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How to Survive the First Year of Uni (Some Tips From an Almost 2nd Year)

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Tilly is currently an undergraduate student studying Neuropsychology at university.

Okay, so you're about to go to university (I know, scary right!) for the majority of you this will be the first time leaving home. It was definitely mine. One day you're collecting exam results and the next you're 200 miles away with a shiny new student badge and no parents. Don't worry. It isn't as scary as it sounds and with these few tips I will hopefully make it even less scary (believe me, I was terrified!)


Let's Start With Money

One of my main concerns for when I got to Uni was how I was going to budget. As someone who had never had more than £200 in my bank account, to suddenly see an extra £2000 kindly deposited by student finance was both scary and the best feeling ever, because in my head I had just become rich (spoiler alert: I wasn't).

So, here is my short list of how to deal with that chunk of cash in a responsible way!

  1. Don't spend it all in freshers week. It is very tempting to turn up at Uni and have a week full of outrageous nights out with a group of people you will probably never meet again, and think nothing of it. Why wouldn't you? You're rich now remember! However, this is not a good idea. Sure, go out, meet new people, have a good time, but make sure you keep track of that bank balance. When it gets to Christmas and you've only got £20 for a week's worth of food, the flat party and a train home you'll regret it!
  2. Don't forget the rent! This is something I am particularly guilty of. As soon as my loan comes in I'm busy buying everything in sight which is why it always comes as a shock when after 3 days I appear to have spent over £1000. Don't worry, that's just the rent. That lovely chunk of money that leaves your bank account every semester. This adult thing is hard, right?
  3. Own brand food won't poison you. I know it looks ominous in its non-colourful, plain and unappetising packaging but believe me, it won't kill you. Okay so there is the odd brand of food I still insist on buying (ahem, beans) but normally the own brand food is just as good and 3 times cheaper. I mean who wants £2 peanut butter when you can get it for 38p and it tastes just as nice?
  4. Use the freezer. I freeze everything. fish, veg, sauces, potato smiley faces (a staple of my diet) and even bread. believe me, you will save a lot of money by freezing your perishable food. It is also the best feeling when you have just walked home from your lecture in the rain and all you have to do is stick some soup in the microwave.
  5. call your parents. So here is my final money tip. Call your parents. It doesn't have to be every day or even every other day but keep in contact. Chances are they are worried about you and they will love to hear about your day. Also, you are gonna run out of money eventually. It happens. I have found that the bank of mum and dad are a lot more generous when you don't only call when you need something.

The Social Side

There are two types of people who can be spotted on the first day of Uni. The socialite, talking to every new person they meet and quickly making friends, and the shy ones who hang back and don't know who to talk to. Both of these are fine. Being social and quick to make friends is great but there's nothing wrong with being nervous around new people (I certainly was on the first day). The people you make friends with here are likely to still be with you in 30 years time, so here is your guide on how to meet those long-term besties.

  1. Talk to your flatmates. Chances are you won't like all of them, you might only like one of them but you won't know unless you talk to them! Have a flat meal or a games night, tell everyone about yourself and learn about what interests you share. If you don't like them that's fine but remember you're going to be living with them for a year, you will bump into them at some point so why not break the ice at the start?
  2. Find someone to sit with. For me, this didn't happen for at least 3 weeks into semester 1. I was quite content sitting by myself in lectures for a while and this may suit you just fine, but it's always helpful to have a friend. Talk to the person across from you, ask if you can sit next to someone etc. It really comes in helpful around exam time when you need someone to study with, and chances are they want someone to next to as well.
  3. Get involved in freshers week. I myself am a particularly shy person when meeting new people (that, however, changes drastically when you get to know me) but I found it really helpful meeting new people in the first week. Despite the stereotypes, freshers week is not all about drinking! There are plenty of other activities going on, so pop down to your department's games night or coffee morning and get to know some folks.
  4. FaceTime your friends at home. For most people, your childhood best friend is 200 miles away and missing you just as much as you miss them. I know you probably text every day, or Snapchat or the likes but give them a quick video call if you have a spare 10 minutes. Believe me, it helps. Just because you're in a new place it doesn't mean you have to forget the old one. So call your friends, tell them how it's going, show them your room. It will likely cheer both of you up.
  5. Join a society. Societies are great. There's everything from music to debating to Quidditch. Find one you like and go along to their taster session. You will probably meet someone with very close interests to your own. It also makes for a great revision break on those days where you feel swamped in work.
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The Workload

Ah yes. The dreaded workload. Firstly, don't panic, you can do this! You've already done the hardest bit by getting into Uni and seriously, it's not as bad as it seems. Just follow these simple tips:

  1. Write your notes up after your lectures. I have got into the terrible habit of saying "I'll do it later". It doesn't work, I never do it later and suddenly you reach January exams and find yourself writing up 3 months worth of lecture notes. Do yourself a favour and do them on the same day.
  2. Find your perfect study place. Most student halls have a desk in each room but some of them (like mine) aren't used for work. My desk currently has a pile of plates and textbooks scattered across it. This is fine, some people can't work on their desk just as some people can't work in the library. Find a place that works for you whether it is your room, the library, a coffee shop or your flatmate's bed at 2 am with pizza. It doesn't matter where it is along as it works for you.
  3. ALL NIGHTERS ARE NOT WORTH IT. This is something I engage in far too much. If I have an essay in at 9 am on a Monday morning, chances are my hand in timestamp will read between 2 and 4 am. Believe me, as much as your lecturers may enjoy seeing the wacky times their students' essays are submitted it isn't worth the lack of sleep. If you struggle to work without pressure make an earlier deadline for yourself and commit to submitting it by then. You'll thank yourself in the morning.
  4. Remeber, you're new. Your lecturers completely understand that this is new to you, they don't expect you to know everything and they will completely understand if you need help. send them an email, attend a drop-in session, and don't be afraid to admit that you're struggling. There have been several occasions where I have spent days worrying about an issue that could have been solved with a quick email to my lecturer.
  5. Your personal tutor is your friend. Anything you need, whether it be family issues, work issues, you think you might fail, you don't know how to solve a problem or your boyfriend broke up with you and you just need to talk to someone they are there. My personal tutor was incredible. Get to know yours, they are there to help you so even if you just pop in to say hello, go and find them and make yourself known.


So there you are folks, your 15 tips for first-year success. This year will be amazing and it goes very quickly so make the best of it, take photos, say yes, and good luck!

© 2018 Scott


Scott (author) from Wales on May 12, 2018:

Okay so I hand write my notes but that’s just my personal preference. If you don’t mind typing then I would do them on a laptop so you have a record of them, or even just photograph your handwritten ones!

Sally on May 12, 2018:

Thank you for the tips!! For writing up notes: would you suggest doing it on a computer or handwritten ?? only bc I'm such a mess my handwritten notes get everywhere

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