What to expect during the first year of university?

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Starting university can be overwhelming. After all, many students are leaving home for the first time. This can lead to battling the fear of the unknown. Consequently, many students can understandably get stressed out! Therefore, it can be useful to know exactly what to expect to stop these worries. You may have heard about crazy first years at university, where students drink non -stop and party every day. However, the reality may be different to what you may think!

What you experience during the first year of university will be specific to each course and university. However, all students will experience a freshers’ week and will be exposed to a range of new experiences and social situations. You will still be expected to study during your first year of university, however, social aspects will be prioritised.

If you want to find out more about what to exactly expect during the first year of university and how to possibly prepare, check out the rest of this article!

What happens during the first month of university?

The first month of university is a whirlwind. So much is going on at the same time and you are confronted with so many new and potentially scary situations.

The first week of university is known as freshers’ week, where you will be involved in a range of social and academic activities to become acquainted with the university. You will have the chance to meet with your course mates and tutors, so that you won’t be too overwhelmed when your studies start.

Being social during this week is also extremely important, as having a good group of friends is an essential part of university. There will most likely be a range of university fairs and welcome activities. If you want to find out more about freshers’ week, check out this Think Student article.

After freshers’ week, it is still good to be social for the rest of the first month. After all, making as many friends as possible is essential.

When you start lectures in the first month, they will mostly be introductory and the layout of the course will be explained to you. Lecturers will often encourage group activities, to make sure that you are talking to other students on the course.

The first month of university is often the busiest, as it is the time that you settle in and become familiar with the unfamiliar. You can find out more about the first few weeks of university if you check out this article from the University of the West of Scotland.

How are you taught during the first year of university?

How you are taught during the first year of university mostly depends on the type of course you are completing. However, it is possible that you will be exposed to a range of different teaching types during the first year of university, as the university wants you to experience all the different methods.

University teaching methods include lectures, seminars, tutorials and practicals. Some courses only use lectures. After all, it depends on how practical your course is.

These teaching methods may be extremely different to how you have been taught before! If you want some guidance on how to transition from school to university, check out this Think Student article.

How much studying do you do during the first year of university?

Many students believe that during first year, they don’t have to work very hard. This is because for most courses, first year doesn’t even count!

Regardless, you will probably still be set quite a bit of work. First year is used to introduce students to university life and prepare them for the next two years. Consequently, completing your work and getting used to independent learning is essential.

Not trying during first year can therefore be detrimental to your studies. You can find out more about the importance of studying first year and some other tips if you check out this page from Save The Student.

Universities emphasise the need for independent learning, therefore you may be surprised by how little contact hours you actually have in university. Some courses only require students to attend lectures two days a week.

However, other courses will require you to be in every day! Even if you are only in university for a couple of days, you will still be set quite a bit of work outside of lectures.

My course is quite full on, therefore I have to attend university five days a week. I also have at least two hours of studying to do outside of lectures every day. To find out more about what to expect academically during the first week of university, check out this article from The Complete University Guide.

What is accommodation like during the first year of university?

During the first year of university, you will probably live in student halls of residence. If you live in these, you will be allocated your own room and will share a flat with other students from the university.

Some student halls have en suites, however this depends on your budget and the area you want to live in. The people you are sharing halls with will be random, allowing you to make some new friends!

Living with new people can be scary, however forcing yourself to make conversation and getting to know your flat mates is essential, as they will be fantastic social support during your time at university. You can find out more about student accommodation if you check out this Think Student article.

Where you live after first year may be different. This is because most students tend to move into shared houses or flats with people they have made friends with. You can find out more about first year accommodation if you check out this article from The Complete University Guide.

How are you assessed during the first year of university?

How you are assessed during the first year of university depends on the type of course you are on. Some courses are mostly coursework based and students who panic during exams often prefer this.

However, university essays can often be extremely difficult, as they require an immense amount of research and you may have to structure them in a different way, compared to what you are used to. If your course is heavily coursework based, you could potentially be spending a lot of time working!

Other courses focus on exams. However, my course takes more of a hybrid approach. This means I am assessed via multiple choice quizzes, written exams, group objects and essays.

During the first year, you should have two examination periods, one in semester one and one in semester two, if you have exams. The weightings for each exam depends on each university an course.

However, often the semester two exams are more heavily weighted. To pass first year, you only need 40% for most universities and courses. However, be sure to research your individual course, as it could be different!

This percentage may seem low, however you need to be aware that university assessments can be more challenging then any exams you have done before.

Therefore, make sure you are prepared for this change! If you want to find out more about university assessments, check out this article from WhatUni.

What is the social life like during the first year of university?

During your first year of university, it is true that your social life should be prioritised. Of course, your studying is important, as already stated.

However, first year is the only time where being social is seen as an essential element of your life. This is because first year is all about making friends and finding a support network.

You could set up study groups with people from your course and join societies to find people with similar interests to you. You can check out some popular societies in this Think Student article. If you don’t prioritise your social life, this could lead to feeling isolated.

After all, during your second and third years, your life will become more work focused. You can find out more about social life during the first year at university if you check out this page from Newcastle University.

What challenges can you expect during the first year of university?

Personally, handling money was a challenge during my first year of university. When you first start university, it will most likely be your first time handling all of your money and spending. This can be daunting.

However, you also don’t want to go in the other direction and refuse to spend any money at all, which was my problem! During first year, it is good to not be too stingy with your money, as being social is a priority.

Just make sure that you have enough money left for the essentials, such as food and washing. My advice is to give yourself a budget each week and make sure that you don’t go above it. Don’t make this budget too small, as it is healthy to spend money to be social!

If you want some tips on how to budget money as a student, check out this Think Student article.

Another challenge for me was being away from home for the first time. If you feel that you may struggle with this, you need to ensure that you really are maximising your social opportunities.

Create a network of good friends and make sure that you keep up with social activities to maintain them. If you are feeling sad, perhaps call a family member or friends from home.

Universities also offer a range of different support services and you will be introduced to these during your first year. Making friends can be a challenge in itself!

However, just make sure that you are talking to as many people as possible.

How do you prepare for your first year of university?

The best thing about going to university, for me anyway, was all the shopping I got to do! I had to buy new bedding, new decorations for my bedroom and even some new clothes! If you want some tips on how many clothes to take, check out this Think Student article.

It is essential that you have everything you need, as you want to be comfortable in your new environment. It can also be useful to familiarise yourself with the course by searching it up on university websites to make sure that you are not too shocked when teaching starts!

It could also be useful to familiarise yourself with the area you will be moving to, especially if you are going to a city you have never been to before. Make sure that your finances are also sorted, so you feel secure that you are able to buy the essentials.

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