, don’t worry, you won’t be alone all year. You’ll quickly work out what you have in common with your flat and classmates, and even if you’re living alone, you’ll still be able to make new friends. On top of your lectures, there are plenty of societies that you can join to help expand your social circle. A good way to think about why it’s important to make an effort with others when you’re at university is this:
Imagine you never spoke to your neighbour in your student accommodation. Imagine this person became the next Bill Gates. Imagine all the potentially life-changing opportunities you could have had if you’d just said hello! Clearly, you’re at university to make friends not business acquaintances, however, it’s definitely worth thinking about your future too. What’s more, you’re bound to experience plenty of amazing things by letting yourself branch out and taking on different viewpoints than what you’re used to.
Managing Money in Your First Year At University
Many students starting their first year at university have never really had to budget properly before. Living at home usually means that the food shop and rent is taken care of by others. We’re not suggesting you never helped out, just that managing a number of bills may not yet be something you’ve had much experience doing. Don’t worry though, there’s plenty of ways to manage. No doubt, it’ll be strange seeing your first student loan going into your bank, as it’s usually a substantial amount.
If you’ve only ever worked a day or two per week, you’ll most likely feel as if you’re a millionaire. It’ll be tempting to go out and buy yourself that shiny new Mac laptop or iPhone you’ve had your eye on for a while, but hold fire.
First, you need to take away your termly rent costs, what you expect to spend on food, travel and other essentials. Then, consider nights out and activities. You don’t want to arrive in a new city and not be able to experience what it offers – even if you do have a brand new laptop! If you’re adamant about an expensive item though, consider waiting until the end of term when you know what you have left. This means you won’t have to struggle.
Study books, food shopping and nights out are a given but how many students remember all the little extras? Snacks, the internet, insurance, travel expenses, clothes – overspending is all too easy. While many students are tempted to avoid looking at their bank balance, it is advised that they stay aware of how much is being spent to budget accordingly.
If you are struggling to budget, bear in mind that the university is always at hand to help support you. One in 10 first year students that Which? spoke to had already visited student services to talk about financial support.
Workload During your First Year at University
The workload in your first year at university is often a lot heavier than many students anticipate. It is a common misconception that there is very little work to do in the first year, especially considering the transition from high school or college to university.
Many students fall into the trap that because lecture slides are made available online that there is no need to go to every lecture. However, reading the slides or notes from friends is not the same as attending the class yourself. In fact, it can cause problems when it comes to completing assignments.
When students were asked, 6% of first-year students admitted that they missed at least half of their lectures in the first year of university. First-year students need to be organised and self-motivated to ensure that they hit all their deadlines. Some students might class all-night essay writing as a rite of passage but if you want to take you degree seriously, you need to organise their time and make sure that you make it to all of their lectures. While you may not pay your loan back until you’re earning above £21,000 per year, it is still your money – so, don’t waste it!
Joining a Club or Society
University freshers’ fairs will introduce you to all the societies and sports clubs that are available to you. More than half of all freshers will join a club in their first week but how many of them will stick at it? 11% of first term students joined and dropped out of a club.
With such a small drop-out percentage, you can see how that societies are a great idea for your first year at university. They give you the option to travel and take part in activities you might never have experienced beforehand. Joining a club takes a lot of commitment and is a great opportunity to meet new friends.
Stick with it and the rewards are ten-fold. Student societies range widely, from archery and paintballing to languages and photography, with every you can imagine in between!
Are you a first-year student this year? Do you have any questions you want answering before you start your first term? Drop them in the comments below, and we will do our best to answer them for you. In the meantime, check out our guide on How to Become a Productive Student, and the rest of our Student Journal too.