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

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!

Things grads wish they'd known

Amazingly, 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.

Once you're done with this article, read our piece on the most common university myths – you'll know everything there is (and isn't) to know about uni faster than you can say Quidditch.

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

    University isn't like school

    Of 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 coursework 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 nighters university

    No 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.

    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…

    Internships work experience

    Unfortunately, these days 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 in 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…

    Making life plans

    Plans are good, we like plans. It doesn't mean you can't still seize the moment, 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 which road you want to travel down.

  5. …but changing your goal is okay too!

    Changing goals and aims

    Three 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 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!

    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. Just look at how many successful people studied degrees that have nothing to do with what they've ended up doing!

  6. Living on takeaways is a bad idea…

    Takeaways at uni

    Whoever 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! Not to mention the fact that you genuinely will get bored of it, and then what can you turn to for a treat?!

    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!
  1. …and the same goes for microwave meals

    Microwave meals uni

    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 how simple it is to make this stuffed turkey breast, or this chilli con carne recipe which should have your dinners covered for the entire week.

  2. Your student loan is never enough

    Poor student keep costs down

    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 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.

  3. Flip flops are a necessity in shared bathrooms

    Flip flops in shared bathroomCredit: Fangusu – Wikicommons

    If 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.

  4. You can never have enough pants

    University tips

    We 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!

  5. It'll all go really, really fast

    University goes quicklyCredit: Hilts uk – Flickr

    We 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, unprepared 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 while you can!

  6. First year kinda does count

    First year of uni counts

    Depending on your uni, your first year will actually count. Like, fully count.

    If not, the marks don't technically 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.

    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.

    Even if your first year doesn't count, most courses will require you to pass your first year. What's more, some even consider your early performance if you get a borderline final year classification.

  7. Every night is student night

    Uni party

    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 get into partying every night, take advantage of your freedom (although please keep in mind the previous point about getting decent grades, eh?).

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

    Or 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.

    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

    Know your rights as a student

    For some unscrupulous people, the word ‘student' is like 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

    Free stuff for students

    There's so much cool free stuff that comes part in parcel with university life. So much so 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 big a slice of it as you can before it's gone for good!

  11. Social media is closest ally and your worst enemy

    Tips for students

    Everyone loves a cheeky bit of Facey B 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 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.

  12. Your friends will change along the way

    Making friends at uni

    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 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.

  13. Student deals will be your best friends


    When 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!

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

    Don't regret uni

    Uni 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 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!

  15. There's so much to explore in your town

    Explore university town

    Wherever 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.

    Get your map out and see the sights!

  16. Night time is the best time to go shopping


    Sounds 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.

  17. Graduation is really expensive

    Graduation costs

    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 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!

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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