Freshers' Guide: 17 things you need to know

The things to do - and not to do - during freshers' week

Freshers' week is, no doubt, already an event in your diary that you don't want to miss. It's a time of fun, frivolity, frolics; however, it is also a time of organisation, observation and order. Here are 17 things to remember to make your freshers' week fun and productive...

1. First impressions are everything
Of course you’re expected to have fun, but during Freshers’ week (or Freshers’ Fortnight if you’re lucky enough!) don’t have so much fun that you forget who you are. You don’t want to spend the rest of your university life being known as the person who woke up in a bin on their second day.

2.  Knowing your way around town is key
Get to know your new university town. Unions or halls reps will organise bar and pub crawls for first years, which will take you to the best student places around. It’s no harm to ask older students or graduates – or even non-students who live there – what places they recommend in the local area. The more places you know, the more fun you are to hang out with.

3. Join a university club or society
Never underestimate the usefulness of joining a society or a club. University is full of amazing social clubs you just won’t find anywhere else once you leave – it’s like Brownies and Scouts all over again! But better! It’s a great way to meet people, to find hobbies or pick up new skills. Sign up to as many that sound interesting but be realistic with the amount of time you have and don’t forget you need to actually… You know, study.

4. Make your room yours
Buy a plant and a poster at the Freshers’ Fair, or take some home comforts with you. Whether you’re staying in halls or you’re in a student house, you want to make sure that your room is a positive environment for you to work, sleep and socialise in. Plants especially are a great way to keep a room feeling fresh.

5. Don’t forget your family
If this is your first time away from home you can guarantee that your parents will worry about you. Are you making friends? Are you enjoying it? Are you keeping up with assignments? These are things your parents want to know. Don’t forget to check in with them every now and then and let them know what you’re up to – though you can probably leave out the bit about waking up in a bin.

6. Check out your course reading list
Look at what sort of things you’re expected to read. But don’t buy all of them! Some of them will be useful for different modules and some will only be useful for one. If in doubt, your tutors will be able to tell you which books are absolute must-haves for the course. It’s not expected that you’ll read them during freshers’ week, but it’s good to be aware of the content you’ll be studying.

7. Look after your stuff
Freshers’ week is a daunting time and as such it’s pretty much a free-for-all for thieves as students wander around in a daze. Make sure you shut your windows and lock your doors before you go out. It gets crowded at the freshers’ fair, so use closable bags and keep valuables out of sight. If straying away from campus, plan your routes and avoid the more dodgy parts of town.

8. Go to the freshers’ ball
The ball is one of the highlights of your first year – everyone will be there, so it’s a great chance to go out with your flatmates and course mates. Not to mention that some freshers’ balls have some excellent sources of entertainment – think fairground rides, washed-up pop stars, foam parties and fancy dress.

9. Take care of yourself
Freshers’ flu – a particularly persistent and horrid kind of cold/cough/flu – is rife around this time of year. New people, new environment, and a demanding social schedule can mean that your immune system is more susceptible to getting a small illness that can ruin your fun. If you feel a little bit peaky, try taking vitamin C to bolster your immune system – or if you’re really feeling drained, take a multi-vitamin tablet daily. However, if all else fails…

10. Sign up to a doctor as soon as possible
First-time students often forget to sign up to a local doctor when they get to university. It seems like a drag, but it’s something to prioritise – the last thing you want to do if you feel unwell is traipse around trying to find a good doctor’s surgery to sign up to. Your union can help you, or use the NHS website. It’s also worth checking out where your nearest pharmacy is – if you get prescriptions from your doctor you need to know where you can get them from easily.

11. Open a student bank account
Lots of banks offer student accounts with various perks, so figure out which one is the best for you and open it. If you already have a bank account, you should be able to change it to a student one – just pop into the local branch and have a word. Money Saving Expert compares deals for students offered by all major banks.

12. Volunteer
Again, another great way to meet people, potentially learn new skills (or develop old ones!) and feel good about giving something back. Most student unions have a volunteering arm. If not, do-it.org.uk is a great database you can search to find volunteering opportunities near you.

13. Free things - take them all
During freshers’ week, people will be practically throwing their branded stuff at you. Take it all. Say thank you. You never know when that pen/t-shirt/keyring/torch might come in handy. And food like pasta sauce, pasta or baked beans are always good to have in the back of the cupboard in case poverty strikes. You’ll be really pleased you did a few weeks down the line, when your first maintenance loan instalment is but a distant memory.

14. Be open-minded about others
Everyone’s nervous and most importantly, everyone is in the same boat when it comes to starting university. Be open-minded – even if someone doesn’t seem like your kind of person, give them a chance. They could be the most interesting person you meet all year.

15. Sign up for free-choice modules early
Whether you want to get a taster of another subject you’re interested in, boost your marks with something you know that you’re good at, or improve your foreign language skills, the free-choice module offered by many universities represent an opportunity. Sign up early and you won’t be disappointed when your module is oversubscribed.

16. Learn to budget
Simple, but so many forget to do it. By the end of the first term you may find yourself living on baked beans and toast as you spend too much of your money having fun and going out. Some people find setting up an excel spreadsheet helps. Some find the ‘iron budget’ simpler – go out with a set amount of cash and no cards.

17. Try new stuff
University is one of those times in life when you’re supposed to experiment and find out what makes you tick. Why not try something you’ve never even considered before – join a crazy-sounding society or get a group of friends together to do a fun activity like surfing or zorbing.

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