What to Expect During Freshers’ Week: a Comprehensive Guide
Your first week at university – affectionately known as “Freshers’ Week” – is, for most people, exciting and scary in equal measure.
Everything’s new, you’re probably moving away from home for the first time and you’re surrounded by people you’ve never met. The first thing to remember is not to be put off by the freshers who appear loud and confident; inside, they’re almost certainly just as nervous as you are! You’re going to have lots of fun, but do be realistic and prepare yourself for the fact that it probably isn’t going to be 100% an easy ride. Read this guide and you’ll have a better idea of what to expect from your hectic first week at university.
The admin and pastoral stuff
A big focus of Freshers’ Week is on helping you settle in and completing the boring but necessary administrative procedures that will enable you to become an official member of your university. We’ll get to the fun bit later, but there are a few responsible grown-up things to deal with first.
Moving in and dealing with homesickness
You’ll be given a date on which you can move in, and it’s a good idea to move in as soon as you can, just because there will be so much to do in a short space of time. You’ll probably be taking a lot of stuff to university with you, so allow yourself plenty of time to unpack. Minimise stress on the day by using labelled boxes to transport your things, so that you’ll know which boxes contain the important things you’ll want to unpack first (such as bed linen, toiletries and mugs).
Many students experience homesickness as the reality of Freshers’ Week sets in. Even though many won’t admit it, this is normal, and not something to be ashamed of. It’s a stressful time, and it’s okay to feel unsettled when you’ve just left home for the first time. Combat feelings of homesickness by making your room as homely as you can, and keep in touch with your family back home when you get time – they’re bound to want to hear all about your new life, and it’ll remind you that even though you’re surrounded by people you don’t know, there are still lots of people who care about you and are thinking about you.
Finding your way around
Navigating the maze of corridors and remembering what’s in each building (and where) can be one of the biggest challenges of your first week at university, particularly if yours is a sprawling campus. You’ll have lots of meetings scheduled that you’ll need to find your way to, and there’s nothing worse than rushing around lost when you’re running late for an important appointment. You may already have visited the university when you were deciding where to apply, but that was a while ago and you probably won’t remember how to find your way around. Don’t worry, though – there will be lots of supportive helpers (the students from the years above you), and they’re on hand to give you a tour and show you where everything is. Don’t forget, your feelings of bewilderment won’t last forever; those confident current students who are showing you round now will be you next year!
Registration, student loan and fees
You’ll have some paperwork to fill in during your first week that allows you to become an official student of your university. Without doing this, you won’t be able to receive your student loan. Freshers’ Week is when you’ll be able to prove that you’re studying at your institution so that those vital funds can be released, and you’ll be given clear instructions on how to let the Student Loans Company know that you’ve started your course.
You’ll almost certainly be given a photo ID card that proves you’re a student of your university, so it’s a good idea to bring a number of passport-sized photos with you so that you don’t have to worry about trekking around town trying to find a photo booth. You’ll also be given a library card at this stage, which may be the same thing as your student card or it may be separate, and perhaps a photocopy card as well.
The bad news is that at this point, you’ll probably need to pay for your accommodation and other university fees for that term, so have a chequebook to hand. The good news is that you’ll also receive lots of promotional materials from things like the 16-25 Railcard and the NUS Student Card; it’s definitely worth signing up for at least the latter, as it will entitle you to a big range of discounts.
If you haven’t already opened a student bank account, now’s the time to do so. Many banks have tempting offers (such as a free 16-25 railcard, MP3 player or cash) to give students an incentive to sign up with them, so shop around to find the best deal. Ideally, try to do this before you complete the final paperwork for your student loan, so that you can arrange for your loan to be paid directly into your new account. This will avoid the extra admin of having to change your bank account details later on.
Doctors, dentists and Freshers’ Flu
You’ll probably be given details of the nearest GP and dental surgeries so that you can register with a doctor and dentist. It’s important to do this in case you become ill during term time; there will almost certainly be a nurse on campus, but they’re often limited in what they can help you with. Also, beware the dreaded ‘Freshers’ Flu’ – it’s fairly likely strike down many of you in your first week. Stock up on flu medicine and eat as healthily as you can, because you’ll need all the energy you can get to make it through the hectic schedule set for you during your first week.
The academic stuff
With all the admin and the novelty of being away from home, it can be easy to forget the real purpose of why you’re at university: to study! Freshers’ Week at most universities provides a gentle introduction to the academic side of things, giving you a chance to get to know your coursemates and tutors and introducing you to what you’ll be studying in your first term.
Meeting your tutors
You can expect to have a number of meetings and gatherings during Freshers’ Week that will acquaint you to your course and tutors. You’ll have course tutors who’ll be teaching you, and a pastoral tutor to whom you can go to when you want to ask advice or need someone to raise a concern with. You can expect an introductory meeting with your coursemates in which you’re shown what you’re going to be studying in the year ahead, and the course structure will be explained so that you know what you’re working towards.
Freshers’ Week is your chance to meet your tutor group and those who are doing the same course as you, and you may find that there are ‘subject drinks’ organised to provide a more informal setting for you to get to know your tutors and peers. The more familiar relationship you’re likely to enjoy with your tutors may come as a surprise after school (you may be on first name terms with them, for example), but you’re more grown up now and lecturers will usually treat you as more of an equal.
Your first academic work
Unless you’re at Oxford or Cambridge, you’re unlikely to have an essay to write during Freshers’ Week, but you can at least expect to be given your first reading lists and lecture timetables at this point. You’re also likely to have a tour of your department and library, so take the time to familiarise yourself with these, as you’ll be needing them a lot in the coming years!
You may have been given a summer reading list, or at least recommended course materials to buy in advance. However, you may not have thought of things like an academic diary (one that starts in September), or certain textbooks that have suddenly appeared on your reading list for this term. Now’s the time to stock up on these essentials ready for term to begin properly.
The fun stuff
We bet this is the bit you’ve been waiting for! After all, Freshers’ Week is all about having fun, isn’t it?
Your university will probably organise a ‘Freshers’ Fair’ (or similarly named event) for your first week. This is where all the university sports clubs, societies and other organisations advertise themselves and try to persuade you to join. This is your chance to get involved with a new hobby, or to sign up for an extra-curricular activity you know you’re good at, and in which you know you want to participate at university level. It’s likely that there will be other local organisations there too, such as bookshops or bus companies, and there will be lots of free stuff on offer to lure you in. You’ll probably be given a goody bag on the way in, so see how much free stuff you can add to it as you go round the stalls! It doesn’t matter if you sign up to far more societies than you realistically have time for; you can go along to a few of the introductory meetings and decide which ones are best for you later on.
One of the biggest concerns most students have in their first week is making friends. It takes more time than Freshers’ Week for lasting friendship groups to form, so the chances are that the people you find yourself hanging out with during Freshers’ Week aren’t necessarily the friends you’ll end up sticking with throughout your years at university. As term progresses, you’ll soon find out whom you’re on a wavelength with, so don’t worry.
Here are a few tips for making friends during Freshers’ Week…
– Keep your door open as you do your unpacking, so that you get the chance to meet your neighbours.
– Your parents will probably be dropping you off at university, but although it can be hard to say goodbye, don’t let them hang around too long; it’ll scupper your chances of chatting to fellow freshers.
– Get your tea-making facilities up and running first, so you can offer a cuppa to passers-by!
– Put some music on while you’re unpacking; it can be a conversation starter to help break the ice.
– Sign up for lots of activities at the Freshers’ Fair.
– Swap contact details with people on your course so that you can liaise and compare notes on academic assignments, and organise to walk to lectures with them and have coffee afterwards.
Be prepared for at least one fire alarm drill during your first week – and use it to strike up a conversation with someone new!
If you’re not yet on Facebook, it’s highly recommended that you join, as lots of event invitations get sent out via this social network, which you might miss if you’re not a member. What’s more, during Freshers’ Week everyone is panicking about making friends, so everyone is extra friendly and adds everyone else on Facebook. You’ll become friends with a lot of people on Facebook, many of whom you probably won’t hang out with again – but it’s a foot in the door and a way for you to feel part of the community.
Party, party, party (if you want to)
There will be a full programme of partying and other events organised for the evenings during Freshers’ Week, so you needn’t be alone in your room if you don’t want to be. Fancy dress will probably crop up somewhere on the agenda, so be prepared to go shopping! Many of the evening activities will involve going out and partying, from lively socials in society rooms on campus to heading out on the town.
However, you mustn’t feel obliged to go out if you don’t want to; if you’re more of a quiet and retiring type, or you just can’t keep up with all the partying, there will also be quieter activities organised, such as film nights, ice skating or a pub quiz. Not everyone wants to spend their entire Freshers’ Week clubbing, and not doing so can be a good way to meet people whose names you’ll actually remember in the morning!
Before you make the move to university, you might also find our article on things you really have to know before going to university a useful read. We hope this article has armed you with the facts you need to keep Freshers’ Week nerves to a minimum; all that remains is for us to wish you the best of luck as you embark on this exciting new phase of your life!