Freshers' Week: What to expect
The first week at university is normally called 'Freshers’ Week' and will be packed through with new places, new activities and new faces.
It can be a daunting time for many new students who are probably striking out on their own for the first time, but an exciting time too!
One of the main things to remember is that, however confident and ‘at home’ other new students appear, they are probably just as nervous as you. You can prepare yourself beforehand though, by being a bit organised.
For example, make sure you have a diary (If you need a new one it’s a good idea to buy an 'academic' one which runs from September to August) and take lots of passport-sized photographs!
If you’re lucky you will have been driven to your new home and will have a bit of help unpacking some of your things.
If your parents are with you, let them help but leave some things packed so that you have something left to do yourself later on.
You are unlikely to be ‘at a loose end’ anytime soon, but if you are it’s good to be busy with something. The most important things to unpack first might include toiletries, coffee/tea (ready to offer your new friends) and your laptop if you have one – and make your bed!
Once you have been left on your own leave your door open and prepare to make friends!
Hint: You might be tempted to get someone to buy you a small kettle, toaster or even a small microwave before you leave for university, especially if you are going to be in self-catering accommodation.
When my son turned up on his first day there were five kettles and four toasters in his flat, so it might be better to wait and see what’s there before anyone shells out. (What he said would have been really useful was a beer fridge!)
Freshers’ Week tends to get very busy. As well as social events provided to help people get to know each other (these can take various forms – paint-balling, ice-skating, maybe a pub quiz evening and, of course, the inevitable time spent in the local pub!) there are also official things to take care of.
For example, you will need to register (quite often you cannot get your student loan cheque before you’ve done so), meet your tutors, have a look round your department and have a guided tour of the library.
These things will probably entail quite a few queues and waiting around, but think of it as a good opportunity to meet others on your course!
All meetings organised by your course tutors/department are important to attend.
Other really important things to sort out as soon as possible include: opening a bank account if you haven’t done already (these days banks can often be found on campus); registering with a doctor and dentist; maybe getting a spare key cut for your room; making sure your belongings are insured.
Hint: Before taking out a new insurance policy, check the ‘contents policy’ you have at home as, if you have a lockable room at university (very likely in your first year, especially if you are in halls) your belongings might already be covered.
Many students have new stuff - maybe a laptop, mobile phone, iPod or games console - bought as presents for passing their exams and are a sitting target for thieves in the first few weeks. Always lock your door and window when you go out, especially if you have a ground floor room.
You will probably find that many of the social events arranged in the first week will involve many students drinking copious amounts of alcohol.
You are not obliged to drink yourself under the table (or dance on the top of it!) every night – apart from anything, you will run out of headache pills quickly, forget who you have met and what you talked about and spend more than you intended.
Apart from this, you are in a new environment and won’t yet know your way around; make sure you always have a campus/town map with you and the number of a reputable taxi firm (ask at the Student Union) programmed into your phone.
Hint: Make sure you have budgeted properly. When you get your loan cheque, divide the amount by the number of weeks in the term and try to stick to it.
You might need to ‘front load’ the first couple of weeks as you’ll probably be socialising quite a bit but, especially if you are in self-catered accommodation, you might also have to stock up on things like tea and coffee, washing up liquid (who knows!?) and stationery items. You may want to check out our Tips For Staying Healthy At University to make sure you eat a balanced diet throughout your studies.
Freshers’ Fair – at some point during your first week you will be invited to the Freshers’ Fair. This is normally held in a large building (perhaps a sports hall) and there will be lots of stalls trying to sign you up for clubs and societies – music, sports clubs, hobbies, religious groups and so on.
This is your chance to continue with something you have done before (and meet people with the same interests) or to try something totally new.
As mentioned before, you will need to budget carefully, but the best laid plans sometimes don’t work out and you may need to think about getting some paid work. Freshers’ Week is the time to sort this out, for several reasons.
Second and third year students might not have returned to the university/town in the first few days; they already know the area and will know about likely job opportunities, so it’s your chance to get in first! It’s always a case of ‘first come first served’ when it comes to jobs on campus too.
Your student union, or careers service, will probably run a ‘job shop’ with opportunities to get some paid work maybe in the library, sports centre, union shop, union bar (very popular as you will still be seeing a lot of friends, but from behind the bar your social life is being paid!) and catering outlets.
Hint: It’s always a good idea to get to know the people in the careers service as they might also be informed of vacation work for students.
One or two universities actively discourage term-time working, but even those who accept that it happens would suggest no more than 15 hours per week, as more than that would affect your studies.
All in all, Freshers' Week is an exciting introduction to your life at university.
You will probably forget more names and faces than you remember and even forget what day it is!
You will no doubt be a bit overwhelmed by it all and (however independent you think you are) even be a bit homesick.
Everyone is in the same boat though and it’s a really good opportunity to meet people and probably make friends for life. Have fun, and check out our Freshers' Week Survival Tips for more help on getting through your first week at university.