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10 things every fresher should know

Your freshers' term is all about finding your feet. Our student blogger Oli explains 10 things that will help you get your student life off to a flying start…

Here's what else you can expect from your first term at uni, plus our round-up of 10 unusual uni societies you might come across at your freshers' fair... 

1. Know your bank balance

Being aware of how much you spend will go a long way in defeating a common concern for freshers – how to budget wisely. At first, your student loan may seem like an infinite amount, making it easy to splurge, especially when faced with the pricey temptations of freshers' week.

Try and plan your budget in advance, taking into account what you’ll need to put money aside for (course materials, food, bills, transport) and what that leaves you each week for everything else. Don’t waste too much money on avoidable items (takeaways, impulse clothes shopping...).

2. You can create your own society

If no societies quench your thirst for fun then you can start your own. Running your own society is a rewarding thing to do – make new friends and share your interests with a wider audience. You can start an interest group out of pretty much anything - check out these unusual uni societies for inspiration. 

Establishing your own society generally only takes completing a few forms with details of your idea and then getting supporting signatures from people interested in joining – people can be approached on campus, the SU bar etc. 

3. It’s perfectly normal to feel homesick

Moving away from family and friends is a shock for everyone and it’s only natural to feel homesick every now and again. Remember, everyone is in the same boat and will be welcoming of one another - and more than half of the freshers we spoke to last year told us they found it easier than expected to make friends. 

The best way to counteract homesickness is to find a balance. Talk regularly to friends and family, but don’t overdo it. Meanwhile, familiarise yourself with the campus and your accommodation – it will soon feel like home. 

4. Don't sleep through lectures

Avoid getting into bad habits with your course – they’re difficult to get out of. Start as you intend to continue and it will put you in good stead as you progress through the year.

You’ll feel the repercussions of missing any scheduled lectures, seminars or practical sessions early on. These are your opportunities to pick up advice (on how to approach your assignments or referencing), speak directly to subject experts and where you'll be introduced to key concepts and theories that will be a mainstay in your units.

5. It's never too early to think ahead

It’s absolutely fine to go with the flow in your first year and have your future in mind at the same time. Find out where the uni careers office is  there you'll find advisers to speak to and possible work experience, internships and other opportunities to look into.

Getting involved in projects related to your future career aspirations, from the student newspaper to a legal helpline, will also provide you with relevant skills and experience and give you the opportunity to meet like-minded people (head to your careers office or SU to see what's available).

You might also want to consider getting a part-time student job, for cash as well as experience.

6. Always ask if there's a student discount

Make the most of student discounts and freebies. Your student card could get you 10% off or more at many retail stores and an NUS extra card provides further discounts. Don't forget to ask if there's a student discount available at smaller or independent stores, too.

Even if joining a uni club doesn't float your boat, you should still head to your freshers' fair to take advantage of all the freebies up for grabs - you can stock up on all sorts! If you’re feeling brave, sign up for a free haircut at a salon where trainees are given an opportunity to try out their skills – you won’t know what you're letting yourself in for, but you’ll save a few quid.

Here are some more tips to help you cut your costs when you're at uni... 

7. Remember to enrol

This may seem like an absurd one, but following the chaos of freshers' week you may want to keep an eye on actually letting your uni know you’ve arrived...

If you don’t properly register you might find using your uni’s facilities a struggle – you need your student card to print and access the library. You'll also need to enrol to receive your funding from student finance.

8. You may be entitled to a bursary

You may be eligible for extra funding – check with your university once you arrive.

9. Find a place to live next year

If you're in university accommodation, finding a place to live in your second year needs to be on your radar early on (usually after your first term). This doesn't give you much time to sort out who to live with and where!

Most universities and students' unions have lists of recommended letting agents and landlords so you can check out what's on offer. Think about location  ideally you'll want to be close to campus and with amenities nearby to help you cut your travel costs and time.

10. Enjoy it  second and third years will be tough!

Your first year at university is often as much about settling in and getting into the swing of surviving independently as it is about your degree studies. The academic side of your university experience will quickly ramp up in your second and third years.

Use your first year (your marks often won't count towards your overall degree mark) to make mistakes and get to grips with the style of learning at university - and remember to enjoy it! This is the year to get to know your new surroundings and friends.

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