Get a heads-up on what to expect
No matter how prepared you think you are, starting university brings plenty of surprises.
You'll find out what it's really like living in halls. You'll learn a lot about how good you are at independent study. And you'll meet a ton of new people,
Although surprises can be fun, making the most of university life is easier when you know something of what to expect.
So, we asked current and former uni students from The Student Room community what they wish they'd known before starting. Here's what they told us...
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Making friends at university
Meeting people is easy at uni. Seriously. But that doesn't stop us all worrying about it before we get there for the first time. Here's how The Student Room members made friends in their first weeks at university.
1. Get out there
Go along to all the Freshers activities. Don't limit yourself to your flatmates or course mates; you’ll be seeing them plenty anyway.
2. Learn from the old hands
Make friends with second and third years. They can help you out, offer you advice, give you notes and tell you where they went wrong.
They've just done your year and they know what you're going through.
3. It's not just you!
I'm quite introverted, and the main thing I'd advise is not to resign yourself to it.
Trust me, introvert or extrovert, everyone's bricking it during that first week.
4. Stay in the loop
Don't spend your weekends away too often if you want to stay close to your flatmates.
It's usually one of the main times when everyone's got a free schedule and can go out and do things together as a household.
5. Sign up
Joining societies is the best way to make friends, as you already have a common interest and so automatically have a conversation starter.
6. Be yourself
Don't panic if you’re not a massive party animal or drinker. That isn't the be all and end all of university life, so don't make a big deal about it. Just be yourself and don't do anything you're not comfortable with.
Anyone who tries to force you to do anything you don't feel like doing isn't going to make a very good friend. Just talk to people and relax around them.
7. Say hi before you start
I was very lucky to meet my best friend the first day of freshers week, because we met online on our university Facebook page and had been chatting for a few weeks before term began.
8. Start afresh
You might have been shy and ‘unpopular’ in school, but once you go to uni everyone's slate is wiped clean.
Everyone else will be in the same boat as you and having that connection won't make it hard to make new friends.
9. Find your people
If heavy drinking isn't your thing, don't do it. In halls, there are usually communal areas where you’ll be able to find other quieter people chilling out, watching the TV etc.
It's important to make friends, but it's more important to make friends with your kind of people.
10. Meet your coursemates
Try going to your lectures/seminars early and talking to people there.
11. Embrace uni life
Taking part in activities, societies, or social events, etc that happen outside of uni-hours is also a great way to get to know people as conversations may be less-inclined to focus on just your studies, and more about getting to know different things about each other on your course.
- JasmineBowley; 14 May 2023
|Discover more about university|
Before we go on, we just wanted to let you know about a series of free webinars being run by UEA to help answer students' questions about university. There are webinars on the following themes; the links below will take you to the UEA website to sign up for the next ones:
We've also got an article that explains each of the webinars, where you can find lots more information on what's happening in each one.
On uni extra-curricular activities
Obviously you're going to uni to study. But, obviously you're not going to study all the time.
University life is crammed with opportunities to try out new things. Make the most of it!
12. Burn some energy
Try to take up a sport – sports socials are great and playing a sport will help keep you fit and healthy, too.
13. Stretch your mind
Subject societies have nothing to do with the subject. Join the ones with an actual focus that organise events, beyond 'come drink with us instead of other friends'
14. Be brave
Join a society that interests you and actually go to it; don't be afraid to turn up by yourself. I was too scared to go along to them at first, but then I found the courage and met some amazing people.
15. Join societies whenever you like
People join societies at different times, there's no "weird" time to join.
- username5886907; 22 August 2022
16. Enjoy yourself
At uni there are usually loads of teams for each sport. Not everyone who wants to do sport is a pro, and there are loads of people who want to do sports to get fit and for enjoyment rather than take it so seriously.
17. Fit it all in!
Don’t join societies before receiving your timetable!
What it's like studying at uni
University work is a whole different ballgame from what you're used to.
That's why, on the whole, your first year won't count towards your final grade - it's all about getting used to a far more independent style of learning.
18. Read ahead
Doing a bit of reading on your subject before you begin can be invaluable, so you can hit the ground running and find the first few weeks a lot easier.
19. Start a routine
Go to lectures, do your work on time and get into a good routine. It'll pay off in the latter years immensely and give you far less panic/stress and more time to relax and enjoy yourself.
20. Talk to your lecturers
Find your way in to your course - find that book, poem or painting you love, and then find out why you love it. That's by far the nicest way of getting a first. Don’t feel intimidated to talk to your lecturers, because however brilliant they are, you have something they don't - a completely fresh perspective untainted by the years of scholarship that can sometimes cloud vision.
21. Be enthusiastic
Don't expect the lecturers to provide a spoon-feeding service but equally show an enthusiasm for your subject. Don't leave stuff until the last minute, don't treat your work with disdain or you'll always be left wondering if you could have done better. Equally know when to back off and go to the pub/cinema/chill with a book.
22. Get to the lectures
Go to all your lectures and seminars; you’re paying for them. Don't be one of those people who moans about how difficult the course is or how all the lecturers irrationally hate you, when the reason you find it difficult is because you don't do any work and never come to class.
23. Seriously...get to the lectures
Do not miss classes/lectures. Drag yourself there even if you are dying, hungover, in your pyjamas or haven't even brushed your teeth - just get to them.
24. Find your motivation
At uni, no one is going to force you to revise and you're not given homework all the time to enforce your learning. You have to motivate yourself to do work throughout the year.
25. No more procrastinating!
Start assignments on the day you're given them. Even though you have five weeks to do it, you'll still end up doing it the night before it's due.
26. Take reponsibility for your learning
The big thing with university is taking responsibility as it’s far more independent.
You will probably have periods of intensity which can be stressful but it’s about building a schedule & having good organisation to manage this.
- mnot; 30 August 2022
27. Do your reading
Actually read the recommended reading! It isn't just there for the sake of it.
28. Plan out your deadlines
I would really recommend making yourself a plan of all your deadlines and working out when you will have time to work on them all.
29. Build your academic skills
Don't take the saying "1st year doesn't count for anything" too literally. It doesn't count for anything in terms of academic marks, but if you skip lectures and are lazy during your first year, then the next 2/3 years you'll struggle.
- Iron Mask Duval
Settling into uni accommodation
You can choose your friends, but you can't choose your family. Or, indeed, the people you share with in first year.
Places in halls are normally allocated randomly, so it's lucky dip who you end up living with.
30. Cleaning is sometimes optional
I wished I’d known there are people who can live in a house that looks and smells like a landfill, and will be genuinely confused when you have an issue with it.
31. Make sure you can tell your kitchen stuff apart
Do not under any circumstances buy plain knives and forks or it'll be indistinguishable by the end of the year.
- Chronoscope; 9 August 2022
32. Choose your housemates with care
Think carefully about who you choose to live with after your first year. I lived with two girls who both did the same course, which had a lot less contact time and work than my course.
This left me a bit isolated as they spent all their time together and went out a lot more than I could. So make sure you’re compatible with whoever you choose to live with and that you make time for each other, whatever the demands of your course.
33. Clear up before you clear out
Always clear your room and fridge of any food before you go home for the holidays. You do not want to find rotten/mouldy food upon your return in January, or an invasion of fruit flies. This goes for washing up, too.
Coming back to plates/bowls with life forms growing in them is not nice!
34. Don't rush your house plans
There’s typically a big panic around Christmas as people worry where they'll be living next year, so group up quickly to find a house before ‘all the good ones go’.
But choose your housemates carefully - you only met these people a few months ago, so not everyone's true colours may have come out. Don’t believe the hysteria - there will be loads of houses left after Christmas!
35. Oh, and remember...
36. You're going to love it...
Living in halls has been the most fun I've ever had. I live with some crazy people, endless pranking and madness, but it's great!
37. ...but it might get noisy
Halls walls are thin - you hear everything. And you will have nights where the noise is infuriating, but you get over it.
38. Did we mention the cleaning thing?
My flatmates were very apathetic towards any kind of cleaning rota, so our kitchen's cleanliness just gradually became more bio-hazardous as the year went on.
General advice on university
It might seem impossible now, but three years at uni passes by incredibly quickly.
Here are some more tips from The Student Room community to help you make the most of it.
39. Make the most of opportunities
If you’re commuting: be as flexible as you can about staying out late, don't complain about it too much. Remember, there’s nothing wrong with crashing at a friend's flat for a night once you get to know people.
40. Don't assume everyone's out all night
There’s a common misconception that at uni everyone has to go out every night and sesh constantly, but that really isn't the case. People who want to do that can but if you don't want to you don't have to.
41. Keep up with your work
I wish I had known about the importance, early on, of maximising the time between classes, to study, get caught up, or read ahead. It's easy to spend that time blowing off steam with friends!
42. Things are different in Freshers' Week
It is possible that freshers week will be quite rowdy when it comes to parties, but it definitely dies down after that - your very first week is not an accurate reflection of what it’s normally like.
- eeeli; 1 April 2023
43. Remember, support is there for you
Know where to get help if you need it. If life throws a sudden bad circumstance at you, don't deal with it alone. Go see your personal tutor, student support or module leader as soon as you feel up to it.
44. Don't judge yourself
Don't assume that everybody is having sex and getting with people. While some are, and will be telling everybody about it, there will be a lot who aren't and are wondering if they are inadequate.
45. Remember those deadlines
Keeping ahead of the reading is actually a good idea - and leaving writing a 5,000 word essay to the night before a deadline isn't.
46. Be open to chat
If you strike up a conversation with people they'll be just as grateful to you, as you would be if they started a conversation with you. Everyone's in the same boat and it's a fresh start. Just have a few stock questions ready to go.
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Setting a student budget
You are a student, ergo you are skint. Empty pockets is part and parcel of university life, but a decent budget can help a limited income stretch that bit further.
It's not always easy to do...especially if you've never had to budget before.
47. Take care with your cash
Try to stick to a budget, especially with food. Do you really need that jumbo packet of Monster Munch? Do you really?
48. Don't live on bread alone
LEARN TO COOK FROM THE VERY FIRST DAY. It will save you so much money, and will be so much healthier. Don't live off sandwiches for the entire first semester.
49. Get what's due to you
Ask for a student discount everywhere. And I mean everywhere. McDonalds does free cheeseburgers. Think about it.
50. Plan ahead
Buy things that can be frozen (eg meat, pizzas) when they've got those yellow reduced stickers on them, freeze them on the day and they can be good for up to a month or so.
51. Deals are everywhere
Look out for student drink deals when out in clubs - and take advantage of student discounts in shops. I miss it!
52. Find a way to keep track of your spending
What I do is write down everything I spend my money on e.g. food, socialising etc. That's how I've been keeping track of my finances and I try to review the list at the end of the week before the beginning of the next week.
- Startrevisingnow; 26 October 2022
53. See where you can save
Go through your bank statements and see what you are spending the most on. Then make cheaper swaps. So if you spend loads of money on drinks out in town then drink more at pres. If you spend loads of money on clothes switch to second hand clothes (or at least buy more second hand).
- flamingolover; 26 October 2022
54. Books are cheap
Get your text books from the library or, if you want your own to make notes in, have a look on Amazon. I got a book on there for 23p and I've been using it for two years. Took me a while to get used to the smell though.
55. Get organised
My advice - plan your meals as much as you can and avoid takeout like it's the plague. I know it might be tempting if you're tired, lazy, can't cook, lack time etc. And of course, it's okay to sometimes treat yourself. But don't rely on it too heavily.
- Mara1680; 26 October 2022
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Going out and social life as a student
Uni life kicks off with Freshers Week's non-stop schedule of parties and it doesn't really let up from there.
Student nights will be happening all over your uni town - and there's always going to be someone having a halls party.
56. Do it your way
Make an effort to go out, but stay true to yourself. It's not worth forcing yourself out every night just to get the 'experience' everyone hypes up.
57. Take the chance to meet people
If there are parties going on in your flat/kitchen, especially in freshers, try and go to them if they’re open to all to get to know your flat a bit better.
You don’t have to stay all night or drink if you don’t want to - I don’t massively enjoy parties or drinking much but I tend to try and at least hang out with people at pres when the vibe is calmer and people are less drunk, then just leave if it stops being fun.
- eeeli; 1 April 2023
58. Take it easy
If you're going to be drinking alcohol when you don't normally, I'd advise only having one or two alcoholic drinks max and then stick with soft drinks the rest of the night.
- HousesInCork; 28 October 2021
59. Stay sharp
Don't get in a random taxi, as it could be dodgy but could also rip you off!
60. Stay home sometimes
Don't feel you must go out every night just because other people are. If you have loads of work, an early start the next day or simply can't be bothered... just say no.
61. Go easy
Don't mix Lambrini, Bulmers and shots. It will not end well.
62. Pack everything
Bring fancy dress stuff, it comes in handy even after Freshers Week.
63. Leave some things well alone
Do not let someone feed you neat vodka through a funnel while sat on a spinning computer chair. This one is the most important.
Our partnership with the University of East Anglia
The Student Room is proud to work with UEA, a UK top-25 university (Complete University Guide 2024) and UK top-30 university (The Times/Sunday Times 2024), as the official partner of our student life section.
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