Listen up, freshers! Here’s all the best advice from finalists

Learn from our mistakes

Your first year of university is supposed to be the best year of your life. It’s the year when none of your work counts, you can get ridiculously drunk, make a load of new friends and avoid all responsibility.

But despite this, first year can be really daunting for some people. It’s an overwhelming experience, and it can feel like you have so much to learn. So we’ve done all the hard work for you and gathered all the best advice from finalists who have been through it all.

So without further ado, here’s everything you need to know from housing to friendships and everything in-between! (split into organised categories, so at least one part of your life is completely sorted.)

Advice on social life:

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Go clubbing loads while you have no work! If you want to visit friends from other universities, make sure you do it before you have deadlines and things get too stressful, or you’ll regret not going when you could. Also, don’t worry if you put on a bit of weight in first year, everyone does. – Miriam, Nottingham University

Stay true to yourself. You will meet a variety of people at university, some people who are quite different and may do things that you have never done before. Don’t feel pressured to change for others, as you may find that you change as a person and that can end up being quite upsetting. – Ben, Warwick University

Anxiety at University is really hard to deal with. My best advice is to make sure you are open and talk about it, especially at university when you are away from family (who you would usually speak to). It is important you find people that you feel comfortable talking to about it as holding it all in is honestly the worst and doubles the anxious thoughts. Also, mindfulness is really good to do in the morning as it leaves you in a positive mindset for the day and takes away the anxious thoughts to an extent – Yael, Nottingham University

Everyone tells you to be single in first year and pull all the time, which a lot of people enjoy doing, but I would say that you shouldn’t feel like you have to be single to enjoy university. I met my girlfriend half way through first year and we’ve been together ever since, and to be honest, I would never look back and wish I was single in that time – Alex, Warwick University

Never be embarrassed and just be fully you all the time. Don’t worry about how you’re acting in front of people and don’t be embarrassed talking about things you are interested in or being kind of weird because you’ll find people who have the same interests – Georgie, Leeds University.

University is an experience that you won’t have again and as a fresher everyone is in the same boat. Have as much fun as you can partying and have the time of your lives getting drunk while you are still young! Enjoy every moment! – Gabby, Leeds University

Advice on accommodation/housing:

If you don’t like your accommodation, try to change it early and be proactive while it’s still possible. Don’t be in too much of a hurry to decide who you want to live with. If you don’t like what you are studying, it may be worth switching degrees. It may be a hassle but it’s worth it if you end up doing something you love – AJ, Newcastle University

When you are looking for housing for second year (which you should look into early), talk to the tenants who live there because they will tell you the truth about what it is like! Also, make sure you get a house with a good agency, as some won’t help with even the worst of problems, like mould! – Shivani, Warwick University

Advice on work:

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As an international student, we have the whole visa issue, so I would highly recommend freshers to look for spring internships so they can secure a job by the end of their degree! Also, travel a lot! It’s way cheaper when you are in the UK rather than from back home (flights). Finally, make sure you mingle as it is good to have different friends as an international student; don’t stick with the same people! – Maryum, Warwick University

Get a job first year because it doesn’t count so earn money and gain experience while you can. If you have the time, it’ll help take the stress off when you are in third year and trying to figure out what to do with your life – Natalie, Birmingham University

Work hard but don’t work 24/7 like I did because it doesn’t count. If I could go back, I definitely wouldn’t have worked as hard and I would’ve cut myself some slack. So if you feel yourself wanting to stay in to work, remember that you have two more years to do that! – Iva, Warwick University

Advice on friends:

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Don’t stress if you don’t get along with people straight away and don’t force friendships with people you don’t necessarily get along with – you’ll find your people even if it doesn’t happen straight away – Danielle, Leeds University

A really fun idea that my flatmates and I came up with is to pick a recipe that you want to try together and cook once a week as a flat. I found it really helped us spend time together and learn how to cook! – Amy, Warwick University

If you’ve come to university with people from your school, make sure you still branch out and socialise with others – don’t close yourself off or limit yourself to friends you already have. I had bad experiences with sticking to school people, and while it’s a source of comfort in the early stages of university (and it’s obviously good to keep in touch), university is about meeting a variety of people from different backgrounds – Rakhee, Warwick University

Don’t panic about finding your best friends in the first few weeks, have fun and the right people will find you as the year goes on – Claudia, Warwick University

Advice on uni life:

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Don’t trust people too easily. I came to university with no friends from school (the typical ‘I don’t follow the crowd’ mentality), and I really tried to get along with my flatmates because they’re the first people you meet. You can be so worried about making a good impression that you forget that these people are strangers and may not always have the best of intentions. Mine were really nice at first but first impressions can be deceiving. I was caught out and, if I’m being honest, it did affect my happiness and self-confidence at the time. That’s not to say that you won’t find good friends in your flatmates (I have been living with one of the only nice ones for three beautiful years now!), but what I am saying is not to rely on your flatmates too much and branch out! Also, don’t make the kitchen messy – some people will downright hate you for it – Darcey Strauss

Make an effort to actually go to your lectures and keep it up otherwise it becomes way too easy not to go. Also, keep up with deadlines and try to submit work at least a day before to account for IT issues or in case you have something else to do – Hana, Warwick University

Make friends on your course. It’s so helpful for deadlines and exam revision. Don’t go to the 2nd floor of the library ever if you want to get work done. There are always productive study areas around campus, just ask around. Take care of yourself – your physical, mental and spiritual health. Also, meal prep as much as possible and eat healthily, eating takeaways all the time will kill your bank account and kill you. Student loan isn’t your money, don’t forget! – Chiddy, Warwick University

Join a society and go to their socials, even if it seems really intimidating at first! You’ll be surprised with how many friends you make, across a range of courses and year groups. It gives you a reason to leave the flat for something other than work and allows you to branch out! – Rhiannon, Warwick University

Don’t be afraid to ask questions in lectures/seminars and make sure you are consistent with work. If you have plans, make sure you get your work done earlier so you aren’t feeling guilty for going out. The years go quick, so make the most of it! – Ellie, Queen Mary University

I wish I knew how important it was to study before a lecture or seminar. I study languages, and I never read up on content before the class; I always felt like I was behind because of it – Rishi, Warwick University

Try everything your university has to offer! Try different nights out, hang out with different groups of people, try out various sports clubs, different societies, try new places too! Once you have tried everything you can decide what you like as there’s nothing to lose and you may end up finding something you love – Zak, Warwick University

Get involved in politics and liberation societies that you are passionate about, there are wonderful people involved and they make a real difference on campus! – Fraser, Warwick University

Make one day of your week a personal development day, don’t be afraid to ask for help and use your tutor time! Also, keep an eye out for funding opportunities for creatives – Lanaire, Warwick University

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And there you have it! All the crucial advice you need to survive and thrive as a fresher and beyond!

Good luck, go nuts and remember to have fun!