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How to survive freshers’ week

Gearing up for freshers' week? Here's everything you need to know to make it through in one piece, from making friends to nailing fancy dress...

student worried

Credit: Asier Romero (background), elenabsl (foreground) – Shutterstock

From working out how many Jägerbombs you can get on a shoestring budget, to the challenge of learning how to use a washing machine, freshers' week is the start of a steep learning curve.

You're probably riddled with equal doses of excitement and trepidation about starting university, and we're here to tell you that the best and only tactic to ensure things go smoothly is to come prepared.

We've put together a list of all the obstacles we faced, plus all the very best freshers' week tips, to give you the ultimate guide to coming out the other end unscathed!

All packed and ready to go? Use our what to take to university checklist to make sure you haven't forgotten anything important!

Essential freshers' week tips

These are the best freshers' week tips:

  1. How much does freshers' week cost?

    Jerry Maguire Show me the money

    Credit: TriStar Pictures

    Although working out a weekly budget for the year is a top-notch idea (we've even made a handy guide to help you set it up), we all know that'll probably go out the window in the chaos of freshers' week.

    Alcohol and nights out aside, freshers' week is filled with unforeseen costs like buying textbooks (yes, they're essential, unfortunately), meaning it's likely you'll develop a phobia of checking your bank balance early on.

    Plus, when you add in the fact that it could take a while for your Maintenance Loan money to come through, it's definitely a good idea to save some cash ahead of time so you can afford to part with a few pennies during freshers' week.

    We'd say that a freshers' pass or wristband is probably worth buying if you plan on going to a few events, as it's usually much cheaper than paying for entry to everything individually. Keep some money aside for this and any other one-off costs that may come up.

    You won't want to miss out on anything because you blew all your cash on the first day, so make sure you plan ahead!

  2. Don't try to reinvent yourself at university

    30 Rock Steve Buscemi How do you do fellow kids

    Credit: NBC

    You may have always dreamed of becoming a rapper or a health and fitness guru, but it's best to hold off on the impersonations for now.

    Likewise, although telling stories about your life back home is a great way to break the ice and make new friends, try to stick to what's actually true (or this will come back to bite you).

    It's never a good idea to try to reinvent yourself – people will see straight through it and you'll feel much more comfortable if you aren't trying to be someone you're not.

  3. How to deal with being shy at university

    Jim the office hiding in car seat

    Credit: NBC

    Even if you normally wouldn't make the first move to introduce yourself to somebody, you'll regret it if you hold back. Remember: you've all been thrown into the same unfamiliar boat, so anyone worth being friends with won't judge you for putting yourself out there.

    If you do find it particularly hard to make the first move, stick some music on while you're getting settled in your room and prop the door open so your new flatmates can pop their heads in and say hello.

    Make an effort to remember people's names and they'll be more likely to remember you (apparently the trick is to say their name out loud back to them and it'll stick in your memory).

    Also, asking questions is a sure-fire winner – not only will this mean the focus is deflected off you, but the other person will be pleased that you're interested in knowing more about them, which is the perfect start to a good friendship.

    And if all else fails, we've got loads more tips in our complete guide to making friends at university.

    Feeling particularly apprehensive about moving into student halls? Check out our guides to surviving shared living and dealing with any potentially tricky flatmates.
  4. Do your university admin early in the week

    baby asleep in high chair

    Credit: Alina Reynbakh - Shutterstock

    So spending half your day queuing for things and doing paperwork isn't exactly the wild freshers' week you were hoping for, but getting this boring stuff out of the way when you start uni will make you feel a million times more confident about what's ahead when uni starts.

    The queues are likely to be long, but rather than get wound up about the wait, use them as an opportunity to get to know people (practice asking those questions we talked about).

    Remember to find out what documents you need in advance when signing up for stuff (acceptance letter, photo ID and passport-sized pictures, for example) so you don't have to come back and queue all over again. These websites will help you figure out what's what.

    Don't forget you'll also need to sort out your student council tax exemption and TV Licence (although in certain circumstances you might not need one!).

  5. Sign up to clubs and societies

    Rowing team in boat

    Credit: Rena Schild – Shutterstock

    Go to your uni's freshers' fair and shop around – most have hundreds of clubs, so you're bound to find something that interests you, whether it's basketball, pizza or anything in between.

    It's probably best to avoid signing up for clubs that ask for an up-front registration fee, unless you're 100% sure you'll stick to it (don't pay to join the hockey club if you're really unfit as an incentive to get in shape – this rarely works).

    Taking part in extracurricular activities is a great way to meet people outside of your course and student accommodation, plus the sports teams' nights out are always great fun.

    Oh, and joining a society will do wonders for your CV when graduation comes around and you're looking for a grad job. We know it's a while away, but you can never be too prepared.

  6. Don't try to go to every freshers' event

    How to Be Single party drunk

    Credit: Warner Bros.

    There are so many freshers events that it can be a total headache (and wallet-ache) deciding which ones to go to.

    It's easy to get FOMO when ducking out on the odd one or two, but don't panic – the earth will keep turning. And when it comes to surviving freshers' week, you'll stand a much better chance if you're not entirely burnt out.

    The reality is that you'll actually get to know your new flatmates much better during nights spent at home or doing things you've organised yourself, rather than when you're smiling awkwardly at each other over loud music and overpriced drinks (homemade cocktail night, anyone?).

    You'll also enjoy your nights out more if you're not still suffering from yesterday's hangover – so don't overdo it.

    Come armed with a deck of cards and a bottle opener (drinking games are part of the experience, but don't worry if you don't fancy them!), and stock up on sweets and tea bags – especially if you live in halls. Sharing treats will help you meet new people and make a great first impression.

  7. Always use your student discount

    Dumb and Dumber did someone say student discount

    Credit: New Line Cinema

    It's amazing how much better things taste when they're discounted – or even free! Now's the time to start getting into the habit of whipping out your student card at every given opportunity so you can snag a juicy discount.

    Even if a shop or restaurant doesn't advertise a student discount, it's always worth asking – and make sure you keep tabs of our student deals section too.

    If you're prone to forgetting this stuff, you can also sign up to our weekly newsletter roundup of the best deals, or join our Telegram group for the best daily offers and freebies.

  8. Prepare for freshers' fancy dress events

    pug in bumble bee fancy dress

    We're gonna be straight with you – whether you're partial to this sort of thing or not, you need to know that freshers' week almost always involves some kind of fancy dress event.

    Dressing up is a good icebreaker for people who don't know each other, and also helps you separate fellow freshers from poor unsuspecting members of the public who've been caught up in the nonsense.

    There's no need to spend a fortune on costumes though – our list of cheap fancy dress ideas are all comfortably within a student budget! The difficult thing is that a lot of the time a theme is announced closer to the event, so it can be hard to know what will come in handy when packing.

    A good alternative is to just get creative with what you already have – hit up local charity shops or have a look on swapping sites to see if there's anything you can grab for free.

    Have a listen to our special freshers' week podcast for more tips on how to survive freshers' week.
  9. Learn to deal with homesickness at university

    stormtrooper homesick for death star

    Credit: Kristina Alexanderson - Flickr

    Leaving home can be more of a shock than you first expect. But as much as you might want to spend an hour moaning to your folks on the phone, try to refrain. It will only worry them and give you a bad case of the puffy eye.

    You may actually find it easier NOT to talk to people at home too much at first, so you can concentrate on building a nice situation for yourself in your uni town instead.

    Change is always going to be tough, but remember that everyone's in the same boat. If you're really struggling, we've got a whole list of tips to help you overcome homesickness.

    Bonus freshers' week tip: Avoiding the infamous freshers' flu by taking plenty of Vitamin C will make it easier to get out and about, rather than being forced to hide under the covers.

  10. Don't get too drunk

    drunk kermit the frog

    We've arguably saved the most important freshers' week tip until last here. Getting so drunk that you end up being sick all over yourself will haunt you, so please don't overdo it. Similarly, always keep an eye on your drink so you know what's in it, and to keep as safe as possible.

    Also, be careful about establishing romantic interests too early on – give yourself a chance to get to know people first, and them you, before you move on to any of that stuff (and try to avoid getting involved with your flatmates at all costs!).

Finally, do remember that freshers' week isn't your average week at university, no matter what people might tell you – you are likely to feel a bit broken and poor afterwards, but you'll get back on track, we promise.

You're not out of the woods yet... avoid these 36 mistakes every fresher makes!


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