#UniShorts: 4 Actionable Tips for Freshers’ Year

With the UCAS deadline looming for a lot of Sixth Form pupils in the UK (on the 26th January), it’s both timely and useful to look ahead to the freshers’ year experience by exploring 4 actionable tips for freshers’ year. 

No matter where you choose to go for university, you’ll find that your first year can be a slightly chaotic, slightly overwhelming experience at times. For most people, heading to university is the first time they’ve been away from home for a substantial period of time, and this can be a tricky emotional journey to process at first. 

Luckily, there are a number of actionable steps you can take to relieve some of the stresses of your first year at university, from joining clubs to kickstart a vibrant social life to picking up the basics of sustainable budgeting. 

In this #UniShort, we’ll give you 4 actionable tips to help make your freshers’ year the brilliant, dynamic, and exciting experience that it should be. Check out the rest of our #UniShorts section for more readable slices of advice on a wide variety of subjects related to the university application process and picking your A-level combinations at secondary school. 

  • Join things

If you’re concerned about making new friends and meeting new people in your first few weeks and months of university, your best bet is to join a bunch of clubs or societies. The easiest way to do this is at your university’s freshers fair, which should take place in the first few weeks of term. 

Hundreds of societies and sports teams will have tables at this fair, and you’ll be able to chat to some pre-existing members to see if you like the sound of the club in question. Our advice is this: if you’re mildly interested, give the club your email and head along to their first meeting or training session. It’s easy to drop most of these societies after a couple of weeks if they don’t meet your expectations.

Cast your net wide in the first few weeks and months of the year: that way, you may stumble onto a club or extracurricular that’s a surprisingly perfect fit. You’ll also meet a whole array of different people, with a wide variety of interests.

  • Learn the basics of budgeting 

Perhaps this tip is a little more dry than the one about joining extracurricular clubs, but it’s just as important. 

Whether or not you receive a student loan for your time at university, you’ll have to budget (relatively) sensibly in order to cover factors like grocery shopping (if you live in uncatered halls), public transport costs, and those all-important first year nights out. 

It’s well worth taking some time over the summer before you begin university to go over the basics of student budgeting. Try using Excel or Google Sheets to create a table that includes: 

  • Your weekly, monthly, yearly income (this is everything that is going into your account, including your student loan, any financial standing orders from your parents or sponsors, money from a job, etc.) 
  • Your weekly, monthly, yearly output (this is everything you’ll expect to pay out from your bank account, from monthly or weekly rent, grocery shops, public transport fees, nights and dinners out, trips, etc.)
  • You can then choose what to do with the money that’s left over when you take away the financial output from the income (you can spend it on non-essential items, treats, subscriptions, or put it into a savings account). We’d recommend putting (at least) a fraction of this money into a savings account: if you’re heading to university in England, Northern Ireland, or Wales, you’ll likely be stacked with a pretty hefty debt by the end of your three years (anywhere between £13, 185 to £27, 750 depending on where you’re from in the UK). 

It’s worth noting that if you’re a Scottish student studying in Scotland, you won’t have to pay tuition fees. You should be able to receive a SAAS loan that will offer you substantial financial support throughout your university experience. 

  • Get on top of administrative tasks 

Here’s a quick and actionable tip that could revolutionise your approach to time management when you’re in your first year of university: make sure you stay on top of simple administrative tasks. If it’s something that’s going to take you fewer than five minutes to accomplish, do it there and then. 

For example, if you need to shoot your university lecturer an email to explain why you won’t be at class on Monday, or submit a worksheet online on the university’s digital portal, just do it straight away.

Allowing all these little, niggling administrative tasks to build up will leave you feeling more stressed than you ever needed to be: this five-minute rule is used in psychological practices like CBT to prevent procrastination from slipping into your daily routine and ruining your freshers’ year experience. 

  • Learn how to set personal boundaries 

This advice isn’t talked about as much when it comes to tips on thriving during your first year at university, but it’s a vitally important piece of guidance that will enable you to live healthily and sustainably, without too much stress. 

Make sure you actively schedule some time to yourself during your week and try not to fall into the trap of taking on too much and saying yes to every single social commitment throughout your first year. A lot of freshers will try to juggle far too much in their first year of university, and this will leave them feeling drained and overwhelmed at times.

It’s great to cast a wide net in your first few weeks and months, but try to find a few extracurriculars that are really up your street and really commit to them for the rest of the year. You’ll find that committing properly to a few clubs will allow you to develop and maintain closer and more valuable friendships than trying to spread yourself too thinly across a multitude of different groups. 

It’s also crucial that you take time to yourself. There’s a lot of social pressure to go out and have a massive party every Friday and Saturday (and Wednesday, if you’re on a sports team) when you’re at a UK university, particularly in your first year. Remember that a late-night Saturday sesh will probably put you out of action for the whole of Sunday, giving you a banging hangover and ruining your sleep pattern for a few days. 

We’re not saying “don’t have fun.” Of course you should: it’s your first year at university, and this is one of the best times in your life when it comes to meeting new people and forging new, exciting relationships. It’s just worth thinking about what your priorities are: if you’ve got a Thursday deadline on a piece of work you really care about, for example, maybe you can take it a bit easier on the Wednesday night team social for that week. 

Final Thoughts 

The first year at university should be a vibrant and memorable experience, so it’s useful to bear these 4 actionable tips for freshers’ year in mind before you head off away from home for the first time: 

  • Cast a wide net at the freshers’ fair: talk to people, and join things. You can always drop these activities later on. 
  • Make a spreadsheet: learn the basics of budgeting, so that you’re not continually stressing about your financial situation. 
  • Remember the five-minute rule: take a leaf out of Matt D’Avella’s book, and don’t put off anything that will take you five minutes or fewer. 
  • Keep your mental health in check: give yourself breathing space, and try not to spread yourself too thinly across too many activities and clubs. 

If you’re looking for more in-depth information on how to thrive during your time at university, get in touch with our team of experts at A&J Education to book a free consultation.

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