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Top tips for starting University

Beginning university is an incredibly exciting time in a student’s life and something they will have been working towards for years however, it can also be incredibly daunting. We take a look at some of the most common reasons that students might be feeling anxious and share our tips on how to banish those butterflies for good.

By Cara Fielder. Published 9 September 2019. Last updated 23 November 2022.

Leaving home

Students are often nervous about leaving home for a number of reasons; fear of the unknown, living with new people, being self-reliant for the first time and missing the daily support of family, friends and even pets.

The first things to remember about all of these topics is that almost every single other student in your class will be feeling the same nerves, you’re not alone. However, there are a few things you can do to make the move easier.

If you know who you’re going to be living with, start a Whatsapp group and get chatting ahead of time. This way you’ll feel you know each other in advance and the move won’t feel like such a step into the unknown.

Print out pictures of your nearest and dearest so you can put them up in your new room. Your BFF’s friendly face can do you a world of good on a tough day.

Schedule in real time to call, Skype or FaceTime. If can be so frustrating to miss multiple calls, only chat through text or only manage to spare each other moments at a time. Book in a time that’s good for both of you so you can have a real catch up.

Homesickness has the opportunity to thrive when you’re sitting around twiddling your thumbs. To keep it at bay, stay active and busy.

Be yourself and do what you love. Sometimes it can be easy to follow the crowd but don’t feel you have to change to fit in. If you’re putting on a pretence then you’ll start to feel homesick for the place you can really be yourself.

First day of university

A large percentage of students find the first few days of university intimidating. Everything’s new, no one knows where they’re going or what’s expected of them.

Your first day at university will most likely coincide with the first day of fresher’s week and your university will have a number of events and experiences organised for you to participate in. Do your best to throw yourself into these with a positive frame of mind. This is a great opportunity to meet new friends and learn about the clubs and societies available to you.

Do your best not to be shy if you want to make new friends. During these early days everyone will be more open to chatting and making me friends so make the most of the situation.

Making new friends

If you’re moving into halls or a flat share for the first time make sure you prop your door open on the first day. This shows you’re open to conversation and happy to get involved. Introduce yourself to people that come in after you and offer to help out if you can.

Sign up to clubs, societies or sports teams. Not only are these great for meeting like-minded people but they help build strong relationships and look great on your CV too.

There are usually lots of volunteering opportunities available through university, whether it’s on campus or externally. Giving your time not only helps others but also gives the opportunity to meet an entirely new group of people.

Keep your head up and smile at people. It might seem like a small piece of advice but it can make a huge difference. This positive body language shows you’re being open and people are more likely to come and talk to you than if you have your head down, looking at your phone.

Stepping up to university level workload

If you find yourself becoming overwhelmed with the idea of having to step up your study skills there’s a handful of things you can do to prepare yourself.

Invest in useful stationery. Whether it’s highlighters, colour coded sticky markers or flashcards, if they make your studying easier you should make the investment.

Download a calendar app for your phone. Most of us have our phones on us at all times so it’ll be harder to miss a reminder this way than any other.

Check your email. Universities often send important communications via email. Don’t miss out on vital information just because you haven’t bothered to log in.

Get to know your library and librarians. One of the main differences you’ll discover at university is the level of self-study this is required. You’ll most likely find yourself needing to do more research than ever before. Become familiar with your library and the people that work there, they’ll be a goldmine of information and can help you discover new ways to use their services.

Managing money

The start of university is the perfect time to get into the lifelong habit of budgeting. This is when you collate all your incomings and outgoings and make sure you aren’t spending more than you make. You can use the UCAS budget calculator to help you set your budget, or if you’re not sure what your outgoings will be you can use the Which? Calculator that gives you a rough estimation of your outgoings depending on the university you’re attending. You can also sign up to Money Saving Expert’s money tips email to get weekly advice straight to your inbox.

There are plenty of other student exclusive ways to save money throughout the year too. If you’re a student who hasn’t got a TOTUM card WHAT ARE YOU DOING? This card will save you money on eating out, entertainment, beauty, finance, fitness, travel and lots of other essentials.

You can also save by downloading money saving apps such as UNiDAYSStudent BeansVoucherCloud and VoucherCodes.

High street banks provide a number of student only accounts which offer perks including an interest free overdraught. These can be really useful for emergencies but try not to max it out in your first year, you will have to pay it all back in the end.

Finding the course enjoyable

The university course you choose will have a huge impact on your life so it’s no wonder that people sometimes worry about if they have made the right decision.

The first couple of weeks at university are all about settling in so don’t judge your course immediately. Give it a little bit of time but if you’re sure that you want to change you do have a number of options.

Here at ULaw, we offer a service called Course Switch, where you can transfer to another course partway through your studies if your career ambitions have changed over time. No matter where you study you will need to start by getting professional advice. Talk to your tutor, or if you’re not comfortable talking to them talk to your student services or counselling service who will be able to advise you on your options. Normally you can either swap courses within the institution or quit completely and start again somewhere else.

Try not to worry about the financial side of things if you’ve applied for a student loan. Although you might have to pay for that first year (depending on when you leave the course), there is finance available for an additional years support for those that have made a false start.

Finding university life enjoyable

University life is different for every student. Some will remember it as the best time of their life and others will simply see it as a means to an end, a stepping stone for them to get to the career they wanted. However, don’t fear if you think you’re struggling more than your friends. A recent poll of 38,000 students in the UK found that almost nine in 10 (87.7%) students admitted to struggling with feelings of anxiety. Here at The University of Law, we understand that some people may need extra help to settle into university life and we have numerous ways to support you during this time, including our counselling service and our disability support service.

If you would like to know more about ULaw can help you then visit our We Support Your Ambition hub page for details on these services and student experiences.