63 things students wish they had known about university
No matter how prepared you think you are, starting university brings plenty of surprises.
What's living in halls really like? Are first-year lectures actually important? Is learning to cook really necessary?
Although we're living through unsettled times right now, making the most of university life is easier when you know something of what to expect.
So, we asked current and former uni students from the TSR community what they wish they'd known before starting. They've made the mistakes, so you don't have to...
Meeting people is easy at uni. Seriously. But that doesn't stop us all worrying about it before we get there for the first time.
Here's how TSR members made friends in their first weeks at university.
1. Go along to all the Freshers activities. Don't limit yourself to your flatmates or course mates; you’ll be seeing them plenty anyway.
2. Make friends with second and third years. They can help you out, offer you advice, give you notes and tell you where they went wrong.
They've just done your year and they know what you're going through.
3. I'm quite introverted, and the main thing I'd advise is not to resign yourself to it.
Trust me, introvert or extrovert, everyone's bricking it during that first week.
4. Don't spend your weekends away too often if you want to stay close to your flatmates.
It's usually one of the main times when everyone's got a free schedule and can go out and do things together as a household.
5. Joining societies is the best way to make friends, as you already have a common interest and so automatically have a conversation starter.
6. Don't panic if you’re not a massive party animal or drinker. That isn't the be all and end all of university life, so don't make a big deal about it. Just be yourself and don't do anything you're not comfortable with.
Anyone who tries to force you to do anything you don't feel like doing isn't going to make a very good friend. Just talk to people and relax around them.
7. I was very lucky to meet my best friend the first day of freshers week, because we met online on our university Facebook page and had been chatting for a few weeks before term began.
8. You might have been shy and ‘unpopular’ in school, but once you go to uni everyone's slate is wiped clean.
Everyone else will be in the same boat as you and having that connection won't make it hard to make new friends.
9. If heavy drinking isn't your thing, don't do it. In halls, there are usually communal areas where you’ll be able to find other quieter people chilling out, watching the TV etc.
It's important to make friends, but it's more important to make friends with your kind of people.
10. Try going to your lectures/seminars early and talking to people there.
11.Your friends from home have been your friends for many years. Don't forget about them! Keep in touch with them as well as all the new friends you're making.
On extra-curricular activities
Obviously you're going to uni to study. But, obviously you're not going to study all the time.
University life is crammed with opportunities to try out new things. Make the most of it!
12. Try to take up a sport – sports socials are great and playing a sport will help keep you fit and healthy, too.
13. Subject societies have nothing to do with the subject. Join the ones with an actual focus that organise events, beyond 'come drink with us instead of other friends'.
14. Join a society that interests you and actually go to it; don't be afraid to turn up by yourself. I was too scared to go along to them at first, but then I found the courage and met some amazing people.
15. Be yourself and have fun – but your kind of fun, whatever that is. Forget what other people say you should be doing.
16. At uni there are usually loads of teams for each sport. Not everyone who wants to do sport is a pro, and there are loads of people who want to do sports to get fit and for enjoyment rather than take it so seriously.
17. Don’t join societies before receiving your timetable!
University work is a whole different ballgame from what you're used to.
That's why, on the whole, your first year won't count towards your final grade - it's all about getting used to a far more independent style of learning.
18. Doing a bit of reading on your subject before you begin can be invaluable, so you can hit the ground running and find the first few weeks a lot easier.
19. Go to lectures, do your work on time and get into a good routine. It'll pay off in the latter years immensely and give you far less panic/stress and more time to relax and enjoy yourself.
20. Find your way in to your course - find that book, poem or painting you love, and then find out why you love it. That's by far the nicest way of getting a first. Don’t feel intimidated to talk to your lecturers, because however brilliant they are, you have something they don't - a completely fresh perspective untainted by the years of scholarship that can sometimes cloud vision.
21. Don't expect the lecturers to provide a spoon-feeding service but equally show an enthusiasm for your subject. Don't leave stuff until the last minute, don't treat your work with disdain or you'll always be left wondering if you could have done better. Equally know when to back off and go to the pub/cinema/chill with a book.
22. Go to all your lectures and seminars; you’re paying for them. Don't be one of those people who moans about how difficult the course is or how all the lecturers irrationally hate you, when the reason you find it difficult is because you don't do any work and never come to class.
23. Do not miss classes/lectures. Drag yourself there even if you are dying, hungover, in your pyjamas or haven't even brushed your teeth - just get to them.
24. At uni, no one is going to force you to revise and you're not given homework all the time to enforce your learning. You have to motivate yourself to do work throughout the year.
25. Start assignments on the day you're given them. Even though you have five weeks to do it, you'll still end up doing it the night before it's due.
26. The first year helped me to get into the swing of things for my uni course. It treated us as if we hadn't studied the key bits of the A-level, and so brought everyone up to speed, as well as getting us used to how to do exams.
27. Actually read the recommended reading! It isn't just there for the sake of it.
28. I would really recommend making yourself a plan of all your deadlines and working out when you will have time to work on them all.
29. Don't take the saying "1st year doesn't count for anything" too literally. It doesn't count for anything in terms of academic marks, but if you skip lectures and are lazy during your first year, then the next 2/3 years you'll struggle.
You can choose your friends, but you can't choose your family. Or, indeed, the people you share with in first year.
Places in halls are normally allocated randomly, so it's lucky dip who you end up living with.
30. I wished I’d known there are people who can live in a house that looks and smells like a landfill, and will be genuinely confused when you have an issue with it.
31. To avoid bringing everything with you, put together a Tesco or Argos or Wilko delivery to be delivered to your halls a day or so after moving in, and then plan a trip to IKEA.
32. Think carefully about who you choose to live with after your first year. I lived with two girls who both did the same course, which had a lot less contact time and work than my course.
This left me a bit isolated as they spent all their time together and went out a lot more than I could. So make sure you’re compatible with whoever you choose to live with and that you make time for each other, whatever the demands of your course.
33. Always clear your room and fridge of any food before you go home for the holidays. You do not want to find rotten/mouldy food upon your return in January, or an invasion of fruit flies. This goes for washing up, too.
Coming back to plates/bowls with life forms growing in them is not nice!
34. There’s typically a big panic around Christmas as people worry where they'll be living next year, so group up quickly to find a house before ‘all the good ones go’.
But choose your housemates carefully - you only met these people a few months ago, so not everyone's true colours may have come out. Don’t believe the hysteria - there will be loads of houses left after Christmas!
35. Living in halls has been the most fun I've ever had. I live with some crazy people, endless pranking and madness, but it's great!
36. Halls walls are thin - you hear everything. And you will have nights where the noise is infuriating, but you get over it.
37. My flatmates were very apathetic towards any kind of cleaning rota, so our kitchen's cleanliness just gradually became more bio-hazardous as the year went on.
38. Bring earplugs.
It might seem impossible now, but three years at uni passes by incredibly quickly.
Here are some more tips from the TSR community to help you make the most of it.
39. If you’re commuting: be as flexible as you can about staying out late, don't complain about it too much. Remember, there’s nothing wrong with crashing at a friend's flat for a night once you get to know people.
40. There’s a common misconception that at uni everyone has to go out every night and sesh constantly, but that really isn't the case. People who want to do that can but if you don't want to you don't have to.
41. I wish I had known about the importance, early on, of maximising the time between classes, to study, get caught up, or read ahead. It's easy to spend that time blowing off steam with friends!
42. It is okay not to have a definite plan and when someone asks ‘What do you want to do after uni?’, it is normal to reply with ‘idk m8, cookie pls’.
43. Know where to get help if you need it. If life throws a sudden bad circumstance at you, don't deal with it alone. Go see your personal tutor, student support or module leader as soon as you feel up to it.
44. Don't assume that everybody is having sex and getting with people. While some are, and will be telling everybody about it, there will be a lot who aren't and are wondering if they are inadequate.
45. Keeping ahead of the reading is actually a good idea - and leaving writing a 5,000 word essay to the night before a deadline isn't.
46. If you strike up a conversation with people they'll be just as grateful to you, as you would be if they started a conversation with you. Everyone's in the same boat and it's a fresh start. Just have a few stock questions ready to go.
You are a student, ergo you are skint. Empty pockets is part and parcel of university life, but a decent budget can help a limited income stretch that bit further.
It's not always easy to do...especially if you've never had to budget before.
47. Try to stick to a budget, especially with food. Do you really need that jumbo packet of Monster Munch? Do you really?
48. LEARN TO COOK FROM THE VERY FIRST DAY. It will save you so much money, and will be so much healthier. Don't live off sandwiches for the entire first semester.
49. Ask for a student discount everywhere. And I mean everywhere. McDonalds does free cheeseburgers. Think about it.
50. Buy things that can be frozen (eg meat, pizzas) when they've got those yellow reduced stickers on them, freeze them on the day and they can be good for up to a month or so.
51. Look out for student drink deals when out in clubs - and take advantage of student discounts in shops. I miss it!
52. Spaghetti bolognese will end up being your primary food source, especially during the last few weeks of term when you have 50 quid in your bank account.
53. Familiarise yourself with the Value/Smart Price/Basics ranges. There is no difference between ‘3 for 79p’ Value peppers and £2 peppers.
54. Get your text books from the library or, if you want your own to make notes in, have a look on Amazon. I got a book on there for 23p and I've been using it for two years. Took me a while to get used to the smell though.
55. Freezing bread is a wonderful idea.
Uni life kicks off with Freshers Week's non-stop schedule of parties and it doesn't really let up from there.
Student nights will be happening all over your uni town - and there's always going to be someone having a halls party. The only question is: how many nights out can you handle?
56. Make an effort to go out, but stay true to yourself. It's not worth forcing yourself out every night just to get the 'experience' everyone hypes up.
57. If you bring vodka or another spirit to predrinks, definitely bring mixer. You don't want to be that person who has to steal mixer from others.
58. Falling down the stairs of a club onto a bouncer after one too many Jagerbombs is a no-no.
59. Don't get in a random taxi, as it could be dodgy but could also rip you off!
60. Don't feel you must go out every night just because other people are. If you have loads of work, an early start the next day or simply can't be bothered... just say no.
61. Don't mix Lambrini, Bulmers and shots. It will not end well.
62. Bring fancy dress stuff, it comes in handy even after Freshers Week.
63. Do not let someone feed you neat vodka through a funnel while sat on a spinning computer chair. This one is the most important.
The Student Room's partnership with UEA
The Student Room (TSR) is proud to work with UEA, a UK top-25 university (The Times/Sunday Times 2020 and Complete University Guide 2020), as the official partner of our student life section.
Not only is UEA highly rated in the league tables, it has also received a TEF gold award for excellence in teaching, learning and outcomes.
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