How To: do Fresher year!

Yes, yes I know. As a graduate, I’m kind ‘past it’. However, as an aspiring MA student and a proud holder of an NUS Extra card (thanks to a loophole), I like to think I’m not too far out of the bubble.

Oh, I am also about to become a big sis to a Fresher. That’s where this post started from; the two of us chatting about her buying a specific fluorescent events wristband for her first week (see tip #2) and me going off on a tangent, giving out a few of my best tips on uni life, made me realise there was a list that needed writing on here. Read on to get a few tips on Fresher Year, from this wise old graduate! 

(To spice this lecture of a blog post up, there will be Fresher year photos of me throughout. You’re welcome) 

(the shelving unit above my desk in halls. I was very proud of it. Plz don't judge my film taste.)

You WILL get Freshers’ Flu.
It’s undeniable. Even if you don’t drink or party, you’re still moving into one specific place with several hundred other people, all of whom are coming from all over the country, and bringing all kinds of bacteria with them. YAY! Also, the move to uni is draining. Take a break and let yourself be ill maybe, for a while; don’t push yourself. I remember getting the Flu, having seriously painfully infected sinuses, and thinking a few Sambuca shots would clear my head… it did, but only for like, 10 minutes. 

Don’t buy a blanket ticket, unless you wanna go very hard.
This was a big one for the sis – a lot of Student Unions claim they can set you up nicely with a neon wristband that gets you in to all the parties and on the highest priority lists all over the place, for the low low price of £60! Great, right? NO. Think about it. What are you getting for your money? Are you actually going to go to every. single. event!?? Most likely not, and really the only thing that wristband is 100% guaranteed to do is make you feel obligated and pressured to go on all the nights out, which is not going to do you much good. ALSO, often it's a scam and you'd have gotten into the party anyway, if you just waited an extra half an hour in line and paid the usual £5 to get in. 
I definitely found taking almost every other night off really helpful for not just my health, but forming relationships with my flatmates who also opted to stay in! And it might stave off the Flu. 

(this was my basic wristband. It didn't cost me £60, but I still got into all the events.)

Register with a doctor – but not the first one they give you.
During my Freshers week, there was a 10-step system to get you properly enrolled at the uni. We had to go through a series of rooms, stopping at various tables and filling in our details on forms, etc. One table was the local GP (not really local, as it turned out, more like a 40 minute walk out of town – the first time I went there was a nasty shock), asking you to sign up to their register. I of course did so, not realising you could actually shop around, which is what some of my friends did. So, I’m not gonna say your first choice will be sh*t (as mine was) but definitely do some research on your options. 

Have the right docs with you in case your card goes walkies.
The SU card machine ate my debit card in my first week. That was probably just my bad luck – and the machine being properly ancient and sh*t – but I then had to go into town, to my bank, and give them proof of ID and a bank statement on paper to prove that I was the account owner and withdraw cash while waiting for a new card. Not a nightmare, but bloody annoying.
Also, it’s generally easy to lose things in Freshers Week, so maybe get a tight card wallet or a bum bag (what? They’re back in fashion now!) to take out with you. 

(My student ID card. I think I still have it somewhere...)

Be careful who you shag.
No, I’m serious. You never know, the cute gal you take home on your first night in halls (nice work, playa) and have no intention of ever seeing again (rude) may be in every single one of your lectures for the entire first semester. Or the guy you let take you home after a night on the town might turn out to be a total sleaze who has a Shag Chart in pride of place on his kitchen wall. Also, diseases happen. Use protection. 

Inform yourself of the support you can get.
Read the Student Support section of your prospectus, several times if need be. Check in with the finance folks if you have any concerns about loans, etc. Go to the talks about Student Council. Get to know the staff and grad team in your SU. Sign up for counselling on campus, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or homesick or even if you feel alright, just to have a dig into your brain (I love counselling, sorry not sorry). Get in touch with your lecturers maybe, even before they start teaching you, if you need to inform them of anything personal, e.g. anxiety, not keen to participate in discussions, dyslexia. Look up security on campus and in your halls. You are absolutely entitled to find out what’s available to you, then go and get it.

(Skyping the fam - and bae - while I was away.)

Join a club/society/team.
Not only a great way to mix things up and give you a nice break from studying, and a chance to improve skills, but also a near foolproof way of making good friends who may be more similar to you than the random flatmates you got thrown in with.

During my time at Winch I joined only a couple of teams; Tennis (which turned out to be just 6 weeks of mad drinking escapades, only 1 actual training session) and Ultimate Frisbee (second and third year, miss the sport quite a bit now, but not the drama of the enormous team). I performed in Scratch Shakespeare at the Theatre Royal 2 years in a row, was in a couple of productions with my uni’s Performing Arts society, and I wrote a few short plays for another student theatre company. I was sadly too nervous and socially awkward to join the Creative Writing society, but if I could go back in time, I’d not only go along but maybe form one of my own – and a book club! 

(I dressed brilliantly for nights out, I'm sure you'll agree)

Take pleasure in the Big Shop.
I absolutely loved going up to the big Sainsbo’s, not just the little one in town, and doing a nice food shop. Then I’d go home, pack it all away in cupboards and the fridge with grand dinner plans for the week… then only use half of it because I lived off Dominos takeaways and 2am kebab shop chips in my first year. That’s another one: Shop sensibly and make notes of bargains! I came to Lidl pretty late in the game, and so badly wish I’d had it in first year.

Chill, and enjoy yourself.
First year is pass/fail (in most universities anyway, right?). Don’t stress. I remember working my butt off up til Christmas 2011, and getting a few Firsts, before being told I needn’t bother – all I had to do was get past 50% and I was staying in, and nothing was carried over into Year 2. To this, I said ‘well, balls’ and immediately treated myself to a day out in London – maybe sacking off a particularly dull lecture to do so.

(Some particularly angelic friends, who I still keep contact with as best I can.)

Right, that’s it… for now. If I think of any others, maybe I’ll add them in later. What advice would YOU give to uni newbies? Did I miss anything out? Let me know in comments or on Twitter, and help the Freshers out! 


  1. Love this! I did my first year at Winchester so it makes me feel all kinds of nostalgic. I have also worked in a SU for the last six years, so it's great to see people championing the benefits of joining clubs/societies and knowing what support is available :)

    1. Ahh Emma, no way! I miss Winch so much. It must be awesome working for an SU, seeing all the kids working their way through uni and helping them out.


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