10 Things To Know When You Start University – A Fresher Tip Sheet


Ah, the joys of starting university! Always room for surprise, even when you think you’ve got it all sussed out beforehand.

I can’t list everything that’ll happen. Nobody can do that.

But here’s a start.

Now you’re a fresher, here’s a list of 10 things to expect. Time to get relationships (with others and with yourself) in check.

In no particular order:

1. First friends aren’t always your best friends.

The pressure to impress is huge. When you find new people, you may form a lasting friendship.

But don’t be too cut up if it doesn’t work out. New people come into your life all the time at university and you’ll get to know all sorts of characters. Some will turn out to be friends for many years to come. Just not necessarily the people you meet in Fresher’s Week.


2. Everyone is coping except you? Don’t believe it!

No matter how out of place and clueless you feel, there are other students just as overwhelmed as you.

It’s easy to think you’re the only person with issues, because you only know your own mind. Starting out at university is not a walk in the park and there’s so much to get to grips with. But remember the first point…people want to look impressive. Not everyone is being totally honest about their difficulties.

If you think you’re the only person who’s not coping well, you’ll feel even worse about it. All those teething troubles are standard.

3. Homesick is standard.

You don’t think you’ll get over it, but you’re likely to have shaken off the sadness within a few weeks. For some, it takes until after Christmas to settle down. It is rare for the problem to be so bad that you have to leave.

For tips on combating those blues, check out my Help for the Hopelessly Homesick.

4. Give new activities a go, so long as you don’t go against your personal opinions/likes/beliefs.

If you don’t drink alcohol, a Fresher pub crawl won’t be your activity of choice. But what if you want to get involved and be a part of the fun with your new housemates?

No problem with joining in. Just don’t feel the need to defend yourself. Peer pressure goes away quicker when you don’t get involved in other people’s fake debates. And the start of a pub crawl (or halfway through it) is a bad time anyway. Bat conversation away and say you’ll explain another day. If someone is too persistent, it may be best to cut your losses and safely remove yourself from their presence.

Stay confident in your identity. As you settle in over the coming weeks, you’ll find situations to suit your lifestyle. The people you get to know here will at least accept who you are, and may even share your core values.

Oh, and if you just want to limit the booze, here are some tips to tame the spirits.


5. You are yourself.

You can’t work out how to make other people like you, because there’s no way for you to befriend yourself. Besides, you don’t need to fake it at university. There are an almost limitless number of choices, options, opinions, likes and dislikes to explore. As with the point above, find the people who will accept and love you for who you are.

6. Everyone pulled except you? Exaggeration only upsets you more.

Everyone did it except me…

So and so ALWAYS happens…

You don’t need to follow the crowd or succomb to peer pressure, as hard as it feels to go against the grain. And I can assure you that not EVERYONE pulls during fresher’s, even though it can seem a bit in your face at times.

7. What do you want to be known for? Be careful.

Do you want to make a big impact on campus from Day One? Getting exposure is great, but you don’t need to do it straight away. Playing the long game is safer than trying to be a hero before you’ve worked out the lay of the land.

Known to be known, no matter what…Is that enough?

8. “If I think the worst, then things can’t get any worse. They’ll only get better.” NOT TRUE!

With this attitude, you’ll only ever think the worst. No matter how good it gets, you’re fixed on the worst outcome, which blinds you to what’s happening.

Prepare for the worst, but don’t think it. Preparation is different to expectation.


9. You’ll work out most things sooner than you think.

The impossible struggle only feels impossible while you’re struggling. Beyond that, it gets better.

It practically always gets better. In all my dealings with freshers over the years, most start with issues that feel insurmountable and nearly every one recovers without fuss. Of the few who find it more difficult, most of them still manage to get over that hurdle.

And if you think your case is different, just remember Point 2. You’re much closer to the side of hope and recovery and success than you think.

10. SU activities are great, but don’t dismiss them if one doesn’t work out.

I made this mistake. I signed up for clubs at the Freshers Fayre, went to my first meeting for one of the clubs, found it disappointing, and decided clubs and societies weren’t much good.

I hardly bothered for a while after that. Yeah…well done me. Sigh.

I’m one of the first people to tell you to look beyond first impressions. Dig deeper, even if your opinion stays the same.

I didn’t follow my own advice here and suffered a little for it. Don’t be quick to dismiss!


There’s a lot to think about settling in as a fresher.

And as soon as you’ve calmed down with these lifestyle issues, then comes all the studying!

If you’re worried about the academic work for the year ahead, I’ve got a great freebie for you…

Get the upper hand and learn to appreciate what’s expected of you and how to prepare for it. Download my ebook ‘Live Life, Study Hard‘¬†right now.

7 Crucial Considerations To Help You Stay In Touch With Uni Friends After You Graduate

I sometimes wonder if I’m the absolute worst at keeping in touch with friends.

Okay, I have some close mates who like to compete for the title. So maybe lots of us are like that.

How well do you keep the sparks flying? Are you fiendishly friend-focused, or do you have serious trouble touching base?

If it’s bad for you now, think how tough you’ll find it when you graduate!

So this post is for you (and me) to reflect on how we can do better at having meaningful relationships, even from a distance and when your lives go in every direction.

Here are seven thoughts on staying BFFs with heart and passion:

1. Understand that not everyone is brilliant at keeping in touch.

You may already be amazing at relationships. Some people keep the flame burning with ease. Others treat the flame like an oxygen-free room would…It goes out instantly and it’s practically impossible to reignite the fire.

If you NEVER hear from a friend and they aren’t excited when you get in touch, maybe it’s time to cut your losses. Otherwise, try not to sweat it. Be happy that you can reach out better than most people.

2. Embrace the inevitable change that comes your way.

Whether you’re leaving the comfort of campus in your second year, or you’re moving back home at the end of your degree, one thing is always the same…Change!

A common response is to lament how people move on, but why not enjoy experiencing all the developments that your friends go through, just the same as you’re developing yourself?

That mindset alone helps you let go of unimportant things and keep hold of what really matters. You awesome friend, you.

3. Get in touch meaningfully.

Go beyond social media. Send a letter or a postcard once in a while. You don’t have to be on holiday or doing anything special either.

Buy some fun postcards and stamps, keep them close to hand, and write a few brief words of love every now and then. Make it a habit. I wish I’d done this. I got as far as collecting some postcards, but didn’t get much further. Don’t make my mistake!

4. It’s all about the little things in life.

Telling your friends what you’re up to gets you thinking about the big news you want to share. But if you want to stay in touch more frequently, nothing beats a bit of boring detail.

Your day-to-day life is what makes you tick. The big experiences are profound and worth talking about, but not at the expense of the other weeks in the year when you’re not doing something massive.

Share your small stories and let your mates know what it’s like to be you in the calmer, everyday moments.

5. Don’t begrudge them new mates.

When you’ve lived in someone else’s pockets for a year or three, you can get pretty possessive. And it’s fair to be a bit jealous when you know someone else is hanging around such a good mate on a regular basis.

But would you rather your good friend had no other friends? Would you prefer that they stayed in every night and had no social life?

It would be strange if your friend had left university and NOT made some new mates. There’s no need to feel like it’s a competition or that your friendship has been overtaken by someone else.

All friendships are unique, so drop the comparisons and love your matchless bond.

6. Find new ways to get together.

I’ve found that the best way to keep long-distance friendships sparkly is to vary the activities.

Go to events, go on holiday, go to their place, invite them to yours, meet up halfway and explore a brand new place…

7. …Or have a regular meetup.

Routine reunions are another way to ensure you have something to be excited about from one visit to another.

The reason why I prefer to mix things up is because it’s difficult when circumstances change and the regular thing becomes too difficult. Jobs can make it difficult. So can kids, moving further away, and other commitments.

But a change in situation doesn’t mean a change in friendship. You just need to be willing to work with new conditions.

If that means a new routine can be found, great! Otherwise, don’t be afraid to focus more on special events to keep the spark alive.

How good are you at keeping in touch? I like visits and events, but I’m not so good with the everyday communication. There are people I haven’t seen in years who I think about almost daily. If only they knew that I was thinking about them.

My job is to get back in contact and let those people know. That’s next on my list.

What’s next on yours?


Questioning Your Circumstances and Wanting To Belong

When I first went to uni, it was wonderful and horrible.

I didn’t know what to expect, but I was ready to meet new people as I’ve long been open to change and embracing new experiences.

That bit was easy. The same day that I arrived, I just went out and got to know who was around so far. Although arrival was staggered over several days and I was in one of the first cohorts, I was happy to go looking for others before waiting for housemates to move in.

That may sound great. But I soon found that the first people I met were interested in things that weren’t really for me. In some cases it was just discussion about subjects I didn’t follow. In other cases there were less savoury issues involved.

I remember sitting in my room at night and wondering if I’d made a huge mistake. Was I destined to not fit in? How could I make friends if nobody shared my interests? Had I chosen the wrong university? Was university of any kind a bad decision?

dog alone (photo by 27147)

Uncertainty & homesickness: a fresher frustration. (photo by 27147)

Yet all this is standard stuff. Heightened awareness of novel experiences makes us question everything.

It wasn’t like I was having a bad time or that these were horrible people. Far from it. But I was projecting my first moments in a new place onto the next three years of my life, as if it couldn’t get any better than this.

You may recognise this yourself. And when you start questioning things like this, it brings on homesickness.

The doubt may last no longer than a few hours or it can stretch on for ages. Most issues tend to fade away within the first month, but it’s nothing to be ashamed of if it takes longer to settle in. It’s also fine to get the occasional pang throughout your time at uni. Wobbles happen from time to time.

The great thing about university is how you’re not restricted to people in your accommodation, you’re not limited to those in your class, you’re not stopped from socialising outside any particular group. Arrangements are open and flexible.

That’s why so much advice to freshers targets your ability to get a taste of as much as you can as a student.

Sample what’s going on around you and you’ll find a wealth of different people, including those you wish you’d met sooner and those you didn’t even know would be such awesome mates.

It didn’t take me long to realise that there were plenty fantastic people around. When all my housemates had moved in, they were lovely people too. I felt at home with them and I found other houses where I was made to feel welcomed.

Every now and then I’d recall how lost I felt, sat in my room at night, wondering how I was going to cope. I’d soon smile in thankfulness and ask myself why I was ever worried about it.

Over the years, I’ve heard countless students explain how out of their depth and homesick they felt. Luckily, most go on to find so much love in their new surroundings that they start to call it home.

From homesick to new home. It just takes time.

Unless you’re ludicrously lucky, you won’t find your best uni friends in the very first week. Maybe not even in the first year.

No matter. There’s so much more to your new student life. And that doesn’t mean you won’t make loads of awesome friends along the way.

Perhaps this all boils down to change. And perhaps we’re more comfortable with change than we think.

Instead of feeling unhappy when change knocks on our door, I wonder if the bigger issue is our worry that the change we find is a change that we’re lumbered with forever more. The change itself isn’t a problem, but sticking with a rubbish change is a disaster.

Fortunately, life isn’t like that. Change happens all the time.

What you start out with at uni isn’t what you end up with. If you start university aged 18 and you do a three year degree, those three years make up one sixth of the life you’ve already lived. A sixth! Just think how different you were at 15 years old, at 12, at 9…You’re always changing.

The worst thing you can do is resign yourself to a bad experience. Don’t let a negative mindset put you off from looking for brilliant things.

That negative mindset is what can turn a wobble into a collapse if you’re not careful. It gnaws away at you, convincing you that everyone else is having a great time while you’re left in the corner on your own.

Don’t fall into the negativity trap. All but the most confident individuals have times when they question what they’re doing.

When you find yourself questioning your circumstances, be assured that you can make changes again. You’re not stuck with the same problems for the rest of time.

Your heightened awareness doesn’t want to explain that, but your calm patience can.

Embrace the change.

You’ve Got a Place at Uni. Now What?

It’s that time of year again. The wait is over and A-Level results are in. Screams of both joy and despair ringing out across the land.

Most years, I offer up advice on what to do when things don’t go according to plan:

This year, I want to look at what happens when you get the results you need. Hurrah! You’re set to accept an offer and all that’s in between you and a university is a wait between now and September. Maybe even October.

If you’re lucky, the wait is over in a flash. But it can drag on too. Let’s get things going already, can’t we!?


Take Control of Your Time

You may not be able to magically transport to uni any earlier, but there are loads of things you can do to prepare. And the more prepared you are, the more time you’ll have to enjoy yourself when you do get to uni.

Now, unless you’re REALLY impatient, you won’t want to throw yourself into study preparation straight away. The good news is that it only takes a small head start to take you a long way. A little bit now could mean a lot of time and bother saved in the long run. If you’re reading this and you love to plan ahead and be in control, I’ve got some tips for you.

Trust me, you won’t be in complete control. What comes next is new. You can’t take ultimate control of something you haven’t experienced before. Luckily, that’s part of the challenge and often ends up being key to learning new things and enjoying the process.

That’s more reason why it’s great to get as much out of the way as possible. Don’t wait until you hit campus if you can do it now. There will be plenty to do by the time you’ve moved in. You’ll be thankful you dealt with what you could when you had the spare time!

Prepare For University

Read what the university send you in the post and via email.
It’s tempting to gloss over half of the gumph you’re sent, but don’t. Awareness is crucial, even if you don’t end up needing a lot of the information. Everything you do need is better handled when you’re clued up.

Read my free ebooks.
TheUniversityBlog has two free ebooks that have helped Freshers over the last few years. Fresher Success sets you up before you start uni and has more than 90 tips from previous Freshers who have been through it all before. Live Life, Study Hard helps you prepare for academic work and explains things like why first year DOES count. Download them right now.

Check out reading lists, but don’t buy all the books or go too crazy.
Core reading (if any) and one or two basic textbooks is more than enough to get you started.
My most helpful reading before the academic year started consisted of two textbooks on the first reading list I was sent. Those textbooks were cheap compared to most of the books on the reading list and I ended up making great use of them before and after I started the year.

Look online for the basics.
For many degrees, you’ll get a good grasp from some online reading. Try to work out what interests you from first impressions of the wider topics you’ll be exploring.
And don’t panic if none of it makes much sense. You’re only taking a look. You’re not expected to know it all when you arrive. Learning is about discovering new things, not showing off that you already know it!

Find other people online who are going to your uni when you are.
Getting to know new people is becoming easier and easier online. Facebook, Twitter, The Student Room…You have loads of opportunity to contact fellow Freshers long before you meet up with them.

Get to know students who are already there, including your Students’ Union peeps.
Your SU reps are there for you and are usually very happy to hear from you. Say hi and get involved.  A great way to get the lowdown before anyone else!

Make everything a head start, rather than a burden.
If it feels like too much bother, don’t bother! You should be having an enjoyable experience, not a stressful one.

Think about what you want to take AND what you don’t need to take.
Leaving stuff behind and starting fresh can be difficult. If you could move your room as it is to your new room, that would be great.
Truth is, what works now probably won’t work when you get to uni. You’re about to discover a whole new you and you need space to let you in!
After essentials and ‘no matter what’ items, what about the rest? Do you really need to take a TV? Are you sure you can’t live without your entire collection of teddies? Is it wise to bring half a gym’s worth of equipment “just in case”?
Everyone thinks about what they should take, but you should spare a moment for things you don’t actually need.

Getting Ahead

These are just some of the things you can work on before you head off.

My best time saving effort was doing the basic reading. I found out about loads of things I’d never even considered before, which was a good combination of challenging and exciting. Once I’d finished reading what I wanted, I had an idea of what to expect. I didn’t think it would give me more than a slight nudge, but it genuinely helped throw me in the right direction while I could spend time on other things. You know, like having fun and getting stuck in to all the other aspects of uni life on offer.

It’s non-stop. Oh, the places you’ll go!