University: A Freshers’ Survival Guide

Many students will be settling into their first year at university, making new friends, getting to know their new home, and tackling new experiences. Our blogger Zohra writes about her experience as a Fresher and shares some of her survival tips.

When I arrived at University three years ago, with far too many boxes and dreading the moment my parents would leave me on my own, I never could have imagined how at home I would end up feeling.

On your first day there will likely be so many different thoughts flying around your head. I, for one, felt completely overwhelmed, but what I quickly learnt was that I wasn’t the only one. Thinking back, I wish I’d had someone to guide me through those initial weeks of university when everything felt so new. So here are my top tips for getting through the first year without the stress.

Be Wise with Your Money

The initial costs of books, other course specific items and rent can be a shock, but learning to budget your money will mean a lot less stress later on. This is what I learnt:

  • It’s tempting to blow your loan all on one thing but instead, save for it bit by bit, that way you won’t be full of regrets.
  • Each supermarket offers different deals and often on well-known brands, so shop around, and look for cheaper, own brand alternatives when there aren’t. Plus, farmers markets are great for fresh fruit and veg on a budget.
  • Find out if your university runs a free student shop, like mine did. That way you won’t spend money on items you could get for free.
  • Textbooks can be expensive and there’s lots of them! The best way around this is by finding second hand books. I looked online, or quite often, students will sell their old textbooks to make some money back.
  • Set up an online savings account, that way you can separate your loan from the money you’re earning (if you have a job) and also give yourself a weekly allowance.
  • If you find yourself really short on money, a lot of universities will have a system in place where you can borrow a small amount from them to get you through. So speak to someone at your uni for advice.

Organising your work

It might feel like a big jump going from sixth form or college to university; it’s only natural to miss the routine of school. Independent learning and assignment management can be hard to get the hang of at first, but creating a system that works for you can make it easier.

  • Learning to plan your work early avoids unnecessary pressure later on in the term. It’s easy to say “I’ll do that reading tomorrow” but chances are, new readings are so regular that you probably never will.
  • Some weeks are not as productive as others, so try not to stress if you don’t get everything done - your best is all you can do.
  • Prioritise readings and exercises that will help you with your assignments later on in the term.
  • Always leave yourself time to redraft your work. The best advice I was given was from a tutor who said that he could always tell if someone had handed in a first draft of their work. This always stuck with me, and after, I always gave myself time to redraft my work to ensure I was happy with it.

Finding a balance

It’s important to find a balance between ‘work’ and ‘fun’. Obviously, the main reason you are at university is to get your degree, but it isn’t the only thing you will learn.

  • Give yourself time to find things you like: have fun and meet new people.
  • Universities offer such a wide range societies and clubs as well as a new take on education. You’re likely to have such a variety of experiences during this time that you will learn a lot about what makes you happy.
  • Don’t worry if you don’t immediately gel with the people on your course or in your halls of residence. Making friends is a process; you are likely to meet so many different people at university.
  • In my experience, I didn’t click with my flatmates, but I did make friends with people in nearby flats and they remained my main group of friends throughout my time at university. 
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