Starting university can be a rollercoaster of emotions, from apprehension to excitement, and there will more than likely be an abundance of things you’ll need to put in place before you go. Though it may seem daunting at first, preparing for life at university should be an exciting time as you get yourself ready for what has the potential to be one of the best experiences of your life.
We’ve put together some of the very best advice for preparing for life at university to ensure the days leading up to it, and the weeks you spend settling in, run as smoothly as possible. Take a deep breath, follow these tips, and your new student life will begin without a hitch.
Common worries about starting university
The build-up to leaving home can be nerve-wracking, packing up your belongings and saying goodbye to your family is never going to be easy. You will find yourself with new responsibilities such as paying bills, managing money, cooking and cleaning, washing etc. If you are used to all of this being done for you, the thought of having to do it all yourself will be overwhelming.
To make things easier, practice these life skills in the lead up to starting university. A couple months before, you could start doing your own washing, cooking dinner occasionally and create a budgeting plan. Having an idea of what to expect and how to carry out these tasks will help you feel better prepared and make the process less daunting.
Meeting new people
Arriving at your student accommodation being surrounded by people you don’t know can seem scary but remember that most people are feeling the same, even those that seem super confident.
To overcome these nerves when starting university, you just have to throw yourself into it and introduce yourself. Try to avoid sitting in your room or waiting for people to come to you. Take a deep breath, smile and just start chatting to those around you. Ask questions such as; where are you from? What are you studying? Are you thinking of joining any societies? You will likely find common ground and conversation will flow naturally.
Although, you won’t get on with or have things in common with everyone you meet so don’t put too much pressure on this. Be polite and friendly but focus your time and energy on those who you really click with.
Grades and workload
Initial worries when starting university are likely to be directed towards the process of leaving home, adapting to your new surroundings and making friends. However, starting a new course and potentially embarking on a completely new subject can be just as overwhelming. Additional worries about grades and whether you’re going to be good at what you do come hand in hand with this and are also completely rational fears to have.
It is important to remember that university courses are three to four years long for a reason. There is so much time to learn your craft and develop within your subject area. The first year of university is often based around introducing students to the topic they are studying as well as practicing methods of study and assignments. That being said, it won’t necessarily be easy, but with hard work and dedication you will do well.
Most universities will have a ‘fresher’s week’, designed to ease you into university life, allowing you to explore your surroundings and get to know those around you. Fresher’s week typically involves partying and drinking with numerous events scheduled every night for new and existing students to enjoy. Getting involved and attending fresher’s events will allow you to bond with your new housemates or course friends and help break the ice. However, it is important to be aware, hold your own and not feel pressured to do anything you don’t want to do.
Starting university involves mixing with people from all different backgrounds and walks of life. This can also come with difference of opinions and lifestyle choices. In particular, attitudes towards alcohol and drugs may become more of an issue than ever before and you may find yourself in environments you are not used to, being encouraged to engage in potentially harmful activities.
In these situations, make sure to stand your ground and not be peer pressured into doing something you don’t want to do. This is easier said than done and it can be tempting to impress or keep up with your new friends. However, it isn’t always worth it and it may be best to distance yourself from these people and find more like-minded individuals to socialise with.
Things you can do to prepare yourself for starting university
1. Sort out the basic essentials.
As soon as you’ve confirmed your place at university, you should make it a priority to sort out all of the basic essentials as soon as possible; such as confirming your accommodation (don’t forget, halls of residence are allocated on a first come, first serve basis), arranging your transport to university, and registering with your local GP.
However, arguably one of the most important tasks is setting up your student bank account. Many of the mainstream banks will offer these with added attractive incentives, which can make it difficult to narrow down your choice. Make the most of comparison websites to work out the best deal for you and your personal financial circumstances.
2. Buy everything you need (within reason).
Perhaps one of the most exciting tasks of preparing for university is buying and packing everything you need to take with you. However, you should do this within reason. Many first-time students make the mistake of over-packing or making unnecessary purchases – so before you hit the shops, do a little research into what you should and shouldn’t take with you.
For example, if you’re moving into halls of residence, you will likely be provided with many of the basic facilities, such as kitchen appliances. As well, you’ll probably have limited storage space, so keep that in mind when it comes to packing up all of your worldly belongings. There’s no point taking things that you don’t have the space to keep.
When it comes to buying study materials for your course, it’s always a better idea to wait until classes actually start so that you can get a better feel for what materials are really necessary. This is especially the case when it comes to buying textbooks – your reading list could be a mile long, but you might discover that you really only need to purchase one or two core texts.
3. Connect on social media.
Facebook groups and hashtags on Twitter and Instagram are great ways to connect with your soon-to-be flatmates and course-mates before you step foot on campus. Connecting with fellow students before the term starts is a great way to ease your fears about making friends. Remember, everyone is in the same boat, so everyone will be eager to join in the conversation and make connections.
4. Learn to do things for yourself – before it’s too late!
If starting university for you means fleeing the nest for the very first time, it’s certainly worthwhile learning to fend for yourself before it’s too late. Master the art of doing your own laundry (because trust us, your parents won’t appreciate you coming home every other weekend with dirty laundry bags in tow…) and, if your cooking skills aren’t quite up to scratch, practice some quick and easy recipes whilst at home to get the hang of it.
5. Set realistic expectations before you go.
If you’re moving away to university, and it’s your first time away from home for an extended period of time, it’s important to set yourself some realistic expectations before you go. It’s not uncommon for first-time students to be struck with bouts of homesickness within their first few weeks of university; it certainly doesn’t mean you’re not cut out for university life, but all the same, it can be difficult. Try not to put too much pressure on yourself, allow yourself to go through the motions.
6. Get to know your flatmates when you arrive.
Arriving at your accommodation for the very first time can be pretty daunting – though everyone is in the same boat and will likely be feeling exactly the same nerves as you. Initiating early friendships is key in settling into university life quickly and comfortably, so take a deep breath, step out into the hallway and introduce yourself to your flatmates. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to get to know each other – especially when the pre-drinks start flowing.
7. Get involved in Freshers’ Week.
Welcome week, more commonly referred to as Freshers’ Week, is designed to help new students settle into starting university life. Your university’s students’ union will host all kinds of events for you to partake in. There will also be a Freshers’ Fair, which gives you the opportunity to explore and sign up to the clubs and societies on offer at your university.
Throughout Freshers’ Week, you won’t have any course commitments, so you’ll be able to fully immerse yourself in all of the activities going on, which will help you to meet new people and make sure that you’re well-prepared to start your degree and life at university.
8. Spend some time getting to know your surroundings.
Once you’ve moved in, it’s worthwhile spending some of your spare time getting to know your surroundings. Explore the university campus, getting to know the students’ union, the lecture buildings and other facilities. And don’t forget to go further afield – locate your nearest bus stops, train stations, local shops and supermarkets, and GP surgery. You could even turn it into an opportunity to spend some time with your flatmates by getting them to join you.
9. Work out a budget – and stick to it.
It’s certainly no secret that, as a student, money is tight. As tempting as it may be, the last thing you want to do is blow your entire student loan in the first week of university. As soon as you know what your expenses are, sit down and work out a budget that you can stick to throughout the academic year. Prioritise how much you have to spend on the essentials such as food and rent, and then how much is left for you to spend at your own leisure.
10. If you’re struggling – reach out for help.
If within the first few weeks of university you find yourself struggling for whatever reason, whether it be due to homesickness or something else – don’t hesitate to reach out for help.
- Reach out to friends and family – Having regular catch ups with new and old friends as well as family will help keep you positive and hopefully reduce some of the loneliness you may be feeling.
- Stay active – It is important to keep your physical health in check as well as your metal health. Try to eat well, exercise regularly and allow yourself some down time in order to create a balance alongside your studies.
- Communicate with lecturers – If you are struggling with your uni work or have a question, don’t be afraid to email your lecturers. They may be busy and also feeling the pressure, but they want the best for you and will most likely respond and support you.
Although student worries and anxiety are common, it is important to recognise when this reaches a level in which you are struggling to cope. Not dealing with stress or managing it badly can lead to serious mental health issues such as depression. The NHS offer plenty of information and advice on dealing with student stress and there are also helplines and charities dedicated to supporting students including Student Space created by Student Minds. Other mental health charities such as MIND and Samaritans as well as local NHS urgent mental health helplines can also offer support and advice.