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Freshers' survival: tips from first year students

As part of our annual Student Survey, we asked thousands of university students for their no.1 tip to survive first year.

This is what they felt you should know, from how not to burn through your student loan to making friends...

Which? University Student Survey results: who did students rate top? 


Get into good habits before going to uni.

Learn how to budget before coming [to university] as your money goes so quickly. First Year Student, University Of Warwick


Convenience comes at a cost:

Start learning to cook, clean and look after yourself before you go to university   it makes like so much easier. Do your shop once a week and make lunch from home £3 meal deals add up when you could make the same lunch for so much less.  First Year Student, Cardiff University

Real cash will keep you in control.

Get money out in cash [rather than pay by card] so you're more aware of how much you have left. Split the cash into bills and social  First Year Student, University Of Hertfordshire


Lifestyle and socialising

Warning: university can throw off your sense of routine.

Sort out a rough weekly schedule so there is some structure to your life. First Year Student, University Of Southampton


Got a birthday coming up? Ask for one of these:

It's hard to have a good diet. Buy a smoothie-maker to get fruit and veg down you. First Year Student, University Of York


The #1 tip everyone goes on about, comes with a caveat:

Everyone tells you to join clubs and socials. But make sure you’re settled in. Take it easy at the start, then wade in once you've found your feet First Year Student, University Of Nottingham

Dan's first term at uni: one student's photo diary


There isn't a deadline to making friends.

Don't worry if you feel like you haven't made many friends after the first week or so. Friendship takes time – you'll find people in the same situation as you First Year Student, London South Bank University

In fact, friendships in first year are like ocean waves: they come and go...

Friendships will be quite fluid in the first year, but that's OK and isn't a negative reflection on you. In fact, it will help you find the people you really click with and who share the same values as you. So don't panic too much if you drift away from some people and towards others. First Year Student, University Of Oxford

Don't just make best friends, but the best friends.

It's easy to make friends as everybody is new to uni. But it's not easy to find like-minded people. Don’t settle for anyone as your mate. First Year Student, University Of Leeds

Watch now: Students share how they met their best friend at uni


Know when you need a break.

Learn to recognise when you're getting burnt out, and switch to a takeaway and Netflix [if you can]. It can actually be detrimental to carry on working when you’re burnt out, as the quality of your work goes downhill. First Year Student, University Of Cambridge


You DON'T have to go out every night.

It may seem like everyone is a big drinker. Some people are, but things really do quieten down after freshers' week. If you really don't want to go out, you don't have to.  First Year Student, Lancaster University

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Academic work

Don't worry, there will always be time to have fun.

With more freedom to do what you want, it's a bit of a challenge to focus on the educational side of things rather than the social there's a fine balance that needs to be struck. Start work as soon as you get it instead of putting it off until last minute it'll save a lot of hassle and stress, and you'll have the free time to socialise afterwards. First Year Student, Lancaster University

Professors aren't as hands-on as your school teachers were.

Don't expect to be spoon-fed anything. Any information you require, you must find out yourself. First Year Student, University Of Essex

Build relationships with your professors.

Don't hold back get involved in as much as you can. The more you do, the more you get recognised, the bigger your social network becomes. Academics get to know you more. As a result, [this makes them] easier to approach – [they'll be] happy to give you help and advice if needed. First Year Student, Plymouth University


Difficult topics don't disappear. Tackle them straight away.

As soon as you don't understand something, ask! There's no point hoping that it won't appear in an exam/coursework... trust me, it will! Even if it's not in that module, it will appear again and again. There's only so many times you can try to 'wing it'.  First Year Student, Plymouth University

Revision tips and hacks: browse our full advice section


You'll probably get freshers' flu. Drag yourself to lectures. 

Don't take time off at the beginning if you're sick. Try to go in everyday. First Year Student, Royal Veterinary College, University Of London



The bigger picture

Homesick early on?

If you don't want to continue, then set a goal and say [to yourself]: 'If I still don't want to stay after five weeks, then I can leave'. But stick it out for five weeks [at least]. First Year Student, University Of Bristol

Staying in touch with home friends: tips to not lose touch


It's your experience.

Don't get caught up on FOMO – fear of missing out. Sign up to loads of things and make friends, but don't worry about what kind of experience you should be having versus what you are actually experiencing. First Year Student, University Of Cambridge

Finally, throw yourself into things (even if it's scary).

You only get out as much as you put in with the course, the people and the experience in general. It's up to you to make it for yourself. First Year Student, Goldsmiths, University Of London

Watch now: Students reveal how uni changed them, for better and worse


Learn more...

About to leave for uni? Check out our student life advice section for more tips and hacks to survive your first year (and beyond). 

Still researching unis? See read what students said about their uni before you apply. Search for a university and read more student comments from our annual survey.

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