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

We spoke to a group of university veterans to find out what all-important stuff they wish they'd known as a fresher - and some of it might surprise you!

first class degree tips

Source (left): KnowYourMeme, Credit (right): Ralph Daily - Flickr

One minute you're arriving at university as a fresh-faced fresher ready to take on the world (or at least that next round of jagerbombs), and the next you're throwing a cap in the year as your graduate and wondering where all the time went.

University can fly by, and when you're caught up in all the excitement and deadlines, it's easy to make some common mistakes - and take student life for granted.

To ensure you're making the most of your uni experience, we rounded up a group of sobbing graduates reminiscing over their uni days to tell us everything they wish they'd known when they started uni.

From tackling essay deadlines to planning for the future, these are some pearls of wisdom you really don't want to forget.

These 14 skills will help you survive university life - and will keep your bank account looking healthy too!

23 tips for surviving university life

  1. University is different to school

    volunteer at old school cv

    Credit: New Line Cinema

    At uni, no one's going to chase after you if you decide not to show up to class or hand your coursework in.

    Don't fall into the trap of thinking this is a blessing. It takes some serious self-discipline to drag yourself to those 9am lectures when you could easily just stay in bed.

    But when you're paying so much for university now, you'd be a fool to waste it, especially when you consider how much your course costs per hour!

  2. All-nighters are HORRENDOUS


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    No matter what bragging rights you can earn for doing an essay in one long, horrible day/night/day, there's no reason you should ever be staring at a Word doc at 5am.

    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 a guide on how to write an essay quickly if you've only got a few hours before your deadline, but please only use this in emergencies. Don't put yourself through the pain!

  3. Work experience is really helpful...

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    Credit: 20th Century Fox

    Unfortunately, these days most employers expect more on your CV than just your degree. Building an arsenal of relevant work experience, and getting involved in extracurricular activities before you graduate, will massively help you leapfrog your application 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 in a few different industries and roles to see what you enjoy (and what you don't).

    Make sure you get cracking with this sort of stuff as early on as possible, as you'll have less time in your final year when you've got the dreaded dissertation to deal with.

  4. are life plans...

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    Credit: The Walt Disney Company

    You might not have a clue what you want to do with the rest of your life - and that's completely fine. But you should still try and have some sort of life plan to help motivate you through your degree.

    Whether it's taking time out to travel the world, setting up your own business or doing an internship, it's important to see the bigger picture as graduation will come round quicker than you think!

  5. ...but changing your goal is okay too!

    join sports club societies boost cv

    Credit: 20th Century Fox

    Three to five years is obviously a looooong time, so you could find you're not on the same wavelength as you were on when you first started uni.

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

    As long as you're aspiring to do something and stay motivated, it doesn't matter if it's in the same area as your degree or not. Just look at how many successful people studied degrees that have nothing to do with their careers!

  6. Living on takeaways is a bad idea...

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    Credit: Sharp Entertainment

    You probably think you could never get sick of chicken nuggets but believe us, it's possible. Takeaways are easy and convenient, but 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 try actually learning to cook. We promise it's not that hard and your parents 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!
  1. ...and the same goes for microwave meals

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    Source: Reddit

    While you can cook a surprising number of foods in the microwave, 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 at how simple it is to make this stuffed turkey breast - and this chilli con carne recipe can have your dinners covered for the entire week.

  2. Your student loan is never enough

    student loan not enough

    Credit: Universal Pictures

    In 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 MaintenanceLoan doesn't even cover rent.

    Our latest Student Money Survey found that 62% of students think the Maintenance Loan isn't big enough, and it leaves them on average £267 a month short.

    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.

  3. You can never have enough pants (and socks)

    University tips

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    It's insane how quickly you can rattle through your underwear drawer. And while your parents might have been on the ball with the laundry, chances are you won't be quite as efficient.

    The last thing you want is having to quickly dash to the shop to stock up on more pants because you've ran out and don't have time to put a wash on, so make sure you stock up on plenty in advance.

    For more essentials, see our what to take to university checklist.

  4. It'll all go really, really fast

    University goes quickly

    Credit: Hilts uk - Flickr

    We know everyone keeps telling you this, but believe us, graduation comes around much quicker than you expect!

    Never again will it be acceptable to whip out your student discount card at every opportunity, or sleep in until 2pm, so take advantage of everything university has to offer while you can!

  5. First year kinda does count

    TV shows intelligence

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    Even if you go to a uni where the grades you get in first year don't technically count towards your final degree, this doesn't mean you can spend the year messing about and putting zero effort in.

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

    Sometimes a 2:1 in first year is a requirement if you want to apply for a year abroad or a year in industry, and at the very least you still have to pass in order to keep your place on the course.

  6. Every night is student night


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    Who 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 go out partying every night, take advantage of your freedom while you can (although please keep in mind the previous point about getting decent grades, yeah?).

  7. Dirty dishes aren't worth falling out about

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    Surviving shared living can be tough, and it's natural that things might get a bit tense every now and then.

    But try not to fall out over things that will seem irrelevant in a few months time. Dirty dishes stacked up in the sink are a pain but an inevitable part of uni life, so try not to get too worked up about it.

    If people aren't pulling their weight, set up a cleaning rota or call a house meeting to have a (calm and sensible) chat about it all. But don't let it escalate, as you'll regret losing friendships over a bit of washing up.

  8. Normal people don't get up at 11am

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    Or midday either. While it's tempting to lie in 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 head out into the 'real' world.

    If you're having serious trouble waking up at a decent time, this app should help.

  9. People will try to take advantage of you

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    Credit: Walt Disney Productions

    For some unscrupulous people, the word 'student' is a green light to start chancing it for all that they can. Don't let them walk all over you!

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

  10. You don't get free stuff in the real world

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    There's so much cool free stuff that comes with university life. So much so that it's easy to forget to take advantage of it while you still can.

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

  11. Social media is your closest ally and worst enemy

    social media at uni

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    Everyone loves a bit of Facrbook and Insta in their lives (our page is pretty great, if we do say so ourselves), but don't let it consume your life or ruin your job prospects.

    Social media is great for keeping in touch with friends and sharing your finest selfies, but get your privacy settings in order!

    You don't want potential future employers to be stumbling across embarrassing drunken snaps when they're doing their background research on you, so make sure you keep a professional online profile.

  12. Your friends will change along the way

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    This 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 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.

    We've got loads of advice how to make friends at university, before, during and after freshers' week!

  13. Student deals will be your best friends

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    When you're on a tight budget, it's amazing how much saving as little as £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!

  14. You'll regret the things you don't do

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    Uni is one of the few times in your life that you'll get to do loads of totally 'out there' things without being held back by boring responsibilities, commitments or lack of spare time.

    Grab every exciting opportunity that comes your way, whether it's a scuba diving trip, a music festival, interrailing around Europe or just camping out somewhere in the sticks.

    These are the kinds of experiences that make some seriously good memories for you to take with you when you graduate, so grab them while you can!

Saying 'yes' to as many things as possible is one of the top things you should do when you start uni!
  1. Take time to explore your city

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    Wherever you are for the next three years, take some time to discover what your uni city has to offer, aside from supermarkets, the students' union and grimy night clubs.

    One of the biggest regrets we hear from graduates is not taking full advantage of their new location, and exploring the local area outside the typical student spots.

    Why not become a tourist for the day and go see all the things TripAdvisor recommends?

  2. Night time is the best time to go shopping

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    It sounds stupid, but night time is totally the best time to get bargains at the supermarket, as all the stock which is about to go out of date will be 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 easily make food last much longer.

  3. Graduation is really expensive

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    Credit: Channel 4

    You 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 a few hours.

    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!

Make the most of your time at university with the Uni Lifehacks book, featuring a chapter from the founder of Save the Student himself!

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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