My guide to starting uni
Updated: Aug 22, 2021
So you’ve got your uni place, albeit in more-than-usual stressful circumstances this year, now what?
I have now finished uni, and with September approaching fast, I thought some freshers would find it helpful if I shared my experience of moving, societies, part-time work, and general tips.
*Obviously some unis will be different this year in how they do freshers and classes, so I won’t dwell on those altered experiences*
From the minute you get your place secured on UCAS, it’s all you can think about – you’re going to university. This chunk of time gives you the chance to get yourself sorted, maybe check out the reading list, and most importantly – take a trip to IKEA to make sure you’ve got what you need. Of course if you’re catered, this will be a smaller shop due to less kitchen things, and if you’re commuting then skip over this altogether!
What I learnt with this – you don’t need five of the same thing in one kitchen. You rock up on moving day and suddenly you have five peelers – no one needs five peelers. What ends up happening is that you lug all your stuff to halls, to find that there’s not enough space to put everything in because everyone has the same things.
My tip – be minimal with what you buy, and if you get there and find you’re missing something, buy it once you’re there. This not only saves you money, but also precious car space when you’re packing.
Another tip – if family members have hand-me-downs on offer – take them! Don’t be a snob and insist that everything is brand new and matching. My grandma gave me a load of owl-themed tea towels – Did it look cool? No – Did it do the job? Yes.
Finally, don’t get stressed out by the events on social media screaming at you to buy tickets in fear of missing out, you won’t miss out. Once you get there and meet people, decide what you’re doing. If not, you’ll end up spending money on tickets to events that you might not even go to. Don’t let the fear of missing out pressure you into spending money.
Moving day comes, and suddenly it hits home that you’re really leaving the comfort of mum and dad. Everything is all exciting, then suddenly you’re 20-minutes away and it dawns on you how big this change is going to be – just remember that everyone is in the same boat!
The majority of people won’t know anyone, so you just have to remember that even if people seem cool and confident – they’re probably just as nervous as you.
If I’m honest, once you get there, you don’t really have time to be nervous. You’re unpacking, and meeting people very quickly. Leave your door open so people can say hello, don’t shut yourself off whatever you do.
I always thought the minute my parents drove off would be the worst bit of all, but I was so distracted by everyone that you just get on with it. Get your room done and then get out and about! Find out who is living nearby, what their plans are, and make friends!
(I’m saying this like it is easy, I know some people really struggle with this, but you honestly just have to put on your best front and throw yourself into it!)
Practical tip here – have an easy meal for that first night. Pasta and a jar of sauce is the best one that comes to mind. You don’t want to be stuck in the kitchen when everyone is making friends.
This is a big part of uni, whether it’s sport or baking, the range of groups you can get involved with is huge. My tip with this? Take advantage of the start of term taster sessions (these are often free) but then once you know what you want to do, only commit to one (maybe two) societies. They take up a lot of time, especially if it is a physical/team thing. Sports teams tend to have two or three training sessions and a game every week.
Another thing to note is the cost of them, if you’re spreading yourself too thin with societies, and paying for them all, your money (and time) is soon going to run out – not to mention your commitment to your course!
I would always recommend joining a society. I was on the dance was all three years, and ended up being the vice president. You get to meet people from different years on different courses, people that you never would have met otherwise. It’s also worth noting that there are always a number of each team for a sport, going from super-competitive to just those wanting to play for fun – so don’t let that put you off.
Working throughout uni not only brought me in extra income, but it also opened up a number of opportunities for me that I still rely on today in job interviews. I worked as a student ambassador for the uni. This included working on open days, delivering presentations at schools, and representing the uni at Higher Education fairs all over the country.
The work was very varied, so it gave me lots of skills to put on my CV. It fitted in well with my studies, averaging 15-hours a week, and I met loads of people on the way.
I already had plenty of experience in hospitality, so doing something meant I got so much more out it than if I had used my time to serve people coffee.
If you have the opportunity to work for the uni in this kind of way, take it! When you graduate and have that on your CV, it shows employers a great work ethic, as well as your ability to juggle a degree with a job.
Any last minute tips?
If you’re currently in the preparation bubble, then I have a few tips for you in handling what is to come. Just remember, I’m no life guru, I’m just someone that’s done it.
'Freshers friends’ are a thing – There will be people you meet in freshers that seem like your best friend, but then weeks go by and you realise that a lot of the people you meet in freshers will always just be associated with that early stage, and that’s fine. Some friends are just for freshers!
Start as you mean to go on – Show up to lectures and classes. If you start off struggling to show up, it is only going to go down from there. Showing up also means you can make course friends, and you know… do what you came to uni for in the first place.
Don’t panic – If you get to November and you’re still feeling homesick, don’t worry. That first term is a lot of change within a small amount of time. Don’t be too quick to visit home, because that could make you feel worse. I limited it to once per term (once every six weeks).
Get involved – With societies, part-time work, group projects, whatever it is – don’t exclude yourself. Be realistic with time and commitments, but don’t shut yourself out.
Have fun – Remember that you’re (probably) only going to do uni once, so make the most of it!
I did an interview with the University of Leicester which covers my journey from A levels to working as a trainee reporter