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Freshers

22 things graduates wish they had known as freshers

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

Graduate with laptop, clock, pants, money and takeaway

Credit: Aaron Amat, Illya Levashov, ittoilmatar, Abasli Toghrul, PRESSLAB, iweta0077 – Shutterstock

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 jägerbombs), and the next, you're throwing a cap in the air as a graduate and wondering where all the time went.

Uni 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 make sure you're making the most of your uni experience, we've rounded up a group of nostalgic graduates to hear what they wish they'd known when they were freshers.

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

23 tips for surviving university life

Knowing these tips will help you succeed at university, according to graduates:

  1. University attendance is important

    Buddy the elf at school

    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 in your coursework.

    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 such high tuition fees to be there, you'd be a fool to waste it – especially when you consider how much your course costs per hour.

  2. Avoid spending all night studying

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

    Not only is it really not fun, but it's going to make it so much harder for you to get a top grade.

    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. Do work experience as a student

    the internship film

    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 work experience 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. Think about what to do after university

    You might not have a clue what you want to do after uni – and that's completely fine. But it's worth at least having a think about your options and coming up with a general plan as something to aim for.

    Having an end goal in sight will help a lot on days when you're lacking motivation and drive as a student – it reminds you that the hard work really is worth it.

    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 much sooner than you think.

  5. Allow your career plans to change

    woman casually dressed on laptop

    Over the course of your degree, it's natural for your goals to change a fair bit – three years is a long time.

    Maybe you'll get to the end of an Engineering degree and find that you don't actually want to be an Engineer 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 which have nothing to do with their careers.

  6. Learn how to cook

    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.

    For food inspo, check out this super easy stuffed turkey breast. Or, to sort out your dinners for the entire week, you can try this chilli con carne recipe.

    Sometimes, though, you might still want those to treat yourself to a cheeky takeaway. When you do, make sure you follow these tips for getting takeaways on a budget.

  7. Find ways to make your Student Loan last longer

    woman looking in purse frowning

    Credit: Pormezz – Shutterstock

    In an ideal world, your Student Loan would cover everything from food and accommodation to books and booze. However, the reality is that, for most students, the Maintenance Loan 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 which works for you.

  8. Buy plenty of pants and socks

    It's ridiculous 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 to realise you need to quickly dash to the shop to stock up on more pants because you've run out and don't have time to put a wash on – make sure you stock up on plenty in advance.

    Keep an eye out for fashion deals on our site and, for more essentials, see our what to take to university checklist.

  9. Your time at university will go by quickly

    Usain Bolt at London 2012 olympics

    Credit: Hilts uk - Flickr

    We know everyone keeps telling you this, but believe us, graduation comes around much faster than you'd 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.

  10. First year of university is important

    Even if you go to a uni where your grades 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 it much trickier to get good grades in second year, and your tutor will be less likely to help you out if they're concerned you haven't 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.

  11. You can go clubbing any night of the week

    Rebel Wilson with empty bottle of wine

    Credit: Warner Bros.

    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 pre-drinks and a night out any night of the week. So, it really doesn't matter if you miss a night out – there'll be plenty more opportunities. And trust us, this isn't quite the same once you graduate.

    While we wouldn't encourage you to go out every single night, take advantage of your freedom while you can (but keep in mind the previous point about getting decent grades, please?).

    Hopefully your uni city will rank in the top 10 for nightlife...

  12. Stay on good terms with your flatmates

    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. Having dirty dishes stacked up in the sink is an annoying but inevitable part of uni life, so try not to get too worked up about it.

    If flatmates are being difficult, you could think about setting up a cleaning rota or bringing everyone together to have a chat about it over a cuppa. Just make sure you don't let it escalate, as you'll regret losing friendships over a bit of washing up.

  13. Get into a routine of waking up early for university

    Joey and Ross sleeping

    Credit: Warner Bros.

    Or at least early-ish. 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.

  14. People try to take advantage of students' inexperience

    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.

    And, to be as savvy as possible, you can get the Uni Lifehacks book which includes a chapter from the founder of Save the Student himself.

  15. Students get the best freebies

    chitty chitty bang bang free sweets

    Credit: United Artists Pictures Inc.

    There's a huge amount of cool free stuff that comes with university life. So much so that it's easy to forget to make the most of it while you still can.

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

  16. Future employers will look at your social media

    Everyone loves a bit of Facebook and Insta in their lives (our Instagram is rather good, if we may 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.

  17. Your friends will change throughout university

    Friends joke the inbetweeners

    Credit: Channel 4

    This doesn't mean you should stop making an effort with people 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 on how to make friends at university, before, during and after freshers' week.

  18. Student deals will be your best friends

    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!

  19. Travel while you're a student

    the hobbit going on an adventure

    Credit: Warner Bros

    Uni is one of the few times in your life when 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 which make some seriously good memories for you to take with you when you graduate, so grab them while you can.

  20. Take time to explore your city

    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 of the typical student spots.

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

  21. Night time is the best time to go to supermarkets

    Justin Timberlake food shopping

    Credit: SME/YouTube

    It sounds strange, but night time is absolutely 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 which is about to expire.

    In most cases 'best before' dates are just guidelines anyway and you can easily make food last much longer.

  22. Graduation is VERY expensive

    You know those funny robes and hats you get to wear when you graduate? Unfortunately, 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. All grads need at least one picture in a weird hat, after all.

 

Saying 'yes' to as many things as possible is one of the top things you should do when you start uni.

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