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What to expect from your first week at university

If you think university is all about studying, socialising and cheap beer, well... you’re right, but that stuff doesn’t come until at least the second week. First of all, you need to get all your registration out the way, you need to find your way around campus and you need to find a group of friends to hang out with.

Every student’s university experience is different, but to help you prepare for your first week, we’ve put together this guide, which covers the main challenges you’ll face.

Paperwork, paperwork and more paperwork

Your first week of university is full of administration. You need to register for all your classes, work out your timetable (which sounds easier than it is), meet your advisor or director of studies, register with the university doctor…you get the picture, there’s a lot of form filling involved.

However, the biggest challenge isn’t the paperwork itself but handling it all on your own. Unlike secondary school where teachers will remind you of important dates and tell you where you need to be and when, at university, it’s all up to you.

Our advice for handling the first week’s paperwork is to keep calm, don’t stress and ask your university staff or other students for assistance if you find yourself stuck.

Fresher’s week

With all that administration out of the way, the next thing on most students’ schedules is fresher’s week. This is a week dedicated to learning about the activities, clubs and societies on offer on campus. During fresher’s week, you should expect to accumulate a huge amount of flyers, discount vouchers and free pens, all of which you’ll likely have no use for after the week is over.

However, this is a very good reason that most universities in the UK holds a fresher’s week. It gives you the opportunity to sign up for activities that you’d like to do during your time at uni. It also provides you with the opportunity to meet other students and make new friends.

Student peer pressure

What you’ll probably find during your first week of university is that everyone is far more interesting, experienced and confident than you…or at least that’s what they’ll want you to think.

The fact is that during the first week of university, everyone feels a certain amount of pressure to fit in, make friends and be an extrovert, but in reality, everyone is finding their feet just the same and everyone is in the same boat.

Our advice for students in dealing with peer pressure during your first week is to take a back seat and get your bearings first. Once you understand the lay of land, then you’ll be in a far better position to make decisions about all aspects of student life. Remember, university is a marathon, not a sprint, so don’t feel that you need to experience absolutely everything all in your first week.

Managing your own finances

A pint of milk costs how much?!!

For most students, the first week of university is the first time they’ll be in control of their own finances. Living on a budget means living within your means and keeping track of how much money you are spending every week.

Most students find that in their first week of uni, they spend more that they had planned and that’s totally fine as long you don’t go overboard. However, for the remainder of your studies, you’ll need to ensure that you’re spending sensibly.

We would advise that you take the time to work out how much money you have available for your first year and give yourself a limit of how much to spend each month, this way you’ll be able to keep track of your finances from the very start and adjust your spending accordingly as the month’s progress.

Take a look at our guide to student finance, which covers living on a budget, lists the different things you'll have to pay for, and explains what help you might be entitled to.

Lectures and tutorials

Your very first lecture will feel strange.

There, we said it.

You’ll find yourself sitting in a huge room, possibly hundreds of years old, surrounded by people you don’t know and listening to a lecturer talking about things you’ve never heard of. But don’t worry, it’s all part of the experience and before you know it, you’ll feel right at home.

In most universities, lectures tend to be teacher-led as students take notes and carry out their own additional research in private. Tutorials however, are far more interactive and take place in much smaller groups. Tutorials give you the opportunity to discuss what you learned during lectures, share your opinions and learn more about specific aspects of the topic.

At some universities, you’ll be graded on your performance in tutorials in both assignments and your weekly participation in the group.

So, if we haven’t scared you off yet, we’d advise that you share your thoughts with us below, or head on over to our student advice forum, where one of our career experts will answer your questions within our community.

Want to know more about student lifestyle and what university is really like? If so, check out our 60 Second Interview series, where you can hear what university life is like directly from students.

By Jamie Thomson