Freshers’ Week: A Students Guide

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If you’re a new university student, freshers’ week is probably the biggest event of your first year at university. You might have heard stories from older students and built up your expectations to what freshers’ week might be like. It’s definitely something to be excited about! Freshers’ week is a unique experience for every student, so who knows what yours might be like?

However, if you want to get an idea of what your experience might be like, this article will be taking you through all you need to know about freshers’ week.

What is freshers’ week?

Freshers’ week is the first full week of term, for students in the first year of their degree. It’s an informal week to introduce you to university life.

Freshers’ week is mainly to be social. You’ll definitely meet with your subject tutors, but you probably won’t receive work to complete during freshers’ week. Your time will mostly be spent at university-run events with other freshers.

Freshers’ week is your first week of term to get used to how university works. It’s there to make sure you know what life will be like at university.

To read more about what freshers’ week exactly is, check out this Think Student article.

When is freshers’ week?

Freshers’ week starts in the first full week of term. You’ll likely be asked to arrive at your university on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday.

Freshers’ week will start on Monday of the following week. You can check out this Think Student article for information on when universities start their year.

However, even in your first year, freshers’ week will only be in the first week of your first ever term. Your spring and summer terms in the first year of your degree will not have a freshers’ week.

There are more details about when the next freshers’ week is here, in a Think Student article.

What happens in freshers’ week?

During freshers’ week, your university will provide academic and social events for you and other freshers. For example, your university might host talks on how the university is run and by whom.

Universities will usually have freshers’ representatives, who organise the events for freshers’ week. They are usually responsible for the social events during freshers’ week, such as a group lunch or a sports day. At my university, freshers’ representatives also organised clubbing nights!

The main focus of the week is to meet people in your university and people on your course. It’s probably one of the most important weeks of your degree, even though you don’t do any work.

Is freshers’ week compulsory?

The short answer is yes and no. Some of the university-run events will be compulsory. I had to attend compulsory talks by my university doctor and junior dean.

These might seem boring, but they are important, and the university might check your attendance. At the very least, you should go to these compulsory events.

However, the social events are not officially compulsory. I would advise still attending them, though. The social events of freshers’ week are your best opportunity to make friends.

Why you should go to freshers’ week

You can read all about the importance of freshers’ week here on the UCAS website. Most students, including myself, will tell you that it’s really important you attend freshers’ week.

It can’t be said enough that freshers’ week is the biggest opportunity you’ll get to make friends at university. I should stress that it isn’t the only opportunity, but the week is pretty much dedicated to making friends. It’s a great bridge into the university lifestyle, which you can read more about in this Think Student article.

Don’t panic if you don’t make a lot of friends in freshers’ week. Even if you feel like you’re wasting your time, it’s better to attend all the events. You don’t know what might happen!

Also, if you go to freshers’ week, you’ll generally know a lot more about how university works. You’ll learn who you can talk to if you’re struggling, and what your degree entails. I definitely would’ve been much less prepared if I skipped freshers’ week.

During freshers’ week, your university will also host a freshers’ fair, which is the biggest event of the week. Keep reading the article to learn more about a freshers’ fair.

What is a freshers’ fair?

A freshers’ fair is a one-day event in which university societies advertise themselves to new freshers. Your university will set up a marketplace-style area full of tents for each university society.

On the day, you can visit any stalls you want – students running the stall will want to tell you all about what their society has to offer!

If you’re confused about what societies are, I recommend checking out a Think Student article about them linked here.

What should you wear to a freshers’ fair?

There’s no dress code to a freshers’ fair! However, you’ll definitely be walking a lot as there will be a lot of stalls to see. For this reason, you should wear comfortable shoes.

Aside from comfortable footwear, there’s no fashion trends for a freshers’ fair. Wear whatever fits your personal style! You might get some free stuff at the fair, so it might be a good idea to wear clothes with pockets!

How to get your freshers’ week tickets?

Different universities will have different ways of providing freshers’ week tickets. Generally, freshers’ representatives will be selling tickets in your university’s communal areas. All you need to do is find the person selling tickets!

Your freshers’ representatives may also have set up a freshers group chat for your cohort, in which case tickets will most likely be sold there via a website or app.

However, if you’re like me and aren’t a nightclub person, you probably won’t need to buy tickets. Ticketed events during freshers’ week are usually for clubbing and high-energy events. If those don’t sound like your thing, ask your freshers representatives what other events are being held.

How much does freshers’ week cost?

This page on the UCAS website states that in 2021, the average student spent £421 in freshers’ week. UCAS also points out that this increased from £406 in 2020, and £368 in 2019. It’s reasonable to assume that this will probably increase in future years.

During freshers’ week, you’ll probably spend the most money on tickets to events, takeaway food, and alcoholic drinks (if you drink). For students worried about finance, my advice is to create a budget for your first term in freshers’ week. Manage your spending from the start!

Obviously, not everyone can finance university costs. Before freshers’ week, you’ll have had to apply for student finance. This governmental guide has more information on what funding you’ll receive to help with living costs at university.

How to make the most of freshers’ week?

A lot of new university students assume that freshers’ week will be the best week of your time at university. It might be! I know students who said that they made all their friends in freshers’ week and adapted just fine.

However, that standard is definitely unrealistic – and that’s okay! As a former fresher myself, I promise there is no one way to experience freshers’ week.

This article by the Guardian is really useful if you’re worried about not having the ultimate freshers’ experience (which to be honest, you probably won’t). It’s super normal to feel homesick and stressed, and you are definitely not the only fresher feeling that way.

I definitely didn’t cope the best during freshers’ week, and a large majority of people I know also struggled. You should always reach out if you feel you aren’t coping with the change! This Think Student article has great advice on recognising stress and dealing with it.

That being said, if you want to try and make the most of freshers’ week, attend as many events as you can. If you have the confidence – or even if you don’t – you can literally talk to random freshers. Most people want someone to talk to, so make that person you!

Similarly, it’s a good idea to just hang out in your university’s communal spaces. The chances are, during freshers’ week other students will see you and talk to you. It’s important to remember everyone wants a friend.

How to make friends in freshers’ week?

As mentioned above, introducing yourself to people who are by themselves is a great way to connect. As well as this, you can meet people at freshers’ week events.

Confidence is really key during freshers’ week, and it’s quite likely that the more outgoing you appear, people will be more likely to approach you. If you don’t feel confident though, I get it – I was super shy during freshers’ week!

If you’re socially anxious like myself, you might struggle to make friends at first. Let me reassure you though, you’ll make at least one friend for certain during freshers’ week.

In the rare event that you don’t find yourself with a friend group after freshers’ week, don’t panic. Freshers’ week isn’t the only opportunity you’ll ever have. If you really are worried about it though, I recommend reading this Think Student article for some good advice.

Freshers’ week for non-drinkers

It’s fair to say that drinking is a social standard at uni. Whether you don’t drink for religious reasons, health reasons, or simply because you don’t want to, that’s okay!

Fresher representatives will plan non-drinking freshers’ week events, because it’s unfair to assume that everyone drinks. All you need to do is ask!

Also, it’s fairly likely you’ll find friends who also don’t like drinking. Alternatively, even if your friends are drinking, good friends will always respect your wishes. Never feel pressured to consume alcohol if you don’t want to.

Freshers’ week living at home

Freshers’ week is quite a different experience if you’re living at home. You might experience “FOMO”: the fear of missing out. This helpful article by Forbes explains the causes of FOMO and how to recognise it.

Obviously, even if you’re living at home, you’re still totally welcome to participate in any freshers’ week events! Your university won’t cover any travel costs, though.

It’s also worth checking out your university’s accommodation policy. You might be able to stay in your friend’s room in university accommodation, if permitted.

How to stay healthy during freshers’ week?

Since you’re coming into contact with so many new people for the first time, your body won’t have built immunity to all the new germs. You can expect to get sick during freshers’ week, but you can take some steps to avoid it.

I got sick with freshers’ flu during freshers’ week, which is something I’ll talk about later in the article. My advice is to buy paracetamol as soon as possible, preferably before freshers’ week starts. There’s no harm in being prepared!

If you’re living away from home in a new area, locate your nearest pharmacies as soon as possible. Freshers’ flu is different for everyone, but it can seriously take a toll on you!

What is freshers’ flu and how do you avoid it?

Freshers’ flu is an illness with generic flu symptoms such as a cough, a fever or headaches. These can be mild or severe, depending on how your body copes with the illness. It’s called “freshers’ flu” because most freshers’ get sick from being exposed to so many new germs at once.

This article from The Education Hub, part of the government website, offers some great advice on how to avoid freshers’ flu. My personal advice is to wear a face mask in social settings and try not to hang around in crowds of 20+ people!

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