Welcome to Studentpad’s official Freshers’ Guide to university. On the following pages you will find everything you need to know for a stress-free start into your new student life. It will provide you with helpful advice and useful tips: from what to think of when you register for the first time and to what you need to bring when you move into your new student accommodation.
All it takes for a successful start into uni life is a little planning and a few preparations. Our suggestions will help you with that, so you can enjoy your time at university to the fullest.
Some General Remarks
The first thing you need to be aware of: both college and university are very different from school. Many of the routines you might be used to will not apply to your new environment. From now on you will have to manage and organise most of your workload on your own. This comes with a lot of freedom in how to schedule your week, but also makes you ultimately responsible for the course and success of your studies. University life can be a lot of fun. However, completing a degree is a lot of hard work. Keeping this simple fact in the back of your mind will help you to find the right balance between student recreation and the fulfilment of academic commitments.
Many of you will study at a new geographical location as well. It is pretty exciting to leave your family home and move into a new area, new surroundings, new daily routines and new faces; you will have to process a lot of changes in a very brief period of time. Especially finding, securing and enjoying student accommodation that suits all your needs; this is an integral part of this transition into student life. You should do some research on student housing in advance and arrange room viewings before the semester officially starts. Ideally, you are already done with moving before your first class takes place.
As in the case of your academic work, living on your own or with friends brings a lot of freedom and responsibilities. Managing your own household can be quite time-consuming, since you have to consider a long list of issues; these range from cleaning your place, bill payments through to keeping your fridge filled. Accurate planning can do some wonders in this respect, too.
The first step for every new student is registering at university. Admittedly, this is not the most exciting part of your first week as a student, as it often involves standing in long queues for hours before things get done. Nevertheless, going through the whole procedure is absolutely crucial for a smooth transition. And it usually does not involve any active participation on your part, except for being present, answering some simple questions and occasionally signing some documents.
First thing you want to do is to find out where and when exactly registration takes place. You do not want to miss any important dates while roaming the campus confused and disoriented. Check your university or departmental website for any information before you arrive on registration day. At what time you have to show up often depends on the first letter of your last name (e.g. A-H in the morning, I-Z in the afternoon). Plan your arrival at university accordingly. Do not forget to bring your ID as well as the university letter of admission (i.e. the document that says that you were accepted to study a particular course) as this proves your identification.
At registration, you will receive documents that are essential for your survival, as long as you are a student that is: your student ID card, a certificate of enrolment, and your union card. The student office staff will take a picture of you and create your personal student ID on site (at some universities you have to hand in a snapshot of you beforehand). Once you have these cards, you are officially in the club. If you were able to secure a grant or bursary, you will probably arrange any payment procedures at this point as well.
Your student card will serve for your identification, grant you access to most university facilities and enable you to borrow books from the library. Moreover, it entitles you to various student discounts, such as student rail cards, museum fares, but also reductions in some nightclubs and shops. Hence it becomes your most important uni-related item for the next three years.
After registration, take some time to explore your campus. Try to find out where the most important facilities are. Places you may want to go to first are your department, the library and the students’ union building. Especially the students’ union building as this will probably become a central place in your daily university routine, both between and after lectures. It often provides lounge areas, shops, offices for student issues, cafes and bars.
Though you will spend most of your time on campus, you should try to learn more about the city or town of where you are based from now on. It is great to learn more about new places and the people living there. What sights does your area offer? What else is there in the immediate region? Museums, theatres and concert halls provide you with good options for catching some distraction. The same applies to sport clubs, cinemas and shopping opportunities. You can also check out what nightlife looks like and whether there are any popular pubs or clubs.
Application & Registration Checklist
Universities and student unions usually organise welcoming events, subsumed under the infamous “Freshers’ Week”. Specifically nominated student ambassadors will show you around campus and tell you everything important there is to know for your first year. Aside from that, there will be plenty of opportunities for meeting new people and to have a drink or two (or more). Most Freshers’ Weeks involve various activities particularly intended for this purpose, such as “adventure days”, going climbing, wine tasting, pub crawling, or themed nights, be it food themed in Indian or Mexican or even the dressing up nights like the classic School days.
It is the fun part of your initial phase at university and will give you a taste of the recreational side of student life. For many of you it will be the most exhausting, cost-intensive and unhealthy week ever endured. However, it is a great opportunity for socialising with some fellow students. You will further have the chance not only to tour your campus, but also to see some of the surrounding city or town; hence, you will be able to familiarise yourself with your new home.
Most of you will look forward to finally living in your own home. Ideally, you have secured adequate student accommodation either on or off campus before the semester starts. There are many things to consider when it comes to finding and renting a student room or flat. Various housing options are available. You can often choose between on-campus halls, private halls, student houses or private flats and studios. Each option has its own advantages and disadvantages. It really depends on your personal preferences and the availability of student housing in the area you will be moving to.
Many first year students will move into on-campus halls. Places are limited in these university managed facilities and you are probably expected to move out after your first year ends. Some halls are fully catered, i.e. they offer up to three meals per day. However, most provide shared kitchens and you are responsible for your own cooking these are shared with two or more students as well, the same often applies to bathrooms and laundry facilities.
The majority of students choose self-catered accommodation, mostly by sharing a house or flat with a couple of friends. Size, prices, facilities and renting conditions vary from property to property. It is highly recommendable to read the respective tenancy agreement thoroughly and to ask for a second professional opinion. A potential point of contact is your university accommodation office after all, a tenancy agreement is a legally binding contract and you can be held accountable for any violations of its regulations.
A New Home brings new Responsibilities
Moving in with a couple of people of your age can be a lot of fun, especially if your new housemates share your interests and agree with your attitude. You will meet many new people and friends, probably from all over the world. However, renting a student house comes with certain responsibilities. You should discuss every detail of the renting process in sufficient detail, in order to minimise the potential for future conflicts. This involves arrangements of rent and bill payments, the management of deposits, cleaning the property and stocking shared supplies etc.
Find more information on renting student accommodation, along with further advice on legal issues, in our official Housing Guide.
Items to bring when you move out
There are a couple of things every student needs when she/he moves out for the first time. The list below covers the most important ones. Wherever you may go, you should make sure that you have these in your suitcase. They will make your start at university much easier!
Learning and Working at University
There is a lot to process in your first weeks at university and you will need some time to sort out your personal strategy for coping with the workload that awaits you.
One of the most important things you need to do is to check all important semester dates and deadlines. Mark them with a big, red circle in your calendar or make sure that your smartphone/computer sends you a notification a couple of weeks in advance (it is best to do both). Being aware of important deadlines, i.e. when essays need to be turned in and exam periods start are crucial for a successful course of your programme. You should schedule your entire academic workload with these dates in mind. Start each semester by making a plan of both aims and goals that you need (and want) to achieve. If you do not take care, work can pile up quite quickly and you may find it very difficult to meet deadlines at the end of the semester.
As mentioned above, studying and working at university is very different from going to school. You are expected to do a lot of work before and after lectures, without being told to do so. After all, you are here voluntarily and should have a vested interest in learning as much as you can. Gaining solid knowledge of your subject is up to you. Most of the learning ideally happens outside of seminars and lectures. You will soon find yourself spending a lot of hours in the library and at your desk.
Lecturers merely guide you, help you with questions, and test your knowledge in exams and assignments. In lectures you are mostly expected to listen, your options for active participation are rather limited. Information is taken in and should be processed afterwards in discussion with your fellow students, by going through and making sense of notes, and maybe writing brief excerpts. Seminars and tutorials provide you with the space for discussions, i.e. active interactions with tutors/lecturers and your peers. It is recommendable to spend one hour after each lecture or seminar to go through all your notes.
A general tip: it is often better to tackle certain assignments right away instead of postponing them. Procrastination is a curse we all suffer from but some succumb to it easier than others. It gets particularly dangerous when students forget that they are not exactly the last-minute geniuses they might have thought to be. Avoid work long enough and you might find yourself leaving university with a very bad degree or, in the worst case, even none at all. Resourceful planning, self-discipline and motivation are essential for success in academia.
Regarding assignments, writing them is only one part of the job. Getting your essays printed and handed in, along with the necessary documents, is the other one. If you should not have your own printer, you may want to plan printing your assignments in advance. The respective university facilities tend to be overcrowded when certain deadlines approach.
Letting of some Steam and (productive) Recreation
Finding the right balance of work and fun is the key for successfully completing your degree. Though you should spend most of your week on learning, excessively overworking yourself can impede your productivity as well creativity and finally diminish your potential to achieve academic brilliance. It is thus advisable to look for appropriate extracurricular activities. Luckily, there is often a lot going on at universities and student unions are a good starting point for getting an overview of the many options for your personal engagement outside of your regular curriculum.
Usually,there are many different clubs and societies for sports, social activities, games, drama, movies, and many other topics. These are a great opportunity for meeting students who share your interests and to extend your practical skills while combining both with some distraction from lectures, seminars, essays and exams. Most student unions organise special fairs during your first week, where you can learn more about all the clubs, societies and student organisations that are active at your university.
[Diagram of central elements in student life]
The most important thing is trying to get the most of your time at university, both professionally and personally. It will be a decisive chapter in your life, as your years as a student largely determine your future career path and development as a young adult. It will be a time of intense learning, not only in an academic respect.
Many challenges lie ahead of you which mostly, but not only, concern your degree. Managing a household and living on a (tight) student budget can be as tough as completing an essay. However, none of this has to be stressful or in any way exhausting.
Try to establish a certain routine for your student life and be aware of all your responsibilities. Mange your workload efficiently and keep an eye on your budget. Following this general advice will allow you to enjoy the many pleasant aspects of your time at university.