Starting university brings many new experiences. Some you'll be more prepared for than others...
When you start uni, life changes in a big way. And although you’re prepared for some of the new experiences coming your way, there’s going to be plenty more that might catch you a bit off-guard.
To help you get your head around being a fresher, we asked current students what surprised them about starting uni. Here’s what they told us.
You may possess fewer life skills than you originally thought
Back at home, with a fully stocked kitchen at your disposal, you probably felt like a master chef. Fast forward to week three of uni, when you're making your 28th spag bol, and you might start doubting yourself.
Cooking on a student budget is a challenge, but there’s plenty of advice on TSR to help you through. Likewise, if you’ve never made a bed or ironed a shirt before, there’s no time like the present to learn! Then you could find yourself the most experienced in the house, just like creaTED:
If you’re still struggling, take a look at some life hacks previous Freshers have shared - they might just save you from the embarrassment (and malnourishment) of living on beans and toast for the first three months.
But living independently isn’t as hard as you think
On the other hand, everyone (mainly your parents) will tell you what a shock to your system it’ll be when you leave home for the first time. What are you going to do without them ferrying you around or cleaning up after you? Sure, it might be weird at first if you’re used to mum’s home cooking every night, but you’ll be surprised how quickly you adapt.
If you’re unsure of anything, we’ve got plenty of helpful tips and articles in our dedicated Freshers area, or you can come chat to other students going to uni too. Failing this, there’s always your trusty smartphone. “Siri, how do I boil an egg?”
Your new city quickly becomes home
Some people can’t wait to leave home and live in a new place; others find the idea of being somewhere new completely terrifying. Either way, by the time you go home for Christmas you’ll be itching to get back to uni.
If you’re feeling nervous about living somewhere new, get ahead of the game and chat to other students going to your uni - you’ll feel much more confident and settled by getting to know people early. It’s also a good idea to get out and explore as soon as possible; you’ll have the most time to spare before your deadlines kick in, so get yourself out there and find your new fave local spots.
Your studying will be almost solely independent
If you hated being told what to do and when to do it at school, you’re going to love the newfound freedom that university brings:
Although you’ll be attending lectures and seminars, you’re going to be expected to do a lot of learning in your own time with further reading, research and completing projects or assignments. The further you get into uni, the less contact time you’ll have, so it’s good to get into your own routine earlier on. Which brings us on to the next point...
You’ll have to be organised to succeed
There’s no teacher chasing you for that coursework submission or parent forcing you to do your homework. If you want to ace uni and come out with a decent grade, preparation and organisation is key.
Once you can master the balance of work and play, you’ll be much more prepared to tackle any assignment thrown your way. It’s a good idea to use a wall planner or diary to keep track of any deadlines you have, then you can plan your social life around them.
It’s so easy to make friends
Don’t waste time worrying about being lonely and not making friends at uni. University is the best time to meet new people: everyone’s in the same boat and up for making new friends. Plus, with things like Freshers events and societies, you’re more likely to meet a variety of people with similar interests to you.
You might find things in common with those you least expect
Don’t just limit yourself to a few friends on your course. By chatting with everyone, you could find a whole new group of mates that you’d have never thought to speak to before.
It’s tempting to stick with the familiar faces you meet in Freshers Week, or with your flatmates, but it’s much better to put yourself out there and talk to absolutely everyone - even those you least expect to bond with.
Alternatively, if you’re going to uni as a mature student, don’t worry about being left out. Everyone’s willing to get talking if you’re friendly and approachable, as Seamus123 explains.
Your loan will leave your account very quickly
Everything costs money, and when you’re at uni you’ll be shelling out for books, food, transport, clothes and alcohol. That’s not even counting your rent. When that loan hits, you’ll probably be tempted to ‘make it rain’... but don’t. You will thank yourself in a month’s time.
Do have fun in Freshers Week, but also keep an eye on your bank account, and try to only take out the money that you need for the week ahead. Once you’re settled, a part-time job is also a great way to keep you topped up between payments!
It’s easy to skimp on things if you know how
When you’re a student, the world is your oyster. You’ll never have to pay full price for a train ticket or piece of clothing again - well, for three years anyway.
Although university is an expensive time, it’s easier to keep out of your overdraft if you budget your money correctly - check out how other students have done it for a bit of inspiration. Also, get yourself a student railcard and NUS card ASAP. They’ll save you heaps in the long run, and NUS cards are accepted in loads of shops and restaurants - you could even put the extra money you would’ve spent aside for savings.
If all else fails and your bank account is edging closer to zero by the minute, take on board this useful advice from Davalla:
You’ll feel overwhelmed sometimes - but it’s worth it!
Starting uni is a big deal, and even the most confident students will admit to feeling a little overwhelmed after the fun of Freshers Week wears off. But don’t think of this as a negative - it’s all part of growing as a person, being more independent and - deep breath - becoming an 'adult'. Take it all in your stride and embrace it!
What surprised you when you started university?
Got any tips for future freshers?
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