It’s August, A level results day is looming, and in less than a month term will be starting at universities all across the UK. For those of you hoping to be going to one of those universities for the first time, you don’t need me to tell you that it’s a daunting time. For me, though, this will be my third year at a UK university, so here are my tips for starting uni!
1. Get to know your new flatmates!
There’s no guarantee that your flatmates will be your new best friends, but one thing’s for sure: you’re all in the same boat. You’ve all just arrived in a brand new place and the likelihood is that you’re all just as confused as each other. These are the people you’ll work out uni registration with, the people you’ll venture to your first Fresher’s events with because you don’t know anyone else yet, the people you’ll ask about how to work the washing machines and where the nearest supermarket is.
These are also the people you’ll bump into in the kitchen and the hallways (and the bathroom, unless you’re lucky enough to get en-suite) all year, the people whose music and phone calls you’ll hear through the walls, the people you’ll have to let in when they forget their key. And trust me, it’ll be much more pleasant for everyone if you can all be friendly and relaxed around each other.
Plus, you never know. Some of these people might actually turn out to be some of your best friends.
2. Go to the Fresher’s Fair!
The Fresher’s Fair is basically a market selling your social life for the next year. The vast majority of your uni’s student-run societies will be there, advertising what they have to offer. Expect to come away with a lot of leaflets.
And I mean a lot.
Here’s how it usually works (because I was confused AS HELL when I went to my first Fresher’s Fair): various members of that society’s committee stand at a stall handing out leaflets and trying to talk to passersby. If you’re interested, they’ll get you to sign up to their mailing list. This is not a sign-up sheet to join their society, just a mailing list. If you sign up, they’ll email you about their upcoming events, including their Fresher’s events, which are designed to be introductions to what their society has to offer. Then, if you enjoy it, you go to the societies section on your university’s website and join the society.
But if you don’t go to the Fresher’s Fair, you won’t know what’s on offer. So make sure to find out when and where it’s being held, and get yourself there to find out what amazing things you can get involved with at your uni.
3. Join lots of societies! …But not too many
The societies you join will play a huge part in your life at uni. Society events will be the high point of your term at uni, and since you automatically have at least one interest in common with the other members, you’ll make a great number of friends through them.
At my university, the minimum fee for joining a society is £5 (higher for certain societies, especially sports teams, which may require that you buy a uniform and sports equipment), plus £3 insurance overall, no matter how many societies you join. This fee goes into the society’s account so that they can put on wonderful events for you to enjoy. You might also get members-only discounts and access to members-only events, so it’s definitely worth joining officially rather than just showing up to each event anyway.
In my first year, I joined four societies, but only ended up frequenting two of them – the two that I rejoined the following year. I’d say four is the maximum you want to join, otherwise you won’t have time to commit to any of them or your studies, though it does depend on how much energy and motivation you have, and how good your time management is. Two societies is a good number to join: you can indulge two of your hobbies and make two sets of friends, while not being overwhelmed by society events.
4. Get ahead with your course!
I said this in my blog post on preparing for uni – I know, I’m nagging now. But reading your text books before your course begins will give you a huge head-start. It’ll be a great advantage to you, to already know what you’re going to be taught, so that you can revise when you go into lectures. Plus, if there’s anything you don’t understand, being taught it in a different way might help you understand it, and if it doesn’t, you can then ask your lecturer about it.
Uni has a huge workload, so if there’s anything you can do in advance, do it. You’ll really thank yourself for taking a bit of a weight off your shoulders when you’re stuck for time mid-term.
5. Don’t be afraid to ask questions!
Students and alumni all understand just how confusing and overwhelming starting university can be. It’s a new environment with new systems, and you can’t be expected to know it all straight away. So don’t be afraid to ask about anything you’re unsure of; don’t be afraid to utilise lecturers’ and your personal tutor’s office hours; and don’t be afraid to go to student wellbeing if you feel you need help with anything.
These services are here for you to use, and you’re likely paying £9000 for these sorts of things, so don’t be shy about using them!