The first few weeks of student life can be a blur of lectures, late nights, fuzzy mornings, reading lists and repeating what A-levels you did (and where) over and over again. And then it all stops, and things become clear: you’re here, maybe a long way from home, for the next few years.
Many first year students find this period challenging, says Philip Ryland, associate dean (student experience) in the Faculty of Management at Bournemouth University, but there's a lot you can do about it.
“Uni is an important social experience,” he says. “Make the time to meet your fellow students, play sport, join clubs and societies and meet local people.”
If you’re concerned about adjusting to degree-level study, again your peers can guide you. Look for course social events – they provide opportunities to meet like-minded people and mix with students in other years.
“Students at other levels of the programme will have a better understanding of how the programme is delivered and assessed and perhaps what is expected from you,” says Ryland.
Many issues come from a lack of balance – too much (or too little) work, socialising, sleep and so on can all take their toll.
“We recommend that students do what they can to get a balance between their physical, psychological, social and academic wellbeing and to recognise that all of those things influence each other,” says Gareth Hughes, psychotherapist and researcher at the University of Derby.
It’s not necessarily about giving things up, he continues. “Many students drop hobbies or socialising when deadlines or exams approach and it’s easy to see why, but those things usually help them manage stress better and keep their energy levels up.” Look after your body, too: eat well, exercise, drink water and get the odd early night. “All have been shown to benefit academic performance,” adds Hughes.
So you’ve joined the Gin Society, done some laundry and eaten a hot meal. Anything else? Your degree, of course. Get involved, says Jack Wallington, community director at The Student Room.
“Talk to your tutors, delve into that reading list. Find the things that you really love,” he says, adding that while the weekly essay won’t always thrill you, “if you’re mixing it up with something different then it will be so much easier to stay motivated.”
Everyone gets the fresher blues in different ways, but the treatment is the same.
“Talk,” says Wallington. Speak to your friends – you may find they feel the same way and will be relieved you brought it up. Mine forums for advice, call home, or get support from your uni’s student services team.
Mainly, though, give yourself permission to feel low. Then you can start doing something about it.
“Don’t be surprised if you’re having worries or concerns; pretty much everyone does at this point,” adds Wallington. “By focusing on doing things that motivate and interest you, and by being open with the people around you, uni will soon feel like home.”