The Classic ‘Freshers’ Advice’ Article
Armed with newly completed A-Levels, the eager fresher embraces the excitement of first-time independence. However, the dread and the joy does not necessarily divide the freshers because for many, despite the excitement of a new chapter in their life, they can see beyond freshers’ week and recognise the challenges that university life can deliver.
If you are one of those ambivalent first years, you may be put at ease since a few fellow students have had the joy of my probing and I can now address current queries and concerns that you too may be dwelling over:
“How do I manage a work-life balance?”
I am not advocating that you jeopardize your education but I will wholeheartedly endorse the opportunity to get involved with as much as you can. As I’m sure you will already know, your grade from first year does not count towards your final grade, granted that you pass. Use this time to join a society – try something new or continue a hobby that you love. Head to the freshers’ fair in September because it’s a fantastic way to see what the Student Union has to offer (plus lots of freebies).
If you do attend the fair you are more than likely to pick up an academic wall calendar. Use this. As mentioned, first year is the only time you can afford to be lax with your studies so if you do what to keep super busy the calendar is an easy way to keep on top of it all. Mark your deadline in one colour and extra activities in another – balance is key and if you can virtualize your time you are less likely to become overwhelmed.
“What can I expect from the academic side?”
Social life at uni is raved about, but seldom are we told about what day-to-day life is like when studying for a degree.
Expect: making friends in the smaller sessions, you will see them every week and it makes it more enjoyable to have someone to discuss work with.
Expect: to miss a few lectures. Don’t beat yourself up and definitely don’t make it a habit. Just make sure you catch up.
Expect: deadlines. If you’re struggling with the balance you may find these piling up – speak to someone if organization isn’t your forte but do be prepared for regular dates in your calendar.
“How do I make friends?”
I wouldn’t worry about this one too much because first year tends to be fairly social. You have so many opportunities to make friends. In the first instance, the easiest way is through your flat mates because you spend so much time together. However, for many you just might not click with the people you live with. You shouldn’t let this worry you as frustrating as it may be but you do have to put yourself out there and be confident (fake it ‘til you make it). A personal regret of mine from being a fresher was not making the effort to build friendships on my course – few contact hours meant putting the effort in but once you begin it opens so many doors. Whether you want a small circle or desire the BNOC status – get involved and you will meet many characters. Don’t forget: you can pick and choose your mates.
“How do I prevent feeling homesick?”
So you have downed a few fat frogs, acquired miscellaneous fancy dress pieces and had your first passive aggressive sticky note over dirty dishes. You have settled in to the life of a student but when the madness starts to mellow, you may begin to miss family and simple home comforts. I can’t speak for everyone, but many will agree that homesickness is inevitable so let’s be prepared for that hungover Tuesday when all you want is your dog:
- Tidy your room and make it cosy. It’s easy to neglect your space but fluffy cushions, throws and fairy lights can make such a difference. Even treating yourself to a heater for the chilly winter mornings can make it easier.
- Dust off the recipe book and teach yourself how to make your favourite comfort food like mum does – better yet, get the friends together and make a big roast dinner!
- Talk about it. Chat to a friend and let them know you feel low because bottling it up never did anyone any favours and chances are they have felt exactly the same
- Following that, home is only a phone call away after all. They will be delighted to hear how you’re getting on and they will be the first people to reassure you how well you’re doing.
As a final reassurance, it will pass before you know it.
Despite receiving questions in abundance regarding first year advice, this article has been kept minimal to prevent dwelling on the worries that surround the move to university. Advice is incredibly reassuring but the best way to tackle university is to force yourself out the comfort zone. I managed to ask friends who have surpassed university years and they are advocates for this mindset since they all share the same regret of worrying too much. University life is exactly what you make it, even the hardest times are invaluable lessons so cherish the laughs and roll with the punches.