23 things grads wish they’d known in their first year

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By in Freshers. Updated September 2016.

Starting uni can be a whirlwind of excitement, worry and gin. Put down that Jägermeister for a second and listen to some pearls of wisdom from your elders!freshersweekAmazingly, despite the blurry memories incurred by countless nights out, it is actually possible to look back and reflect on what went down during our first year of university life.

We rounded up a group of sobbing graduates lamenting their uni days over a tequila (or five) and got them to tell us everything they wished they knew when they started uni as a fresher.

The total number of beans spilt tallies up to 23, naturally.

Avoid a bout of the dreaded freshers’ flu by making sure you take these precautions!

23 pearls of sheer wisdom

  1. University is different to school

    uniOf course, you knew this already. But the crux of it is that no one’s going to chase after you if you decide not to show up to class or hand course work in.

    Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that’s a blessing – unfortunately, this just means you’re an adult now and are responsible for yourself if things go badly.

    Academically, it’s up to you to make the most of your university experience, and well, you are paying rather a lot for your degree, so it might be wise to do so.

  2. All-nighters are HORRENDOUS

    all-nighterNo matter how many bragging rights you can earn for doing an essay in one long, horrible day/night/day, there’s no real reason you should ever be staring at a Word doc at 5am.

    Contrary to popular opinion, it’s not fun, your grades won’t be the best they could be, and Red Bull is pretty disgusting without a decent dose of vodka in it.

    We do have an action plan if you’ve got fewer hours than Jack Bauer, but please, this is only for emergencies. Don’t put yourself through the pain!

  3. Work experience is really helpful

    theinternshipThese days, unfortunately there are very few employers who’ll hire you based on your degree alone. Building yourself an arsenal of relevant work experience, and getting involved in extracurricular activities before you graduate will massively help you leapfrog your CV to the top of the pile.

    Getting some work experience is also really helpful if you’re not quite sure what you want to do career-wise, as you’re able to test the water at a few different industries and roles to see what you enjoy (and what you don’t).

    Don’t leave it too late.

  4. …as are life plans

    Life-planPlans are good, we like plans. It doesn’t mean you can’t seize the moment still, but having an idea of what you’re aiming to achieve in the near future is always a great motivator.

    And you’ll feel much less jittery when you graduate if you know what road you want to travel.

  5. …but changing your goal is okay!

    Changing-goalsThree to five years is obviously a looooong time, so naturally you could find you’re not really on the same wavelength you were on when you first started.

    Maybe you’ll find when you get to the end of a Chemistry degree that you don’t actually want a career in Chemistry anymore – it happens, don’t beat yourself up about it!

    Life goals change all the time – it’s just a fact of life that your idea of what you want to do with your life might grow and change just as you do over the years.

    As long as you’re aspiring to go somewhere and staying motivated, it doesn’t matter if it’s in the direction of what your studying or not.

  6. Living on takeaways is a bad idea

    takeawaysWhoever knew you could get sick of Maccy D’s? While it’s easy, pigging out at fast food joints constantly will take its toll on your health – and bank account!

    Save takeaways for nights when you need a treat, and instead why not actually learn to cook. We promise it’s not that hard and your ‘rents will be well impressed when they see you’re taking good care of yourself.

    For those nights when you do decide to treat yourself to a cheeky takeaway, make sure you put these tips for getting takeaways on a budget into action!
  7. Same goes for microwave meals

    smileWhile we won’t deny that microwave dinners are (sort of) a step up from having a KFC every night of the week, no one wants to emerge on the other side of uni still unable to cook a simple meal.

    Again, learning to cook for yourself can be a cheaper and healthier option – not to mention way more impressive to your mates, parents and dates.

    Just look how simple it is to make this stuffed turkey breast, and this chilli con carne recipe will have your dinners covered for the entire week.

  8. Your student loan is never enough

    emptypocketIn an ideal world, your student loan would cover everything from food and accommodation to books and booze. However, the reality of it is that for most students, the maintenance loan doesn’t even cover rent.

    Be prepared for this: Learn how to budget as soon as possible so you get your finances off to a good start, try finding a part-time job to earn some dough while you study and get a student bank account that works for you.

  9. Flip flops are a necessity in shared bathrooms

    flipflipsfishIf you’ve not got the luxury of an en-suite in first year, then get your beach wear at the ready. This will take a bit of getting used to, but you’ll see what we mean in due time.

    Who wants to be stepping on someone else’s leftover body hair or catching a verruca? No thanks!

    Of course, this doesn’t mean you should use this as an excuse to not clean the bathroom, but it’s always best to be prepared for the worst.

  10. You can never have enough pants

    underwearWe all know having to do laundry is a total drag, and there may come a point where you’re extremely tempted to just buy more pants instead of washing the ones you have.

    Either that or you’ll be washing them in the sink and giving them the once over with a hair dryer an hour before lectures. Make sure you stock up!

  11. It’ll all go really, really fast

    boltWe know, everyone keeps telling you this, but one day you too will be out the other side of the tunnel looking like a bewildered rabbit, unready for the real world. And it’ll feel like you only just arrived!

    Never again will it be acceptable to whip out your student discount card at every opportunity or walk around in your boxers at 3pm, so take advantage of everything university has to offer now.

  12. First year kinda does count

    studyAlright, so the marks technically don’t count towards your degree, but putting zero effort in when you’re met with your first uni challenge can have some unfavourable knock-on effects.

    If you don’t have a basic grounding of first year knowledge, getting good grades in year two will be even trickier, and your tutor is less likely to help you out if they don’t feel you’ve been making the effort already.

    Most courses do require you to actually pass your first year, and some even consider your early performance if you get a border-line final year classification.

  13. Every night is student night

    House PartyWho says that people don’t go out on Sundays? Or Tuesdays for that matter?

    When you’re at university, you’ll notice that there’s the potential for a party every single day of the week – and trust us, this doesn’t happen much once you graduate.

    While we would never encourage you to get into partying every night, take advantage of your freedom (although please keep the previous point about getting decent grades in mind, eh?).

  14. Normal people don’t get up at 11am

    sleepybearOr midday either. While it’s tempting to lie in lots and take advantage of the absence of a 9-5 job, there are some benefits to getting up at a sensible time.

    You’ll be able to get loads more done and it’ll be less of a culture shock when you do meet the ‘real’ world. You can always have a disco nap later on anyway, and that’s way more acceptable.

  15. People will try to take advantage of you

    Taking-advantageFor some unscrupulous people the word ‘student’ is like a green light to chancing it on for all that they can. Don’t let them walk all over you!

    Know your rights when it comes to being a tenant, learn how to haggle and most importantly know how to complain and get results.

  16. You don’t get free stuff in the real world

    breakfreeThere’s so much cool free stuff that comes part in parcel with university life, that it’s easy to take it for granted and forget to take advantage of it while you still can.

    Use the careers services, sign up for rewards schemes, join the union and various societies – get as much a slice of it as you can before it’s gone for good!

  17. Social media is your best and worst friend

    welcomeonlineEveryone loves a cheeky bit of Facey B in their lives, but don’t let it consume your life or ruin your job prospects.

    Social media is great to keep in touch with friends and share photos of you peeing in bushes, but get your privacy settings in order! Otherwise, having to explain student antics during a graduate job interview could get embarrassing.

  18. Your friends will change along the way

    Friends-foreverThis doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be making an effort to stay in touch with people who you get on with during freshers’ week, but it’s true that people tend to change quite a lot during their university years (this also goes for your friends back home, too).

    Don’t feel you have to be bezzies with the first person you meet and try not to take any freshers’ week romances too seriously.

  19. Student deals will be your best friends

    dealWhen you’re on a tight budget, it’s amazing how much saving £1 can mean for your finances.

    We’ve got loads of advice on how you can save money as a student as well as tonnes of deals and discounts for you to take full advantage of, so make sure you do!

  20. You’ll regret the things you don’t do

    zipwireUni is one of the few times in your life that you’ll get to do loads of totally ‘out there’ things (sorry for sounding like your parents) without being held back by boring responsibilities, commitments or lack of time to spare.

    Grab at every exciting opportunity that comes your way, whether it’s a scuba diving trip, a year abroad or just camping out somewhere in the sticks.

    These are the kinds of experiences that make some seriously good memories out of your uni years, which also means lots of great stories for you to tell at the pub!

  21. There’s so much to explore in your town

    discover your uni cityWherever you are for the next three years, take some time to discover what your uni town has to offer, aside from supermarkets, the student union and grimy night clubs.

    One of the biggest regrets we hear from graduates is not taking full advantage of the location and getting to know their university town outside of the student bubble.

    So go get your map out and see the sights!

  22. Night time is the best time to go shopping

    shoppingpjSounds stupid, but night time is totally the best time to get bargains, as all the stock which is about to go out of date is slashed in price.

    Make a habit of shopping in the evenings, and keep an eye out for the member of staff who’s been burdened with the responsibility of sticking reduced price stickers on food that’s about to expire.

    In most cases ‘best before’ dates are just guidelines anyway and you can make food last much longer. If you’re a student who doesn’t need to get up early in the morning (lucky you) there’s no issue with popping to Tesco in your PJs.

  23. Graduation is really expensive

    graduationYou know those funny robes and hats you get to wear when you graduate? You can’t keep them and it’ll cost you a bomb just for the privilege of wearing them for an hour.

    Save yourself the shock and start sticking your pennies in a ‘graduation’ jar now. Everyone has to have a picture in a stupid hat after all, otherwise you might as well just forget about it!

Are you a recent fresher or a graduate with some nuggets of wisdom to pass on? Let us know what you think in the comments below!

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2 Responses to “23 things grads wish they’d known in their first year”

  1. L

    23. Sep, 2014

    One more: if things get rough, there are so many services available (eg. the counselling service). Don’t leave it, hope things’ll get better and then collapse under the stress when it counts.

    Reply
    • Jem Collins

      25. Sep, 2014

      So true – it’s awful how some students suffer without even knowing there are services there to help them. I’ll look at getting that one added on the next revamp.

      Reply

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