Student life: How to survive your first term at uni

Your parents' rose-tinted university advice will be useful, but hopelessly outdated. Here's what you really need to know…

You are going to end up showered with unsolicited advice for the next few months from wistful adults wishing it was they who were about to go to university for the first time. You'd do well to ignore them and follow our advice instead.

Hair of the dog is not actually a workable solution

You will probably be spending an astonishing amount of your time drinking in your first term. That's fine, as nobody will bat an eyelid, but do remember to take a few nights off. Fun as it can be, not every social activity is improved by alcohol, and the more you drink, the worse your mornings will feel. What's more, Freshers' flu is very real and equally gross: too many hangovers will wreck your immune system and without the proper amounts of beauty sleep you'll succumb to it.

The friends you make first aren't the friends you're stuck with

You're all thrown together when you move in to halls, and it's natural that you'll fall in with the people you meet first. Don't despair if your neighbours turn out to be weirdos – you'll meet many more people later on, and chances are you'll be able to give the real ale bore next door the slip within weeks. While we're at it, your home friends aren't going anywhere, and they're OK to ignore for now. You'll still see them at Christmas – this term should be about breaking new ground.

Sports clubs are full of predators – and freshers are their quarry

Don't be fooled by the welcoming smiles of those sports club recruiters at the Freshers' Fair: first years are their prey. Expect to face brutal tests – mostly involving booze and cross-dressing – before you earn your stripes.

Of course, if sport is your thing, clubs are absolutely the best way to get stuck in. You'll make friends for life – largely of the kind forged by puking into the same bucket at once. Still, you might even get some exercise done between hangovers.

Do not leave your work until the absolute last minute

This isn't what you want to hear right now, but amid all the revelry, you do still have a degree to get. As with everything in this world, the right work-life balance is up to you, but indulging in too much of either will catch up with you in the end. If you save all your essays up until the last minute, your last two weeks of term are going to be rotten. On the other hand, try not to spend every waking hour in the library fretting about a first until your final year.

You will not have as much sex as you might be hoping for

Freshers' Week, as everyone knows, is a roiling hotbed of constant, regrettable sexual activity. Except, of course, that it's not. This isn't San Francisco in 1969 – it's Leeds in 2013, and it's probably raining.

You may well get lucky, but university isn't wall-to-wall sex parties. The usual advice applies: girl or boy, on a night out, make sure you have at least one condom, because STIs are real and morning-after pills pricy. And try not to be too horrible to your new friend the day after – chances are you'll be sharing halls, lectures and nightclub queues with them for the next three years.

Don't buy any new books unless you really have to

Most courses require you to buy textbooks practically by the tonne, and new ones are bewilderingly expensive. The library will have loads of copies of most core textbooks, and the librarian should be able to order more. Last year's students will also be only too happy to offload their old books on the cheap. Buddy up to some oldies at the faculty, and check the subject message boards or even your local Freecycle chapter – and you can save yourself vast sums.

Eat a salad once in a while

Americans call it "the freshman 15": that sudden switch into a booze-rich lifestyle of intense partying and long lie-ins plays havoc with any previously trim waistline.

The freedom of living alone for the first time is also the freedom to devour chips every day, and those dastardly burger vans do park themselves tantalisingly on the way back to halls, don't they? You can limit the damage by steering as clear as possible of the carb-heavy canteen catering and, well, getting up off your arse every now and again.

Try not to spend your entire loan in the first two weeks

You will go out a lot. In fact, you might never party as hard again in your life, but it's an expensive business, and costs mount up – even at student union prices. This is probably the first time you've ever had thousands of pounds lying around in your bank account, and the temptation to go large will be hard to resist.

You owe it to yourself to be sensible. You'll still have to feed yourself in 10 weeks' time, when tonight's 18th woo woo will be a distant, tacky memory and you've only got bread crusts to toast.

Societies can be fun – but they're often rubbish

Do – absolutely do – visit the Freshers' Fair. The amount of free swag from companies and clubs desperate for your patronage will keep you in branded keyrings for life.

Don't go mad and sign up for everything, though, because that's an invitation for, say, the clay pigeon society to spam you until the end of time. By all means follow your interests, but be judicious.

Freshers' Week is never going to be the best week of your life

We'll let you into a secret: Freshers' Week is not the most fun you'll ever have. Of course it's great to meet new people and get up to no good, but if strawpedos and sexy astronaut theme parties aren't your bag, fret not.

Don't drink if you're not feeling it – there are bound be plenty of quieter mixers, too, and nobody will think any the less of you if you aren't the clubbing type.

Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Arts and Entertainment
Al Pacino in ‘The Humbling’, as an ageing actor
filmHam among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
News
Fifi Trixibelle Geldof with her mother, Paula Yates, in 1985
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Mario Balotelli in action during his Liverpool debut
football ...but he can't get on the scoresheet in impressive debut
Environment
Pigeons have been found with traces of cocaine and painkillers in their system
environmentCan species be 'de-extincted'?
Arts and Entertainment
booksExclusive extract from Howard Jacobson’s acclaimed new novel
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
A Pilgrim’s Progress is described by its publisher as “the one-and-only definitive record” of David Hockney's life and works
people
Sport
Loic Remy signs for Chelsea
footballBlues wrap up deal on the eve of the transfer window
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Art
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth McGovern as Cora, Countess of Grantham and Richard E Grant as Simon Bricker
TV
Life and Style
Instagram daredevils get thousands of followers
techMeet the daredevil photographers redefining urban exploration with death-defying stunts
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard, nicknamed by the press as 'Dirty Diana'
TVDaughter says contestant was manipulated 'to boost ratings'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Early Years Teacher

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Early Years supply teachers neede...

KS2 Teacher required from October

£90 - £120 per annum: Randstad Education Hull: Key Stage 2 Supply Teacher requ...

Maths Teacher

£85 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: randstad education require a ...

SEN Teacher - Hull

Negotiable: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education are recruiting for spe...

Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor