Congratulations - you’re starting your first year of university! This is an exciting time and a big achievement, so don’t forget to pause and reflect on how well you’ve done. Typically, students in their first year of university are called either first years or freshers. We want your first year to be an amazing introduction to your university career, so here are 10 tips for freshers to help you achieve your academic dreams and have fun along the way.
- Define a monthly/weekly budget
- Look after your accommodation
- Look after yourself
- Be attentive during lectures
- Think about your future career
- Make time for (new) hobbies
- Make new friends
- Stay connected with home
- Be yourself
- Ask for help
1. Define a monthly/weekly budget
With access to student loans and other forms of income, going to university might be the first time you’ve had free reign and full control of your finances. This can be very exciting and it’s easy to get swept away with the idea of spending your money on things you’d like rather than things you need, but make sure you set yourself up well at the beginning of term means you can enjoy yourself later on in the term when your finances might be a bit lower. Preparing a budget is a great way to do this. Remember to make your budget reasonable for the amount that you have and factor in necessities like rent, food, bills and any books or supplies you need for university. A great way to make sure you don’t fall behind on your payments is to prioritise paying for your accommodation when you receive money. Additionally, buying healthier foods and lots of vegetables so you can cook your own meals in bulk is often cheaper than takeaways and ready meals.
There are often many bursary options available to you. You could look within the university you’re attending or for an outside organisation, for example, the Vegetarian Charity or the Princes’ Trust. Remember, bursaries are often better than loans because loans require repayments where bursaries don’t.
Need a helping hand as your start university? We're here to help. Join the UK's number one graduate careers network for free and get exclusive access to jobs, events, networking opportunities and advice.
2. Look after your accommodation
If you’re living in university accommodation, it’s important for your wellbeing to keep your space clean and uncluttered. Many people find it difficult to work in an untidy environment, and since much of your university work outside of lectures and seminars is in your room, looking after it is a good way to look after yourself and your studies. Another important reason to tidy up is to maintain a positive relationship with your housemates who don’t want to live in your mess.
Make sure you look for accommodation for your second year and start looking early. If you have specific requirements, for example, you need the house or flat to be in a certain area of the city or have a particular number of bedrooms, getting in there early can help you find the perfect place before it’s taken by someone else. Housing in your area might be in high demand because of the number of students, so know your requirements, including costs and whether bills are included in the price, and start looking early.
3. Look after yourself
Whilst university can be an amazing experience, it’s important to protect yourself and your wellbeing so you can have a great time and achieve your best. Some key parts of looking after yourself are making sure you’re eating balanced meals regularly and staying hydrated throughout the day. Secondly, sticking to a routine can be helpful and part of this is keeping to a consistent sleeping pattern to make sure you’re well-rested and able to do the work you need to. Incorporating some form of exercise into your routine is helpful too. This doesn’t need to be hot yoga or an intense gym session and could be as simple as going for a walk in a local park or cycling to classes instead of taking the bus. Finally, you need to be at your best when you’re studying and taking regular and meaningful breaks where you don’t think about your work can prevent you from burning out.
4. Be attentive during lectures
A significant part of university is the learning that you do while you are there. This helps you leave with a good grade and means you can use what you’ve learned in your working life. Try and attend all your lectures and seminars and stay focused while you are there. Additionally, participating will not only help the lecturer learn what you do and don’t know so they can improve their teaching technique, but also help you learn and remember what you’ve learned. Be curious and read around the subject, not just the required reading, so you can expand on any answers you give in classes and in coursework or exams.
5. Think about your future career
It’s never too early to start thinking about your career. If you know where you want to go with your career, why not explore the internships, work experience and industrial placements you could do to get a headstart? If you’re not sure what you want to do in the future, check out our career path test to find the career for you based on your skills and priorities and read our career path guides to find out which sectors you’re most interested in.
Not sure what you want to do or want to learn more about a career path you're interested in? Take our Career Path Test to get matched with sectors and jobs that suit your interests.
6. Make time for (new) hobbies
Take some time to keep up with your hobbies, whether new or old and have a break from studying. Hobbies help you develop transferable skills which could be useful later in life when you’re working or searching for a job. A great way to start or continue a hobby is to look into the societies running at your university so you can meet like-minded people and have a good time doing your hobby with them. If there isn’t a society for your hobby, why not set one up?
If you’re looking to improve on your transferable skills ahead of time, find out about the transferable skills you need to succeed.
7. Make new friends
Connecting with people and making friends is important for your wellbeing. They’re there to have fun with in good times and help you out in harder times. Making friends with people on your course means you have someone to talk to about assignments and exams, but it’s a good idea to spread your social circle wider and interact with the people you live with and near. You can meet people by attending social events run by the university or by joining a society.
8. Stay connected with home
Making connections and friendships isn’t always easy, especially during the first few months of being at university. This is why staying connected with friends and family from home is important so you don’t feel overwhelmed and alone. This way, if you are facing any issues, you have a great support system that you can rely on even if it’s over the phone rather than in person when you’re at university. Additionally, you may find it easier to talk to family rather than friends about some of the problems you face.
9. Be yourself
University is a great time to explore what you like and learn more about yourself. However, try to go into the experience by being yourself rather than reinventing yourself and your idea of yourself. This might cause you to stress as you’re trying to maintain an image rather than being authentic, and you’re more likely to meet like-minded people who you really connect with if you’re being your true self.
10. Ask for help
Don’t forget or be afraid to ask for help if you need it! If you need help with your studies, your lecturers are happy to assist because they want you to succeed and consider it better and more mature to ask for help during the term rather than after failing a module. Additionally, there are many provisions for help with your wellbeing and mental health at university. You might have a dedicated counsellor or counselling team that you could seek support from if you need it. Again, they want you to succeed and don’t want you to suffer on your own. Whether you have a personal, academic, wellbeing or mental-health-related issue, always reach out and ask for help so you’re not dealing with it on your own.
University is a fantastic experience and a good opportunity for you to learn about the subject you’ve chosen to study and much more about yourself. To make the most of the experience, look after yourself by eating well, getting outside, having breaks and reaching out to friends, family and staff when you need help. Set yourself up for future success with a budget and looking for accommodation early, as well as focusing and staying present with your studies.
Head to our freshers hub to get everything you need to make the most of your first year at university.