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Your parents' rose-tinted university advice will be useful, but hopelessly outdated.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.

John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing

Other places that have held independence referendums
Jonas Gutierrez (r) competes with Yaya Toure (l)

Newcastle winger is in Argentina having chemotherapy

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Blossoming love: Colin Firth as Stanley and Emma Stone as Sophie, in 'Magic in the Moonlight'

Actors star in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
We are phenomenally good at recognising faces; the study showed that humans have been selected to be unique and easily recognisable

Human faces unique 'because we don't recognise each other by smell'

Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show?
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck

Man's attempt to avoid being impounded heavily criticised

Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
The Guildhall School of Music and Drama is to offer a BA degree in Performance and Creative Enterprise

Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

Returning to the stage after 20 years makes actress feel 'nauseous'

Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Project Co-ordinator - Birmingham - Permanant

£20000 - £25000 Per Annum Plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

Year 6 Teacher

£110 - £130 per day + D.O.E - Competitive Rates: Randstad Education Maidstone:...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Teaching Assistants

£50 - £85 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Rapidly developing and growing ...

Independent Dating

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

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week