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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...

Worried student with cash, soup, phone, glasses and toiletries

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. So we're here to tell you that the best and only tactic to ensure it goes smoothly is to come prepared.

We've compiled a list of the obstacles we faced, plus all the very best freshers' week tips. It's the ultimate guide to coming out the other end unscathed!

Packed and ready to go? Use our what to take to university checklist or watch our what to take to uni video 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?

    money in a purse

    Credit: Yevgen Kravchenko, kamui29, Bell Photography 423 – Shutterstock

    Working out a weekly budget for the year is a top-notch idea. We even have a handy guide to help you set up a student budget. But we all know that'll go out the window in the chaos of freshers' week.

    Alcohol and nights out aside, freshers' week is full of unforeseen costs like buying textbooks.

    And that's before you consider that it could take a while for your Maintenance Loan money to come through. If you can, try to save some cash in advance. That way, you can afford to spend a few quid during freshers' week.

    A freshers' pass or wristband could be worth buying if you plan on going to a few events. This is usually 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 plan ahead!

  2. Don't try to reinvent yourself at university

    You might 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, telling stories about your life back home is a great way to break the ice and make new friends. But try to stick to what's actually true, or it'll 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. Overcome your shyness and make the first move

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

    If you find it hard to make the first move, prop the door open while you're settling into your room. This way, 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 too. If you say their name out loud back to them, it can help you to remember it.

    Also, asking questions is a sure-fire winner. Not only will this mean the focus is off you, but the other person will love that you want to know more about them. This is the perfect start to a good friendship.

    We have loads more tips in our guide to making friends at university.

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

    Student in university halls room

    Credit: Monkey Business Images – Shutterstock

    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 done when you start uni will make you feel a million times more confident about what's ahead.

    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.

    Remember to find out what documents you need in advance. This could be your acceptance letter, some photo ID and passport-sized pictures, for example. Then you won't have to come back and queue all over again.

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

  5. Sign up for clubs and societies

    Go to your uni's freshers' fair and shop around. Most have hundreds of clubs, so you're bound to find one that interests you. Whether it's basketball, pizza or anything in between, there really is something for everyone.

    Unless you're sure you'll stick with it, it's probably best to avoid signing up for clubs that ask for a registration fee. Don't pay to join the hockey club just as an incentive to get in shape – this rarely works.

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

    Joining a society will also do wonders for your CV when you've left uni and are looking for a graduate job. We know it's a while away, but you can never be too prepared.

  6. Don't go to every freshers' event

    There are so many freshers' events that it can be a total headache (and wallet-ache) to decide 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.

    Make the most of what's on offer. It's not all about drunken nights out partying (though there'll be plenty of that going on). There's so much more to explore, so do your research and check which options are best suited to you.

    Nights in are often the best way to get to know your flatmates. It's easier to chat during a homemade-cocktail night than it is in a club with loud music.

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

    Come armed with a deck of cards and a bottle opener (drinking games are often part of the experience, but don't worry if you don't fancy them!).

    Also, stock up on sweets and tea bags. Sharing treats will help you meet new people and make a great first impression.

    Have a listen to our special freshers' week podcast for more tips on how to survive.
  7. Always use your student discount

    Totum student discount card
    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 opportunity.

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

    You could sign up for our newsletter which includes a roundup of the best deals. Or, join our Telegram group for the best daily offers and freebies.

  8. Prepare for freshers' fancy dress events

    We'll be straight with you. Whether you're partial to this sort of thing or not, 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 it 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 has a lot of options that comfortably fit within a student budget. Although, the theme is often announced closer to the event, so it can be tricky to know what to pack.

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

  9. Learn to deal with homesickness at university

    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, this won't always be the best way to approach it.

    You may actually find it easier not to talk to people from home too much at first. This lets you concentrate on building a nice situation for yourself in your uni town.

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

    Take plenty of vitamin C to try to avoid the infamous freshers' flu. Then at least you won't be forced to hide under the covers.
  10. Don't get too drunk

    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. Always watch your drink so you know what's in it, and keep as safe as possible.

    There are some great non-alcoholic alternatives around these days if you want a night off the booze or if you're just not much of a drinker.

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

Finally, remember that freshers' week isn't your average week at uni, no matter what university myths you've heard. You're 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 mistakes every fresher makes!

Laura Brown

WRITTEN BY Laura Brown

Laura Brown, Head of Editorial at Save the Student, is an award-winning writer with expertise in student money. She project manages influential national student surveys and has presented findings to MPs in Westminster. As an expert on student issues, Laura has been quoted by the BBC, the Guardian, Metro and more.
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