Heading to uni this autumn? Take some advice from those who've already been
Freshers Week can be overwhelming at times, so here are some tips on how to relax and make the most out of your experience.
Moving in and meeting new people
“Try getting in touch with your flatmates and course mates before September," says annablagg. "They usually have Facebook groups where you can speak to each other and this really helped me."
When it comes to actually moving in, try and get to your accommodation as early as you can. You'll be really busy otherwise and it will probably take you days to unpack.
You can also meet and talk to your new flatmates easily just by leaving your door open while you unpack.
“Don’t worry about the people you meet in your first few weeks," says Pete_M21. "They're all in the same boat and will be just as nervous as you."
As soon as you've met one person, you could go knocking on everyone's door in your block with them. You'll be a lot less nervous in a pair and you can meet quite a few people together. Why not organise your first house night out while you're at it?
“You'll become more confident when you meet your flatmates and course buddies," says seasidestudy. "It's the fear of the unknown that you're stressing about, but you'll make some amazing friends and have a great time."
If you meet someone on your course, you could exchange numbers and try to go to the first few lectures together. It's a lot easier to meet new people once you're already with someone.
You could even organise a trip to the uni bar after the first lecture with whoever wants to attend.
Ultimately, annablagg says that you should try and attend as many events as you can. "You'll have so much fun during Freshers Week and it's the best place to meet people and form friendships."
Societies and Freshers Fairs
"Unless you need the money, I would advocate joining societies over getting a part-time job at university," says Beth_H. "Your degree will involve a lot of hard work and it can be nice to have a more relaxing activity to help you unwind, rather than taking on more work."
University is probably the best opportunity you will have to try new sports, hobbies and activities so cheaply and easily. Have a look around the stalls and see what takes your fancy.
“Jump in at the deep end," says Rockrunride. "Go to all the events you can get yourself to. Say hello and introduce yourself as much as possible."
If you're interested in any societies, you should ask about taster events and put your name down for the mailing list or the Facebook group. Most societies charge a small fee that you don't have to pay up front, although you may receive a small discount if you do.
“You'll find plenty of like-minded people," says 2007PSanHa. "Some societies will have loads of members, but more obscure societies may only have about 10 members. You'll soon gain lots of friends and be surprised how many of them you bump into on campus.”
Feel free to sign up for as many things as you fancy, as you won't really know which activities you enjoy until you have a few sessions. Just try to make sure that they don't all clash!
You should definitely try something that's different or unusual - smaller societies are often a more rewarding experience as they're grateful for members and will therefore devote more effort to you.
"Push out of your comfort zone," says ThatSameCraig20. "It might terrify you at first, but you'll be glad you did it when you settle into bed that night.”
More obscure sports are often more willing to cater for beginners, whereas mainstream sports may require previous experience of playing at a high level. Some big sports societies even insist on trials.
Don't worry if you're a bit nervous about going out. It can be a scary time for any fresher because you're still getting to know people.
Try and familiarise yourself with the new area and make sure you eat before you go out, even if it's just a sandwich.
Also try and stick with a group of people for safety in numbers while you're out and try to make sure that you have some cash on you just in case there's not a cash machine nearby.
You should also avoid leaving your drink unattended in a club at any time, and definitely don't get into a car or taxi with anyone that you don't trust.
It's also useful to exchange phone numbers with your new friends in case you get separated. On top of this, having a few taxi numbers in your contacts will come in handy if you get lost.
Most Student Unions will send you info about Freshers Week before you arrive, but check out their website if not. Tickets do tend to sell out for the most popular events, so make sure you get yours as early as you can.
Second and third year students are helpful to approach for advice on which events to go to - they're usually the people selling tickets for the different nights, so you can have a chat with them when you go to buy tickets.
If you're feeling nervous about going out because you're a first-time drinker, then you could always check out TSR's alcohol guide.
Money and budgeting
"Don't spend all your money on booze," advises Aston University.
Freshers' Week will be a lot less stressful if you have a budget planned. A lot of people spend too much on alcohol and then don't have much money left for other activities further down the line.
"Write down your loan amount, take away your accommodation fee, and then divide it by the amount of weeks before your next payment," says ThatSameCraig20. "Stick to it and it's one less thing to stress about."
However, do try and make up for it in the coming weeks if you happen to overspend.
You'll save a lot by looking for cheaper versions of toiletries in pound shops. Quite often this stuff is bankrupt stock - there's nothing wrong with it, it's just going cheaper.
On top of this, always try and ask for a student discount - your ordinary uni student card will get you discounts in a lot of shops and restaurants. Despite what your Student Union is probably telling you, you really don't need to buy an extra NUS card to get these discounts.
Also try and keep a little money back for Christmas if you can. It's an expensive time of year and you'll probably have a lot of parties, clothes and presents to pay for.
“Bring a couple of days worth of food," recommends super_kawaii. "You don't want to be stressing about starving to death when you're trying to find your feet in a new city.”
Try and agree in advance what is and isn't communal food with your flatmates. A lot of houses take it in turns to buy milk, butter, washing up liquid and toilet roll.
"Make sure you're buying own-brand items," says University of Leicester. "Most people can't tell the difference in taste between supermarket's own food (like Asda Price), and branded food (like Heinz) - it's a lot cheaper. Plus, shopping after around 6pm means that most supermarkets have reduced the price of food they're trying to shift."
"Bring a recipe book from home and get cooking at home before you leave,” says Rockrunride.
Always try and make sure that you're stocked up on cupboard essentials and tinned goods like beans and tomatoes - they're perfect for making emergency meals when you can't be bothered to go to the shops.
"You should find out when your local market is on and get fresh fruit and veg from there," recommends Insignificant.
In order to be as healthy as you are frugal, you should try and use vegetables to form the base for the majority of your meals. It's also useful to know that market stalls are usually better quality and far cheaper than supermarkets.
Eating with your flatmates and friends whenever you can is also a great way to keep costs down. You could take it in turns to host a curry evening or cook a spaghetti bolognese, as it works out much cheaper than cooking for one.
Plus, if you host a meal and run out of cash later on in the week, you’ll know that dinner will be provided by one of your housemates!
While supermarket ready meals may look like the answer to eating without cooking, they are usually expensive and full of saturated fats.
You should still cook more than you need even if you don't share with your flatmates, as you can freeze leftovers for another day. This will save you money on food as well as time spent making food!
“Make big batches of curry, chilli and bolognese," suggests vineyard13. "Portion them out into freezer bags, freeze them and then microwave when you want them. Rice, pasta and potatoes are cheap accompaniments, as well as frozen veg. It saves you money plus stops you wasting veg that just gets forgotten at the bottom of the fridge.”
Books and reading lists
For most books on your reading list (especially for arts, humanities and social science subjects) you will either read it once, or read just a chapter from each book. The following week's reading will be a whole new list of books. You definitely should not buy all (if any) of these books.
You don't need to feel pressured into buying a book just because it's on your reading list. Most universities will upload PDFs of relevant readings and you could always borrow it from your university library if you needed a print copy instead.
If you really do need to buy specific books, then definitely don't buy them brand new! Some subjects books cost more than £100. Your university bookshop, Amazon, Oxfam Books, Alibris or Abebooks will have cheap but quality secondhand copies.
You can also buy good copies of most uni text books secondhand, but just make sure they are the right edition (i.e. published in the right year). If in doubt, just get the most up to date one.
Do you have any other tips? Let us know in the comments below!
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