Advice for first-year uni students

Starting University is a new chapter in your life. It can sometimes seem daunting commencing a new level of study, meeting new people and potentially moving to a new place and living away from home. In this blog I share some tips that I have learnt since starting University in 2018!

Take the opportunity to meet new people

Students in Guildford Town Centre.

University is a great opportunity to meet new people from different backgrounds and with different interests. Whether this is people from your accommodation, course, societies, part-time work, socialising or people you meet on campus- take this as a chance to learn something new and expand your friendship group!

Back up your files

If you decide to keep your notes electronically- make sure you back them up! There is nothing worse than spending hours on lecture notes or an assignment, then losing it. Invest in an external hard drive or use software such as One Drive where you can back up your documents using an account online.

Join a society!

Student signing up to Surrey Angels at the Freshers Fayre.

Societies are clubs at University, which are ran by fellow students. You may be thinking, how do I have time to join societies? At the University of Surrey, lectures finish at midday on Wednesdays to allow for students to participate in societies. Societies also run in the evenings after lectures!

To find out what societies you would like to join, during Welcome Week (also known as Freshers Week) there is the Freshers Fayre. This is where all the societies have the opportunity to advertise what there society is all about. The Freshers Fayre is something not to be missed!

If there is more than one society you’re interested in, sign up to them all! You can go to the initial sessions, then narrow your choices down. Remember you will have 3+ years at University, so you can always join a different society in a later year!

To find out more information about societies at the University of Surrey, take a look at this website!

Learn to budget

Before coming to University, I had little awareness of how much things cost, from a weekly food shop, to rent and bills. Learning to keep an eye on your incomings and outgoings will help you stay on track. It’s important to be aware of upcoming costs (e.g. rent and bills) to ensure that you have enough to cover them. You can also support any student loans with part-time work. For more information about part-time work at the University of Surrey, take a look at this blog!

It’s all about balance

Being a University student is not all about studying 24/7 or going out 24/7, you need a balance! Learning to prioritize deadlines is important. This will help to ensure that you have time outside of your studies to do what you want to do!

Convenience can be costly

Students shopping.

Buying takeaways, food from convenience stores, and meal deals can be costly and very easily add up. Do your weekly food shop and minimize extra spending where you can!

If you don’t understand a topic or lecture, don’t push it to one side.

If you don’t understand something you’re studying, it can be easy to ignore it and tell yourself ‘I’ll come back to that later’. Having this frame of mind will only catch you out when you’re revising for exams and it could be too late. If you don’t understand a topic, take the time to go over the content, use text books, journals or speak to your course mates or lecturer for support.

Ask for help if you need it

Centre for Wellbeing on Stag Hill Campus.

Unlike at School, or Sixth Form College, at University we are adult learners… which means more independence! If students need support, whether that is academic, or non-academic, it’s about taking responsibility and asking for help. Although this can be a challenge, speaking with friends first is a good way to start. At the University of Surrey, there is lots of people you can seek support from:

  • Personal tutor: typically a member of staff from your course, who can support students with academic, personal and professional development. Students meet with their tutor a minimum of once per semester.
  • Lecturers: there are a number of ways to get in touch with your lecturers with academic related queries including: email, at the end of lectures, drop in sessions, or on discussion boards on Surrey Learn (virtual learning environment).
  • My Surrey Hive: centre on campus for students to receive support on student life queries.
  • Centre for Well-being: for students who would like support with any psychological, emotional or personal concerns.
  • On campus GP, or a local GP in Guildford.
  • Peer supporters: current students at the University of Surrey who support fellow students on student life.
  • Wardens: members of staff who live on campus. Each court of student halls has an allocated warden who can provide support on general welfare and discipline.
  • Friends

Take yourself outside your comfort zone

Although easier said than done, taking yourself outside your comfort zone is a great way to learn new skills, meet new people, and open up new opportunities which you may not have thought of before. At University, take this as an opportunity to challenge yourself, as you will never know where it will take you!

Keep track of you lectures

Example lecture/tutorial planner.

It can be very easy to lose track of your lectures and tutorials each week, the topics they are on, and remembering which ones you need to go back to and write up.

When I started University, I tried a few different ways of making sure I kept track of my lectures. The easiest way I found was using a table on Microsoft Excel, as shown in the picture above. Across the top, I had the names of my four modules that I was completing that semester. Down the left hand side, I listed the week number of the semester. Within each module I would list all the lectures by writing the date of the lecture and the topic. This enabled me to easily see what topics I would be learning each week, across all my modules. Once I had finished my lecture notes, I would then tick the lecture off. This way, I would never forget or miss any lecture notes.

Make University your experience

Students in a coffee shop.

Your University experience does not have to be dictated by what other people like to do, their interests or what you think you should be doing. Everyone’s experience is unique, do what you enjoy!

Keep track of your assessments

Example assessment planner.

At the start of the semester, you will be told about the assessments you will have for each module. To help keep track of these for each module, I created a planner, similar to the planner for lectures/tutorials. For each module I would list the coursework or exams that I would have to complete, how much each assessment contributed to my module grade and the due date. Take a look at the example above!

Students graduation outside of Guildford Cathedral.

Everyone’s advice for starting University is different, if you know someone who has already started University, speak with them and ask them for their tips. As I discussed before, no one’s University experience is the same- make it your own! While you’re here, why not take a look at Amy’s blog on Managing a Chronic Health Condition at University!

Wishing you all the very best for starting University!