Freshers' Week - your initiation into student life which is nothing short of an intense week of nervous excitement, discovery and learning. Before the big knuckle down, Freshers’ Week, generally commencing the 19th September, is one to truly enjoy and hopefully cherish. That said, you can expect a whirlwind of fun-loving social events which, more often than not are fuelled by copious amounts of alcohol that have been know to have an adverse effect on your memories of this crucial time. Is Freshers' Week a recipe for disaster? We heckle nay.
Amongst the sheer merriment of continuous crawls, brawls and late nights, there is also lots to be done; by filtering through some key tasks early on, you’ll be able to enjoy your new found Fresher freedom even more and leave the procrastination period for when exams are looming. We’re talking essays, exams, tutorials and all the rest. Truth be told, this week of no official lectures can often leave bug-eyed students exhausted with Freshers’ flu and gasping for another week of...bed. Don’t dismay - we’ve got the savvy Freshers’ Week survival guide to put you in good stead for your future precious years at University.
Before embarking on your adventure into the student bubble, it’s prime time to think about the essentials you will need on campus. We’re not telling you to only take the 5 things that you would need to survive on a desert island either, because (usually) there are shops around; and if not, you can always rely on the internet for a world of items which are more often than not on the cheaper side of the spectrum too. It’s worth noting that the following could come in handy, and that you can leave your cat at home.
- Your personal laptop or desktop - have a think about what will suit your style of study best and invest in your device of choice. There will be computers everywhere for you to use, but having your own means that you can access your files, emails and Netflix wherever and whenever you need. Plus, over exam periods when every other student is furiously revising and studying in the library too - finding a free computer on campus will be tricky to say the least.
- USB sticks and flash drives - to ensure that none of your work gets lost.
- Stationery - getting organised with pens, paper pads, diaries and any other particulars you may need for your course before-hand will mean that you can spend more time soaking up valuable starter information as opposed to shopping around WHSmith.
- Earplugs and eye masks - because you don’t know how loud your neighbours will be or the quality of the curtains in your new room. Sleep is fundamental to keep your energy levels stable so that you can adjust well to your new surroundings; but it’s likely that your sleeping schedule may be somewhat erratic in your first week, so when you finally hit the hay – you won’t want any disruptions.
- A second alarm clock - it’s far too easy to sleep through the first one when you’ve had a heavy night. Also never rely on your phone as it may die through the night of natural causes or by being dropped into an old glass of beer.
- Laundry basket and detergent - not that you will do any laundry in your first week, but come that Monday morning lecture , you may want fresh underwear.
- Towels and bedding - it’s likely that you’ll get a bed and a mattress (unless stated otherwise), but double check as to whether you will need a duvet and pillows. Depending on your ‘sharing’ tolerance level, you may want to invest in a mattress protector too.
- Cushions - an innovative way of turning your bed into a sofa by day/night/whenever you need it most.
- Bulbs and additional lighting – because a flickering light won’t help tired eyes complete that essay.
- An extension cable and mini cable box - very ideal to keep all your cords and many chargers in check. Hopefully, they will also stop you tripping over on your way home from the pub/a seminar.
- Comfortable shoes – as you will no doubt be doing a lot of walking and standing on your feet during the day, which may well be followed by hours of grooving come the evening.
- Cleaning products - rooms are generally cleaned over summer, but everyone’s standard of cleaning is different and as you are unlikely to clean for the next entire school year, you may as well get as fresh a start as you can.
- ID and passport sized photographs - both essential for when it comes to registering for your uni student card and student discount cards. You may need ID on arrival at your accommodation and to sign up to a doctor’s practice as well as for getting into bars and clubs.
The Non-Essential Essentials
- Tea, coffee and an accompanying kettle - a cuppa is one of the easiest ways to make friends and simple home comforts will help you settle into your new pad.
- A mini fridge – if you like to be certain that your milk will still be there by morning.
- Fancy dress options - should really be a part of the essentials' list. You will soon learn, these are quite a fundamental part of Freshers' Week and general student life.
- A blackboard – fill it with motivational quotes or at least ones that’ll make you smile on those mornings when you’re slightly worse for wear. 'Carpe Diem' when you're still covered in glitter from the evening's antics - brilliant.
- Bring things that’ll make you feel at home - your guitar, sketch pads, a book that’s not on your course reading list as it’s important to be able to unwind and have some time to yourself.
- IKEA blue bags - really great for transporting all of the above.
Last but not least, bring a positive frame of mind with you. This is an exciting time, which brings new beginnings, friendships and tremendous prospects - so you definitely have something worth smiling about.
New buildings, class-mates, teachers and surroundings - your first week at uni will likely contend with your first day at school when it comes to excitement and nerves. Only this is on another level, a veritable upgrade into adulthood and your university campus, be it quaint Warwick or beautiful Bristol will take some getting used to.
Try to remember that everyone is in the same boat; you will see both headless chickens running around and other fellow freshers just happily bumbling along - so no matter how you like to discover, don’t put too much pressure on yourself but be inquisitive and make the effort so that you can enjoy that back-to-school excitement.
Complete your Registration
Registering will often be required for you to access your university email/intranet, to choose your modules and for entry to the library and other campus facilities too; in a nutshell - it’s crucial. With access to your timetable early on, you will be able to identify any module clashes and call for help on your student services or a tutor on how to best resolve any issues.
Your university will usually email you a reminder and instructions on how to commence registration, prior to your arrival. The start of this process is often done online and then you will need to complete it on campus which is when you should receive your student ID card. This process is often daunting, with deterring lengthy queues and awkward photography skills to endure. Our advice is to go early on in the week, and to try and avoid peak times which will mean setting that ol' alarm. If you do find yourself in a queue, endure it, and make friends with the people around you - they may have brought snacks.
The implications of missing the deadline will change between universities, but late registration will generally inhibit the start of your year. Some even impose fees, and the release of your student loan could be delayed - leaving you short on cash before you've even had a taste of student living.
Embrace the Guided Tour
No matter how great your sense of direction or the size of your university, go along to the many guided tours of your new playground. As much as you can discover places on your own, someone else’s advice, perspective and information can be invaluable at times. Plus, you’ll meet others along the way and can start the name game early on.
With many of the UK’s universities brimming with mazes of winding corridors and rooms that are numbered into the thousands or named after ancient university predecessors - you won’t regret getting familiar with your school when you’re heading off to an early morning seminar.
Find your Students' Union
The SU is where lots of events and rendez-vous will happen. It will become a definite meeting point, where you can find general student information and more. Here you will normally be able to pick up a welcome pack containing everything from a campus map to organised social events, key term dates and contacts.
Welcome pack info is usually accessible online too. Handy for if your mind wanders during your guided tour; use the map to familiarise yourself with the whole campus, your halls and your specific subject department.
Attend your Inaugural Meetings
Introduce yourself to your teachers, lecturers, and tutors. Meeting the staff is a must as they will guide you through both your academic and personal development. Remember that it's a steep learning curve to go from college, a gap yah, job or other, onto a university curriculum, so it’s best to get as much support as possible. Aim to prioritise any introductory meetings for your course, so that you can get familiar with people's names and faces as well as the course itself. It’s a prime opportunity to start your year with everyone and you might even get invited to an impromptu cheese and wine night.
Find your Freshers’ Fair
The Freshers’ fair is a great place to pick up flyers for food deals, events and maybe a free energy drink or two. But it is also the optimum time to sign up to societies.
These are not pompom filled sororities; from quidditch (yes quidditch) to chess and water polo - there really is a society for everything and everyone. University is all about trying something new, learning and the unknown. Joining a club could introduce you to new skills as well as to new people; showing that you’re proactive in your learning or simply adventurous will also be a great asset to your future CV.
Sometimes dreaded, you may have heard horror stories from past graduates or your older siblings - but it’s not all wandering kebabs, false fire alarms and cold showers. Student halls are a great way to meet new people and live independently. Regardless of whether you’ve gone catered or self-catered - some new cooking skills or at least imaginative dining options will also definitely be on the cards.
On arrival at your student halls, you will need to pick up the keys to your new pad. Usually you will receive a welcome pack with information about campus security, fire procedures and amenities like laundry rooms and social areas. Plus you’ll need to know the essentials like your WiFi password and meal times (if you're catered for - lucky devil).
If you’re in private accommodation or have moved to a student house, make sure you have working fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors in place, if not, contact your landlord immediately.
Remember to look at your inventory list and take pictures of your room before you start to unpack. Pay particular attention to furniture, drawers and the state of the carpet and walls - it’s vital that you document any damages pre- your moving in to avoid hefty fees when you leave at the year’s end.
Remember that your room will be your home so make it as comfortable and as clean as you can. We already mentioned cushions, but other additions like photos of friends and family on the wall, a rug and some succulents can all help you settle and keep you zen throughout the year. As tempting as it may be to shower your walls with club posters and event flyers - be wary of how garish this can look and think of the bluetack damage!
Communal Areas & How to Live Amongst Others
Finding your niche will come naturally, and with time. There are many different types of student, most of whom you will get to meet in your halls. From naggers and slobs to snores and gap yah folk, it’s inevitable that you will meet people of your kind and some that you just can’t relate to. There are different ways to deal with these people, being non-judgmental is just the start.
If you’re feeling homesick, that’s perfectly normal so try and talk to someone about it so that it doesn’t put a downer on your week. If you have other worries you can approach your house or university tutor and they should be able to advise you or steer you in the right direction to get some help. Try not to isolate yourself and don’t be afraid to knock on your neighbour’s door for a chinwag.
For most, cleaning is a chore, but when you are living amongst others and you aren’t related - it is common courtesy to clean up after yourself. Even if you aren’t a naturally tidy person, still make an effort and don’t be that person who leaves the mouldy mug on the windowsill to gather flies.
If you’re in private accommodation or your communal areas don’t get cleaned regularly, a cleaning rota -as jarring as it may sound - can go a long way. Simply whack on your favourite tunes, hit the mop and go. That way everyone is pulling their weight in your student digs.
You may have the luxury of an en suite bathroom, but if not, flipflops, a shower bag and dressing gown should be added to your essentials' list. An emergency loo roll could also be ideal; and when it comes to toilet etiquette - you should know that by now, and if not, you are about to learn the hard way.
The Shared Kitchen
Even if you are in catered accommodation, you will have access to a shared kitchen and will usually have to fend for yourself on the weekends or if you ever get a case of the midnight munchies. Be prepared for your butter to become communal, and try to not become the person who leaves the passive aggressive "do not eat" postit on their belongings.
If you do however want to make sure that you have sole access to your food, (perhaps your parents treated you to Waitrose - we get it), then think about investing in a mini fridge for your room - also ideal for keeping the ciders cool. Otherwise, rather than bulk buy and create a free for all, buy ingredients when you’re going to use them in quick time - and everyone’s happy.
In your first week however, finding local supermarkets and cooking up a storm with your new pals is a great way to bond, make friends and integrate. Plus sharing meals tends to work out cheaper too and you might be be able to inspire each other’s cooking. Being generous with food and drinks is a sure way to show you’re friendly in your first week.
Easy Student Meal Ideas
Stir-fry – an all-round pleaser which is quick, cheap and also easy to make veggie. A wok is not completely necessary but they are a good investment piece and can come very cheap.
Chilli con carne - or without carne.
Pasta – bakes, Bolognese and just about anything.
Pizzas – buy a basic base and add nice cheese, veggies or cured meats if you’re being fancy.
Soup – you can pretty much add anything to a soup, also a great option to use up leftover veggies. You don't have to blend it, just keep your veggies small. Perfect with pitta and hummus.
When it comes to cutlery, there may be some around to start with - but wait a few weeks and all the forks will more than likely be hiding in your fellow students’ rooms. Bring the essential fork, knife, spoon and chopsticks combination, then maybe keep your favourite mug in your room before it becomes someone else's.
How to Protect your Student Bubble
Mugs in many people’s eyes are treasured items; although they may not be insurance worthy. However for your valuables like phones, laptops, jewellery, gadgets and other gizmos - get them insured. Your halls of residence may have some cover for you, or if you’re lucky, you may even come under your parents' insurance. But if not, shop around for cheap student contents cover. Always get lots of quotes and read the small print beforehand to find a policy that's right for you.
Having insurance is one thing, but this shouldn’t deter you from keeping your possessions safe in the first place. There should be security around campuses and student halls but still use the lock on your door, and make sure that windows are shut - especially when you’re on the ground floor.
University is about self-discovery, and you will encounter many a different type of person during your time studying. A positive attitude to meeting new faces in Freshers’ Week is key; no matter whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, don’t forget to be yourself but be curious about others too. Everyone is in the same boat and many will be nervy or homesick so that smile and small talk may go further than you think.
The important thing in your first week is to get involved. Even if you don’t think you’ll enjoy your school’s low key ball or retro-themed pub crawl, the events are created for you to all mingle so do just that and don’t knock it till you try it. Showing your face and getting to know your classmates will go a long way. That said, make a real effort to remember people’s names; babe and mate just don’t count.
We do hear romantic tales of long life friendships and even romances developing in that first blissful week of university; all well and good - don’t worry if you aren’t a fan of the first person you meet. They aren’t destined to be your new best friend for life and you aren’t in any way obliged to stick to them religiously - even if you are on the same course, in the same halls or just have the same hair colour.
The Fun Stuff
When it comes to Freshers’ Week events - no matter which uni you are off to, there will be more than enough to keep you entertained. From off the cuff silent discos, live music, t-shirt parties, fancy dress and every type of crawl you can think of - the importance of play is heavy - so enjoy it (whilst you can!). Not to put a downer on things but remember that you are at university to study too so you will eventually have to get real and knuckle down.
Mojito or Nojito?
If you prefer quieter evenings or if you simply don’t want to drink out of sensible or cultural choice, don’t get put off by the party stigma that Freshers’ Week entails. Not dancing till 4am or being completely sozzled doesn’t mean that you’re missing out - there will be plenty of other options.
Non drinking freshers' events still let you explore the city and meet others. If they haven’t already been organised for you, plan a trip to the cinema, a games nights or a cook off in your halls. You could suggest a night in with your new housemates to have a mid-week rest and get to know each other a little better. Fear of missing out (FOMO) is real, but everyone needs a night off from partying.
Fresher Rules of Facebook
It's safe to say that your Facebook friends count is likely to go up in your Freshers' Week, as are your photo tags and check-ins to weird and wonderful places.
Engaging on social media can be great at university; no doubt you’re already there. If not, it's worth taking the plunge to help you stay in the know. Be sure to follow your uni and individual subject school on Facebook and Twitter too as this is a quick and easy way to find out about social events and useful Freshers’ Week tips. Another plus is that it will undoubtedly jolt your memory of people's names - for those times when you've been introduced to a 10 different people and forgotten all of their names 5 seconds later - easily done.
Beans on toast is old news - but it’s your first week and who wants limits? It’s easy to get carried away if you've just received your student loan. Before you get stuck into the excitement and before it’s too late, try to create a realistic weekly budget that’ll see you through until your next ‘payday’. Rent comes first, then food, then fun.
Cool Budgeting Apps for Students
Unless you’re going to study maths, the thought of budgeting and whipping out a calculator can be stressful to say the least. If numbers aren’t your thing, creating your own budget could potentially have a detrimental effect on your bank balance so play around with different budgeting apps to see if one works for you. Often your bank will have its own app with a budgeting tool, but otherwise, here are a few of our favourites:
Goodbudget - free unless you go for the plus version and good for use on Android and iOS
Toshl - free also and good for use on Android and iOS
Monefy - for use on Android and iOS, £0.79 but one of the more aesthetically pleasing apps.
Dabble in Part-time Work
If you make a budget and realise you’ll struggle on a weekly basis then consider getting a part-time job that can keep you in good stead. Start your search early as Freshers' Week is generally a good time for employers. Part- time employment is on the up for students, with 57% spending their salary on necessities like rent, food and bills. With plenty of opportunity to meet new people and get some experience in different professions whilst earning some all-important pocket money - it’s a no brainer if you're strapped for cash.
Remember that lots of jobs have perks too; so if you can’t go without your morning latte then maybe consider working in a café, and if it’s clothes or beauty products that you’re likely to blow your budget on, then perhaps try working in a store that will give you discount on your favourite items.
Finding work that links to your course or career of interest is a great idea; keep an eye out for your local student magazine if you're going to study journalism; if you're in the fashion game, something in retail could be perfect. Regardless of whether or not you find work that's perfectly in line with what you’re interested in, it will keep you on your toes, give you more experience and build up your CV to show that you are pro-active and a dedicated worker.
Discover your Student Perks
Embrace your student label, now you are fully entitled to all of those student deals, discounts and more. See whether Fresher passes and wristbands to nights out are cheaper than buying tickets on the door. As well as saving on the price, you could also skip the queues.
Sign up for student discount asap. An NUS card can get you money off in many many stores and restaurants; websites like Student Beans and UNiDAYS will let you know when and where you can get those special student deals too.
Open a student bank account. With different perks from different banks like money when you open your account, railcards, 0% interest on overdrafts and more – shop around and find the best one for you. Yes, 0% interest is enticing to say the least, and definitely useful when you’re a student. Be aware still that overdraft money is borrowed money so try to live within your means and you’ll have a far less stressful future.
Get savvy with your online shopping and embrace local charity shops. If you still need to buy textbooks, stationery or even another fancy dress outfit, rather than buying them brand new in the first instance, check out Amazon as well as student portals to get second hand copies of books from ex-students. These will be far cheaper and may even contain some helpful notes and scribbles too.
Smart Student Travel
To not waste money in Freshers' Week on travel; aim to sort your bus pass out before arriving as well as your National Railcard if you'll be using the train, so that you don't have to pay the standard fares.
Try to walk places or cycle - weather permitting - plus you’ll soak up more of your surroundings, the atmosphere and get your bearings a bit quicker too. If you choose to cab it home, buddy up with someone you know to cut costs on your Uber.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the excitement, and just like the holiday feeling of invincibility that you can get when you’re abroad – this can often mask reality and you should always keep your wits about you. Freshers’ Week and the return of students to a town or city is hard to miss and unfortunately, students can be easy targets. Take on these personal safety tips not only during Freshers’ Week, but also throughout your school year.
For you to feel more secure in yourself, always keep your phone charged, have your keys on you, write down your address and swap numbers with your new hall palls. Your university or accommodation is likely to mention safety in a welcome pack or to hold a video viewing on general safety, including fire hazards and how to secure your belongings. Watch them as they are created for a reason and are there to protect you.
Safety by Day
When you’re in a busy area like your Freshers’ fair, taking out cash or simply gallivanting about your new turf - only bring what you need and keep your belongings close.
If you are the eco-friendly cyclist, we applaud you, just ensure that you don’t scrimp on protective gear, your helmet, reflective clothing and lights for when it’s dark, no matter how unflattering it may be. Cycle paths are on the rise, however if you know there isn’t one on a busy road then reconsider your method of transport; above all, do not cycle under the influence.
Safety by Night
When you're going out, be it low key or in a big way - go in a group. It’s more fun, social and always on the safer side. When you’ve reached your venue, mingle by all means, but try to not stray too far from your pack. This is more easily done when you’ve had a few beverages so know your limits, keep an eye on your drink and never minesweep - if you’re out of cash, you’re out of cash.
Drinking games are often hailed as the best ice-breaker, but there are other ways. Taking it so far that you are sick in your neighbour's lap might not be the best start. Have fun but go easy and don’t get peer pressured into doing or drinking anything that you’re not comfortable with - you want to enjoy your time, and not have to recuperate for hours in bed.
When it come to travel and getting around, try to walk around with somebody in the evening, especially if you are in an unlit area and/or if you are inebriated. You are less likely to be victimised in a group, if you’re worried about ending up solo then consider carrying a rape alarm and find a taxi or form of public transport pronto.
Night buses usually run into the early hours so these can be a good option if you’re heading back late to your halls. Try to sort your bus pass out before hand to avoid fumbling around for change, buddy up with someone from your accommodation if you can, but if you end up on your own, let someone know where you are and try not to fall asleep.
That said, If you really have had one too many or if you feel lost and unsure of your surroundings - play it safe and get a licensed taxi. Cabs are cheaper when you can split the cost, but only share one with people you know and not strangers just because they’re going in the same direction. It might cost you a little more but your safety is key.
The Birds and The Bees
When it comes to sex, naturally, university is a time when more intimate relationships are likely to flourish. In your Freshers’ Week, try to focus on creating friendships - the romance can come later. But above all, play safe and don’t put yourself at risk. If you feel uncomfortable in a situation, let someone know about it so they can look out for you in the immediate instance. If that's not an option, try to take yourself out of that situation and be sure to report any unnecessary behaviour to a tutor as soon as you can.
Fresher Health and Wellness Tips
It’s important that you register with a doctor and a dentist as soon as possible as they will probably receive a huge influx of demand for new patients at the start of the year. Make yourself aware of where the local walk in centres and pharmacies are in case you need advice and can’t get an appointment. If you need urgent help but it’s not an emergency then call the NHS on 111, for all emergencies, call 999.
How to Avoid the Fresher Flu
Quite similar to the plague, Freshers' flu is the aftermath of incessant partying, late nights and booze. Symptoms include sniffling, feeling very sorry for yourself, coughing and more.
As much as alcohol acts as a social lubricant, remember that it is not necessary to have fun. There has actually been an increase in the number of tee-total students, with only 1 in 50 young adults around the London area saying they are frequent drinkers and 32% of young adults choosing not indulging at all. Alcohol is full of sugar and like everything in excess, it can be detrimental to health, your waistline and your pocket; not to mention that too much can make you vulnerable. If you’re drinking, remember to eat beforehand and to drink water in between your beers - you are not obliged to participate in every round.
Easier said than done, but go easy on take-out food - a dangerous habit which if kept up can have a damaging effect on both your body and bank balance.
You may also be likely to indulge in your first week with lots of free food on Freshers’ fair stalls and at welcome talks with accompanying buffets; try to eat real food and a colourful variety too for even more nutritional benefits. We’re not talking Skittles, but rather, try to maintain a healthy balance with lots of fruit and vegetables. Because a smoothie or raw juice never did anyone any harm.
Don't go Hangry
If you have specific dietary requirements or know that you are susceptible to sugar lows, remember to take snacks with you on your daily adventures in case you get caught out. As although most institutions will cater for everyone’s needs be they vegan, vegetarian or coeliac. Sometimes it’s not the case, and you won't want to cut your time short because of hunger or low mood (hanger).
Forest Fresher Run
To avoid the average weight gain in your first year at uni of 1-2 stone (yep) - strike a healthy balance early on and get active. Your society of choice could be hockey, rugby or salsa, and exercise in all forms is generally great for both your physical and mental health; but find out about student gym memberships too which are always far cheaper and still have all the amazing perks of swimming pools, saunas and
saucy personal trainers.
An End Note
Scared? Excited? The latter we hope. Your Freshers' Week is bound to entail some stress, frivolity and organised mess - try not to worry, go with the flow and trust our survival guide to steer you in the right direction. Hopefully you'll muster up some of the vital ingredients that we think will help you come out of Freshers' Week on the better side of things and feeling fresh. Without getting too philosophical, you will see that the best is yet to come, and afterall...
Good times become good memories and bad times become good lessons.
Fancy Fresher Facts
- There is a Mario Kart Society at the University of Essex - we know, we should have told you sooner.
- Word has it that a favourite uni meal for Alfonso Sharland from The Hoosiers was mash and tuna with Dolmio sauce – definitely food for thought.
- Even Kate Middleton revealed that she went university "To get an overall education in all aspects of life". Unfortunately we can't promise that you will meet and marry a Prince.
- For the already Princesses out there, take heed in the fact that even Princess Eugenie slummed it over her uni years in Newcastle.
Regional Student Guides
If you perchance appreciated our approach to the daunting world of a Fresher, then we also have some regional student guides that might help some of you UK students: