student life

7 tips for surviving your first year at university

When people talk about surviving the first year at university, there are two stances they could be taking; The first is surviving academically, as in ensuring that you pass your first year and get

When people talk about surviving the first year at university, there are two stances they could be taking; The first is surviving academically, as in ensuring that you pass your first year and get a good grounding for the next two (or more) years of your education. The second is surviving, full stop. One of these is more common than the other. We’ll leave you to figure out which. Fear not, Kettle Mag is here with some tips to help you survive the first year physically, socially, financially and academically.

Get involved

Get involved is the first tip that anyone who has experienced university will share. Go mad at the Fresher’s Fair, sign up for anything and everything;  Ultimate Frisbee? Sure! Baking Club? Why not? Ironing society? Er….

Many  clubs and societies will allow you to try one or two taster sessions for free before paying membership. Unless you are superhuman, you will only stick solidly to one or two activities and dip in and out of others. Not only will you meet lots of new people, you will learn new skills to fill the blank space on your CV (so knitting may not be the most highly sought after skill for anyone hoping for a graduate job in finance, but it’s a start).

Getting involved also stretches to other social situations; if your new flatmates invite you down the pub, join them, no matter how much you want to stay in your room and cry. Even if you don’t get along with them (very unlikely – most people find that their first year flatmates remain their closest friends at university), at least you’ll know where the pub is for next time!

Do the work

One of the most common mantras amongst first year students is that the first year doesn’t count towards your final degree result, so the work doesn’t matter. Increasingly this is becoming less common (please check on your own course and don’t take our word for it- we can be held responsible for many things, but your academic shortcomings is not one of them). But even if your work doesn’t count, it doesn’t get you off the hook for doing it – if it wasn’t necessary, there would be no reason for first year to exist (some may argue that it is an opportunity for universities to squeeze another years worth of fees from eager young academics. We’re not that cynical.)

What I am about to say is the most patronising and condescending thing I have ever written, but it’s true so I’m going to say it anyway; if you don’t put any effort into your work in first year, you will regret it later. Specifically, in the final weeks of 3rd year, when you are approaching your 39th solid hour in the library, the guy next to you is chomping noisily on pizza like he hasn’t a care in the world, and you suddenly realise that the textbook you’ve spent the last 18 days pouring over seems familiar. Oh yeah, it was the introductory one you were meant to read in Fresher’s week. The one that, had you just got on and read it at the time, would have provided you with the knowledge needed to make the last 3 years of lectures make sense.

Fancy dress

Pack fancy dress outfits. Lots of them. Enough said really. It need not be gender specific – in fact drag is much preferred in certain situations – but fancy dress is an absolute staple of student life. School uniform will likely crop up at least once during Fresher’s events (despite the real thing being in the very recent past of most attendees).  Superhero and animal outfits  cover a multitude of themes.

Remeber your address

Always have your address written on a label and attached to you at all times. It’s a confusing time. Most people end up living in 3 different student residences within 3 years. Couple that with holidays at home, the different friends you will go to visit during the summer, and the impromptu weekends spent at other universities, and nobody would blame you if you didn’t know where you lived. It doesn’t matter if you’ve just downed  12 pints, 8 tequila shots and 3 cocktails (don’t do that), repeat after me: It is the confusion, NOT the alcohol, that is to blame for the fact that you no longer know where you live. Or what you study. Or your name. Simply whip out the aforementioned address label and any decent taxi driver will recognise you for the poor, lost soul you are, and have you home in a mere jiffy. *

Have a plan

This goes for everything – trips home are cheaper when you book in advance, assignments tend to emit a red mist when left until hours before deadline, and the job market isn’t getting any friendlier.  Get experience while you can!

Student discount

Use your student discount. It is a beautiful power you have, the envy of non-students and graduates everywhere. There are days when all graduates regret giving up the discount for the sake of the degree certificate. A degree certificate doesn’t get you any money off in Topshop, and these days it rarely gets you a job either. I know which one I’d choose…

Stop Look Listen

Remember the Green Cross Code.  This one comes under the “Survival, full stop” heading.

*Ensure you switch labels when you go home for the holidays or you could end up with a rather hefty taxi fare for a 300 mile round trip.