Starting university: how to handle your first year

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If you’re off to uni, here’s what you need to know

Starting university will probably be your first time being completely independent, so there’s plenty to prepare for.

But you’ve come to the right place – here's our guide on getting to grips with your first year at uni.

Things to do before you go

If you're moving to a new area, have a look online for the best student places (or ask for recommendations on The Student Room) so the city doesn't feel as alien when you arrive.

It’ll be handy to know some of the basics  like the easiest way to get to uni, supermarkets in walking distance and which bus will get you home after a night out.

Learn a few basic recipes before you fly the nest too, and have a go at doing your own washing – it’ll make the transition to living alone a lot easier.

Read more: Freshers Week tips from students

What should you pack?

There are a few things you’ll definitely want to pack for your halls. We've got some tips...

  • Plan in advance!
    Write a list of everything you're planning to take, then start packing early so you'll see how much stuff is going with you. Need a hand? Check out our list of what to take to university.

  • Have a clear-out
    Take this opportunity to declutter by selling old things online – it'll make packing simpler and you'll get a few extra quid.

  • Pack an 'essentials' bag
    Put anything else you'll want easy access to (your toothbrush would be handy) in a separate bag so you don't have to unpack everything as soon as you arrive.

  • Think about what you can’t nab from the kitchen
    Stock up on household items (like a kettle and microwave) before you leave so you don't go without a brew during your first few days.

  • Plan how you're getting there
    How much stuff you can take depends on the way you travel – some take trains (or even planes!), while others get dropped off by their parents.

Read more on The Uni Guide: things to do before you go to university 

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How to make the most of Freshers Week

It's here! The week you've all been waiting for. But everyone handles their first week at uni differently. 

Here are a few things that might help you settle into your new home.

Sign up to something new 
Whether it's an existing hobby or trying a new sport, Freshers Week is the perfect time to get involved – you'll likely be bombarded with information about clubs, societies and events. 

If you want to know more, The Uni Guide explains what your students' union can for you.

Get to know your housemates
It's nice to spend a bit of time getting to know the people you're living with.

A good starting point could be asking them how they feel about being away from home and what they're most looking forward to about the first term.

Get out of your comfort zone
If you're in halls, go and introduce yourself as people arrive – a friendly face makes a huge difference on the first day.

As the week goes on, embrace your independence and experiment a little: cook something, go on a night out or have a mini-kitchen party with your new friends.

Explore the area
Unis tend to be in or near interesting places, so don't be ashamed to be a tourist!

See some sights and roam beyond campus to find some interesting places to eat, drink and enjoy your new student life. 

Settling in and adjusting to uni life

It's normal to feel a bit out of sorts when you first start, so try not to panic if you don't feel settled in your new surroundings straight away. Whatever happens, remember you're not alone!


The transition from A-level to degree work can feel like a shock to the system – this article on The Uni Guide runs through some of the key differences between college and uni

Your first year will help you get into the flow of things, so that you're prepared for the rest of uni.

Managing your money

If you haven't already, you're going to want to open a student bank account  we have all the info you'll need for that right here. Then comes the harder bit  actually managing your money. Here are a couple of tips to get you started:

  • Assess what you’ve got
    You might have a few different sources of income, including: your student loan, scholarships or bursaries, a part-time job and help from parents. Add it all up and make a budget for the year. 
  • List out what you need
    The big hitters will likely be rent, bills and food. But plan all your expenses (including prescriptions, nights out and travel) to be more prepared.
  • Keep track
    Taking a look at your spending habits will help you make more mindful money decisions, as long as you keep yourself accountable! 
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Tips for dealing with homesickness

Everyone gets homesick from time to time and there’s lots you can do to be prepared – here are a few ideas:

  • Have fun with your flatmates
    Little things like grabbing a coffee with your flatmate between lectures can be comforting. Try anything that gets you together as a group, even if it’s just cooking together or starting a new Netflix series.
  • Get a part-time job
    Working a few hours a week can be a great way to make some extra cash and meet new people. Check if your uni has any student vacancies – but see what else is being advertised online too. 
  • Take some advice from The Student Room community about how to beat homesickness.

Taking care of your health 

It might take a while to get used to shopping and planning healthy meals just for yourself, but that's all part of the uni experience! 

Make sure you stay active as well – there's a ton of free workouts on YouTube. Even just 30 minutes of exercise a day will have a great impact on your body and mind.

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