The Secret Life of Students has gripped hundreds of our members and thousands of readers, so we've picked out five lessons students planning to start uni in the autumn can learn from Channel 4's hit fly-on-the-wall series.
You've been chatting about the show non-stop on our forums for the past month. Now it's our turn to give you our take on how we think you can avoid the mistakes they made, and the steps you can take if you find yourself in an unfortunate situation at uni. Our advice comes thanks to a little help from five of the show's most hapless freshers from the University of Leicester. One of them is even posting regularly on TSR, but we can't tell you who!
Most freshers go to uni naive of what life's going to throw at them, but following these five tips can help you make the most out of your first year alone in the big wide world.
1. When freshers week ends, real university life begins!
Really, it does. But one of the students didn’t expect freshers week to end at all. Aiden, the laddish party animal, got down in the dumps when his housemates slowed down their habit of going out every night and started concentrating on work. To his further disappointment, he found Leicester Uni didn't offer a placement to America for the degree he was doing in Business Management. These things can happen, and it shows why it’s good to have more than one reason for studying a university course – it’s three years of your life! And while Aiden might be right to point out that the results of your first year don't count towards your final degree classification, it's worth putting a little bit of effort in. After all, it's a degree you chose.
In the last episode, Aiden left Leicester temporarily in a comically frenzied attempt to find a job. After returning unsuccessfully, following some harsh words from his mother, he's had to go through quite the learning curve. In episode one, it was revealed that Aiden was offered a place at Leicester through Clearing. It goes to show how choosing a university place through Clearing is such a big decision, and needs to be thought through carefully. Plenty of students have really positive experiences doing this, as our case study of students going through Clearing last year shows.
|More on TSR:
Check out our guide to university Clearing 2014
Join our official A-level 2014 results thread
Five reassuring facts about going to uni
2. Don’t expect to keep up a long-distance relationship
University takes you into a strange old bubble, as Gemma found out when her long-distance relationship with boyfriend Ben ran into trouble. Often parents can get it wrong with advice on relationships, but Gemma's parents got it spot on: there can be little point trying to maintain a long-distance relationship while you're starting uni - the two almost contradict each other. Your new environment is often intimate and thrilling, especially without parents having any influences on your life choices, and your world back home can begin to feel more distant and unfamiliar. Michael, who had a girlfriend from home, also decided to respectfully call the relationship off when he realised he'd developed feelings for his housemate Helen.
|More on TSR:
How to cope with long-distance relationships
Visit our Relationships forum
Check out our Health forum
3. Make sure you budget your money carefully
One of the more unstable students in the programme, Brenda, had problems with money. She spent over £300 in one day shopping for clothes and shoes, only realising a short while later that she'd spent three-times her budget for the whole term! When her parents refused to help her out, she ended up having to turn to a friend she'd met on Twitter - somebody she hardly knew. While he kindly lent her £500, not many would. That’s why it’s really important to have an idea of how much loan money you'll be receiving and how it corresponds to your accommodation costs. Not being able to afford to live or eat properly can lead to serious health problems, as well as maybe forcing you to drop out if you can't improve your situation. If you are having problems, all Students' Unions and universities have a hardship fund - money they can loan to you interest-free until your situation improves.
|More on TSR:
Share your student budget with other uni students on our forum
Find out what student bank accounts are offering this year
Post questions about money and finance in our dedicated forum
4. Get a little part-time job
Universities offer lots of little part-time jobs during term time. This can be extremely casual such as helping on open days, or more intense such as regularly working in the Students’ Union bar. If you’re doing a degree where you have a low amount of contact time, getting a little job might help you maintain a routine while dealing with the unpredictable lifestyle of an academic. Brenda wouldn't have been the only student in the show to benefit from finding work. Night-owl Hassan, who got into the unhelpful habit of gaming into the night and missing his morning lectures, would've benefited from finding a part-time job.
|More on TSR:
Post questions and discuss job prospects in our career and jobs forum
Big debate: Should students work at uni?
5. Make sure to join a university society, especially if you don't like your flatmates
Being an introvert, Lauren was a fish out of water in her 'party flat'. She ended up obsessively texting a friend she’d met online before uni who just happened to be in another block. When he stopped texting back, Lauren slumped to her lowest, and broke down on a night out. Most unis have great societies, and Lauren’s fortunes improved when she joined the Labour Party society, satisfying her interest in debating and current affairs and taking her away from housemates who she didn't want to play Nazi-themed drinking games with.
|More on TSR:
Tell us your thoughts on The Secret Life of Students in our official thread
Post questions about being a fresher in our University Life forum
Discuss other shows you like in our dedicated TV forum
We hope you find this article useful. If you've got any comments on how we can make it even better, please add them to our articles feedback thread.
With thanks to Channel 4 for the images used throughout this article.