Starting University – 10 Things You Need To Know

If you’re starting university this month, here are 10 things you need to know to help the first few weeks go smoothly.

So, you’ve got your firm place in university confirmed, you’ve booked your student accommodation, you’ve done your first Ikea shop and now you’re just waiting for your move-in day.

University is a super exciting time but it’s also a big change from going to school or college. Going to uni means you’ll be responsible for yourself when it comes to both living alone and doing your degree.

If you’re feeling a bit nervous about the change, here are 10 things you need to know about starting university.

1. You need to keep your money organised


If you’ve never budgeted before, now’s the time to learn. When it comes to your money, you’ll need to make it stretch for a lot of things, and while sometimes what you don’t know won’t hurt you, it’s best to be checking your bank balance regularly so you can keep on top of things.

The first thing you’ll want to do before you even make the move to uni is to make sure your Student Finance is all sorted out. You can login to your Student Finance account to find out how much you’ll be paid and when your payments are due.

Moving to uni can be quite stressful and the last thing you want to do is arrive and find out that you won’t be receiving a student loan because of an issue when you signed up, or because you didn’t fill out the details properly, so make sure your details are all up to date and good to go!

You will also probably want to switch to a student bank account before you start uni, as a student account can come with more benefits than a standard bank account. Many student accounts will offer an interest-free overdraft, which can be helpful to fall back on as well as other perks to help you out while you’re studying.

Once you receive your first student loan instalment, you’ll want to check how to pay for your student accommodation (which is normally an online payment sent directly to your university) to make sure that your rent is paid on time and when you’ll need to pay.

After you’ve paid your rent, your money is yours to spend on whatever you want, but remember to try and stick to a plan and budget ahead because you’ll be surprised at how much some household necessities can cost!

2. It’s normal to feel homesick


Feeling homesick is perfectly normal, and if you are struggling with missing home you won’t be alone with this. There are plenty of things you can do to help combat homesickness, but the best way to feel more at home at uni is to get out there and experience the new things uni has to offer.

Even though there will be plenty of things for you to get involved in during your freshers’ week, if you’d rather spend a night in FaceTiming your mum and dad that’s totally understandable too.

Remember that university is a big life change, but one that will be very rewarding and enjoyable once you get settled in. Moving to somewhere new and away from home for the first time can be very daunting, but once you’re settled you’ll probably have an amazing time.

Keep in regular contact with your friends and family at home if you’re really feeling homesick, and arrange for them to come and visit you in your new home so they can see all of the fun you’re having at uni! Remember why you chose to go to university and that your parents’ are only a phone call or FaceTime away if you need them.

3. Don’t sleep through lectures


When you start university, you are in control of your own degree and your attendance. While you were in school, sixth form or college if you didn’t attend lessons you’d probably get in trouble and this could result in a call to your parents or a detention. But in uni, if you miss your lectures that’s on you.

It’s going to be up to you to make sure you attend all of your lectures and seminars, so you don’t miss out on key teachings. While those early morning lectures might seem impossible to go to and very easy to sleep though especially if you’ve been out the night before, you’re the one that’s going to struggle later on when it comes to assessments and exams if you’ve missed out on a key lecture.

Yes, it’s very tempting to sleep through lectures or decide you don’t want to go to one, especially as it’s unlikely you’ll get called out on missing the occasional lecture here or there but if your attendance is really bad, your grades are what’s going to suffer.

Try and remember that you’ve chosen to go to university, and you’re here for the degree. Unlike school or college which wasn’t optional, this is your choice and at the end of the day, you want to do well!

4. Don’t forget your student discount


Student discount is a blessing. As a student, you can get plenty of freebies and discounts on all of your favourite brands, just for being a student!

While you’re budgeting and trying to make your money last, you’re definitely going to be spending money on restaurants, new clothes, going to the cinema, buying yourself lunch out etc. and your student discount can definitely help you to save on these things.

As long as you’re signed up to Student Beans and have the Student Beans app on your phone, you’ll be able to access some awesome discounts both online and in-store. Make sure you’re always checking before you buy something if you can get a discount, as it can really help you out if you’re a serial online shopper!

5. Remember to sign up for things


Much like your attendance, your uni experience is really in your own hands. Now that you’re going to be living alone and away from your parents it’s your responsibility to make sure that you’ve signed up for everything you need to sign up for.

The most important is probably signing up to your local GP and dentist services in your new city or town. Freshers’ flu is real, and even if you manage to escape it in your first few weeks at uni there will be a time where you get ill and will need to visit your doctor at some point during your 3 or 4 years at university, and if you’re still registered at home and not at uni it’s not going to be very helpful during an emergency.

You’ll also want to sign up for things such as societies, sports teams and volunteering groups. There will be loads of things for you to get involved in while you’re at university, but you’ll probably have to do the research yourself and make sure you’ve put your name down.

Your freshers’ fair will be the perfect place to find out just what uni life has to offer and what you could get involved in, so make sure you attend and don’t skip this for a trip to the pub or something that might seem like a better option at the time.

6. Find out your reading list


You will most likely have a reading list or a list of key materials and resources you’ll need to get your hands on to help you with your degree. This will probably be sent to you before you start uni, or will be available on your uni’s website.

When it comes to textbooks, these can be in quite high demand as there will be multiple students on your course looking to have the same books. While your uni’s library will probably have a few copies, it’s best not to rely on this idea as you can bet you won’t be the only one looking for these books. You’ll also benefit more from having your own copy, so you won’t have to keep taking it out of the library and you’ll always have access to it.

Luckily, you’ll be able to buy most uni textbooks or key texts second hand either on Amazon or eBay or from second or third-year students who no longer need these books. Many uni’s will have a FaceBook group or scheme where students can sell books to other students, to help you save some money rather than buying everything brand new.

Another key thing to know about reading lists is a lot of the books you need will have multiple editions published. While the older editions of the book will probably be cheaper, they may be missing certain chapters that you’ll need to have, so always make sure you’re buying the most up to date edition if you can.

7. Get familiar with the grading


University grading is very different to school or college. The marking scheme should be explained to you, either before you start or within your first week but it can still be a lot to get your head around, especially when you receive your first piece of coursework back.

In simple terms, every piece of work you do in uni will be graded out of 100. Anything that’s graded over 70 will be a first (first-class honours), anything 60+ is a 2:1 (upper second-class honours), 50+ is a 2:2 (lower second-class honours), 40+ is a third (third-class honours) and anything below 40 is a fail.

The grading system can be a bit of a shock, as generally anything in the 60s is considered a good mark, which might seem odd as it’s out of 100. However, achieving marks in the 80s+ can be very tricky to achieve, as this work is normally what’s considered publishable and these very high marks are rarely awarded. So, achieving a mark in the 60s is normally considered to be a piece of work that you’ve done well.

You may have also heard “first year doesn’t count” which is true to some extent. When you finish university, all of your marks from every piece of coursework and exam that you did during your second and third year will be added together to form an average, and this will be your final mark at the end of university. Whatever grade classification this number falls into will be your final degree classification, so if every piece of work you’ve done during your second and third year makes an average mark of 61, you’ll be graduating with a 2:1.

While you’ll still be marked and graded on all of the work you do in your first year, these marks won’t count towards your final degree. So, if you do badly during your first semester at uni this doesn’t mean you’re going to end up graduating with a third, as your first year is really just a practice year to get you used to university and how it all works, which is pretty nice if you think about it! But, you will still need to pass the year and get an average mark of 40+ to be allowed to move into your second year.

8. It’s never too early to think ahead


Going to uni means you’ve probably thought a bit about your future already. While some people go to university with a clear career path in mind, other people have no idea what they want to do when they finish.

Getting a degree means it will be easier for you to secure a job once you’ve finished, and although your university journey is only just beginning, it’s never too early to think about your future.

While having a degree is one thing, there are also plenty of things you can do during uni that can help to advance your career, from volunteering to doing a placement year or work experience.

Meeting with your uni’s career guidance team can help you out with your career path, even if you’re only in your first year. Your uni will have people who can help with loads of things, from CVs to interview prep, so if you are thinking about applying for work placements or work experience or need some guidance on where to take your degree, they’re the people you need to meet with.

9. Make the most of your freshers’ week


Freshers’ week is your intro to uni, and you’ll only get to experience it once. Making friends during your first few weeks of uni is important, as once you get past this window you might find it hard to integrate with the rest of your flatmates if you spent your freshers’ week alone in your room and they were all bonding with one another.

Your freshers’ week is not only a time to meet new people, but it’s also designed for you to have fun and enjoy yourself before you get stuck into your degree. There will be plenty of opportunities that include partying and drinking alcohol (and plenty of alcohol-free things too, if you don’t drink) which are designed to help you have a good time and to enjoy the independence.

Not to mention, if you are struggling with homesickness, there’s nothing like a party to help you to take your mind off things and to make some new friends.

Ultimately, your freshers’ week is for you so make the most of it while you can and while you have little responsibilities because it won’t be that way forever!

10. A balanced diet is key


You probably could live off pesto pasta for the rest of your life, but you might get bored of it. Going to uni for the first time means cooking all of your own meals, and for many students, this is a brand new experience.

Yep, Pot Noodles, ready meals and takeaways are a great option if you’re feeling lazy and lack key cooking skills, but trust us after a few weeks you’ll start to get bored and will be craving a proper homecooked meal.

A lot of uni culture revolves around drinking and going out and after a few weeks, this can really take a toll on your body, especially if you’re not eating properly.

When you do your weekly shop try and stock up on fruit and vegetables as well as items you can freeze to help them last longer, as well as rice, pasta, lentils and other things that are easy to cook and provide nutritional value.

Once you realise you can eat ice cream or pizza for breakfast and no one’s going to tell you off, it’s a pretty great feeling but in the long run, your body will thank you for having a proper balanced diet rather than trying to live off cheesy chips and Oreos all the time, especially if you want the energy to attend your lectures or a long studying session in the library.

Going to uni is your chance to learn new things, and learning how to cook is one of the skills that you’ll want to pick up sooner rather than later.

If you want to find out more about uni life and what to expect from your freshers’ week, check out our video below where we chatted to students about what they wish they knew when they were a fresher!