So, this is it! After what probably feels like a lifetime of preparing for uni, you’re finally on your way. No more UCAS website stress, no more revising like crazy, and no more exams! (…at least for a while, anyway!)
However, if the reality that you’ll shortly be heading off to live and study in another city is only just sinking in and you’re feeling unsure of what to expect - don’t panic! In this guide we share the 10 most important tips for starting university to help you get the most out of your student experience.
Our advice for students going to university
1. Be open, friendly and put yourself out there
University is probably one of the only times in life where you’ll have the opportunity to meet a huge range of different and interesting people – all of whom will be looking to make friends! So, take advantage of this! Keep an open mind, be friendly and put yourself out there from the get go.
Having said that, we totally understand that it’s not always that simple. It can be easy to overthink the amount of socialising that’s expected of you and feel overwhelmed. Our tip for first year university students is - just remember that everyone is in the same boat as you. So, even if it feels super scary showing up to social events alone or with people you barely know, we can guarantee you won’t be the only one feeling like that. Keep positive, smile and open up to people!
Also, remember to keep the socialising mind set going after freshers week. Many people say the friends you make in freshers week tend to remain 'freshers friends'. So, don’t fret if you don’t find “your people” right at the start of your uni experience. You may meet people much more suited to you in your second term, or even into your second or third year!
Just remember - no one ever made any friends staying in their room and binge-watching Netflix.
2. Sign up to a society, find a hobby or join a sports team
For many, university is where lifelong passions are discovered. With an abundance of societies, classes and sports teams to choose from, there really isn’t a better time in life to try something new. Our advice for students going to university – get involved in the societies and clubs!
From foreign languages, pottery and art classes, to choirs, theatre and dance – you can try your hand at pretty much anything you like! It’s a great way to enrich your personal life and these activities are also a great way to make meaningful friendships in an authentic way. And trust us - make the most of your free time in your first year!
At Student Central, we offer a huge range of a huge sports clubs and societies. From art and music to martial arts and our famous canoe polo team, there's something for everyone! You can check the list of University of London clubs and societies here.
3. Actually GO to your lectures
This might seem like an obvious suggestion, but we’re sure you’ve heard stories about students who manage to scrape through their first year, barely showing up to a single lecture. In our opinion, not only is this a bit dim, (come on, uni’s expensive...!) but when you miss your lectures you miss the opportunity to bond with your course mates.
These are the people that you’re going to be spending a lot of time with for at least three years. They’ll live, breathe and truly understand the ups and downs of your degree. So, create a tight bond with them from the outset and you’ll give yourself a great source of relatable support and companionship for the duration of your studies.
4. Take time for yourself
Showing up for social events and making as many connections as possible is really important for a balanced and positive university experience. However, this should never be at the expense of your mental or physical health. Don’t let FOMO burn you out!
If you’re feeling a bit weary after a long week of lectures and non-stop socialising, it’s ok to take some time for yourself. Be kind to number one, and try to stay aware of how you’re feeling, both emotionally and physically. Experiencing mental exhaustion? Do something chilled out that doesn’t involve thinking. (This is where Netflix can come in handy…) Feeling completely physically run down? Have a serious lie in; take some naps. There will always be another party or another society meeting. And remember: your wellbeing should always come first!
5. Make your student home feel like home
The pre-uni IKEA trip is a rite of passage for many soon-to-be students. And, as fun as it is, (and it is SO much fun) you may end up moving into your new student flat with a lot of stuff you don’t have any emotional connection to. This in turn can make you feel like you’re not really at home – something that can easily spark the dreaded homesickness!
So, our advice - take a few of your favourite things to uni with you. Familiar belongings such as ornaments, posters and bed linen can be a great comfort when you’re feeling far away from home. Furthermore, hanging up favourite pictures of friends and family will always do the trick in reminding you that you’re not alone.
6. Manage your money well
It can be hard to resist the sweet temptation that is: student loan day. But, listen to us when we say: If you can learn to control your money at uni, you’ll be a lot happier. This is a vital piece of advice for students starting university.
So, budget! Plan your money! Don’t leave yourself short, and don’t deprive yourself. It’s a fine balance to strike, but the sooner you get the hang of it, the better off you’ll be.
7. Reach out for help if you need it
For some, arriving at uni can be especially tough. If you’re having a hard time settling into university life, it’s really important you reach out for help. Everyone’s experience is different, and just because other people may appear to be coping better, doesn’t mean your feelings are any less real or any less valid.
Reach out to someone, even if the thought of doing so feels scary in itself. Whether that’s a fellow student, a university counsellor or even a lecturer – talking to someone about how you’re feeling can make all the difference. There will always be people ready to help you.
8. Eat well
Pasta and baked beans don’t have to be the only thing on the menu for the next three to four years. And trust us, maintaining a healthy and varied diet is not as hard or as expensive as university folklore would have you believe. Plus, eating well will better equip you for the ups and downs of uni life, increasing concentration and promoting higher energy.
So, make nutritious and enjoyable food a priority while you’re at uni. We’re not saying you need to stock up on avocados and quinoa (on a student budget?! No way!) but it is important to find ways to fit fun and healthy food into your routine.
You can try inviting people over for dinner, or organising alternate dinner parties between friends. This a great way to get to know people, and it’s also much cheaper than going out to eat. Set out a couple of nights each week where you’ll know you’ll eat a lovingly prepared home-cooked meal. A bit of casual mindfulness when chopping vegetables goes a long way too.
9. Familiarise yourself with your new neighbourhood and city
Nothing can make you more homesick than feeling like you don’t know your new city. And in today’s hyper connected world of smartphones and google maps, it’s really easy to rely on technology instead of getting stuck in, getting lost and finding your own way.
Let’s say you’re invited to a bar or to someone’s house. Instinctively, you chuck the address into Google maps and follow mindlessly until you reach your destination. Before you know it, you’ve arrived, but have zero idea about how you got there or what you missed on the way.
So, avoid relying on your phone to get from you A to B! Spend a few days exploring the streets without Google. Try to put together a mental map of your new city or neighbourhood. Pay attention to the smaller details - the buildings, pavements and trees. Locate your nearest supermarket, pub, bus stop, underground station, and park. All of this will make your new city feel more familiar, keep the homesickness at bay, and help you see the beauty in your new home.
10. Avoid going home too much
When you start to become disconnected and really miss home, it can be tempting to rinse that student railcard for all it’s worth and hop on a train back every few weeks. However, while having easy access to home is a great thing, it’s important that you don’t rely on going home too much.
A few years ago, advice for first year university students used to be to avoid going home at all during their first few months. However, the more modern, and in our opinion gentler approach, is that students should feel free to go home as and when they feel the need to.
Still, it’s worth paying attention to why you feel like you want to go to home as much as you do. Do you feel lonely? Sad? Homesick? Scared? All of these feelings are going to be uncomfortable. For most students, being at uni is the first time when these emotions kick in with real intensity. So, when you’re feeling like this, try to hold on a bit longer. Put yourself out there and face these feelings head on. Ask your flatmate to go for a drink, sign up to that netball tournament this weekend. Although you’ll feel vulnerable doing these things, nine times out of 10 you’ll end up having a good time with new and interesting people – and you’ll feel all the more confident and happier for having stayed despite feeling low before.
Student Central - Your home away from home
Student Central is Europe's biggest student centre and is home to over 17,000 freshers and students. It's the perfect place to meet friends for a drink in the bar, head to the gym or a fitness class, see a band you love or sign up to a University of London sports club or society.
Register for free here and enjoy everyting Student Central has to offer.