10 tips and tricks for a smooth start to university

The prospect of university is a daunting one, especially if you haven’t had siblings experience it before you. Although you might think you know everything after reading the university’s literature, there are some nuggets of advice that only students (who have found out the hard way) will be able to give you. As a student who has experienced it first hand, I hope that I can impart some of this wisdom.

  1. Buddy up with friends from home for that dreaded trip to Ikea.

    Doing your shop at Ikea will keep costs down, especially if you share with friends.

    Many of the products in Ikea are designed for more than one person. An 18-piece dinner set split between the two of you will be more than enough to see you through the year. It’ll also stop you getting lazy with your washing-up. It’s also important not to have too few, so have a spare set for visitors, or when you don’t have time to wash-up straight away. Visiting my friend at another university saw me eating fajitas out of a cereal bowl and drinking wine out of a mug – not something I’d recommend you do every day.

  2. Wait until you get there before buying everything. It’s important to research what is provided in your halls, but also to work out if you’ll need certain items. Hold-off on buying products such as kitchen appliances otherwise when your flat of 8 or 10 turn up on day one, you’ll find you have 3 George Foreman’s, 2 toastie makers and 8 pairs of oven gloves which you neither need nor have space to store. This way you can then split the price of buying items that you can all use and if you share an Amazon Prime subscription (you can get 6-months free) then they can be delivered the next day. Win-win!
  3. Practise cooking a few dishes before you arrive.

    You might think you’re partial to a chicken nugget, but after 2 weeks you’ll be tired of them.

    If you’re not a keen cook, get your parents to teach you how to cook a few staple meals before arriving. 3 weeks down the line you will start getting fed up of pot-noodles, chicken nuggets and chips, and pesto pasta. Get them to teach you a few healthy meals, that’ll take little effort, so you have something to eat when this happens and help you to stay healthy. Try also to plan meals in advance to minimise the amount of food you waste. Many flats do online food-shops once a week, which help you plan, stick within budget and stop you from running out of food and resorting to take-aways.

  4. Stock up on toiletries before you arrive. Often parents will take you on one last food shop after getting you unpacked in your halls of residence, but utilise this shop to stock up on toiletries such as shampoo, conditioner, moisturiser and make-up remover. One of the biggest realisations you’ll have in your first term, is who knew that all this stuff cost so much money? £5 for your favourite shampoo? No chance on a student loan.
  5. Arrive as soon as possible to your halls.

    Many great friendships will form in your first few days of university

    Many universities will give you a few days window for moving in, so book the earliest possible slot that you can. People form bonds very quickly in these situations, and by day 3 you’ll be sitting amongst your new best friends thinking “how strange is it that we only met two days ago”, feeling like you’ve known them for your entire life. You don’t want to be moving in 3 days late, finding it hard to catch up with the already well-established friendships around you.

  6. Take multi-vitamins. Anyone who’s been on a drinking holiday in some dingy part of the world knows how alcohol can affect your immune system. Paired with people from all over the world bringing their germs into one place, and you’re bound to catch the age-old Fresher’s flu. Take vitamins, get enough sleep, and eat well to make sure it stays as Fresher’s flu, and doesn’t amount to more.
  7. Take photos from home with you.

    You can never have too many and they’re great for making your room more homely

    Everyone at university experiences homesickness in varying amounts. Even the toughest of people may find themselves struggling towards the end of November, with the thought of the Christmas holidays and endless home-cooked meals in sight. It’s important that you take photos with you, so that you have something to look at when you start feeling down and help combat these blues.

  8. Try not to isolate yourselves as a flat. In the first few weeks it’s easy to get carried away with getting to know those that you’ll be living with for the rest of the year, and then forgetting to get to know those around you and on your course. Go around as a flat during Freshers knocking on the doors of neighbouring flats. This will make for a much more sociable year, and minimise the impact of arguments in your flat.
  9. Get involved with as many societies and groups as possible.

    You will find that your university will have hundreds of societies for you to join, and if you can’t find one? You can start your own!

    Otherwise mid-way through first term, you’ll be hit with the regret of not joining after seeing all the fun activities and nights out they have. You’ll find that you have more free-time (especially in the evenings, if you use the day as study time) at university, so spend it wisely and make the most of it. Remember not to overload yourself though, deadlines will hit and you don’t want to have to spend your time juggling work and hobbies.

  10. Stay true to who you are. So many see university as a chance to totally reinvent themselves. You don’t need to act “cool” in-front of your flat mates, its ok not to be a big drinker, smoker or want to go out every night. There are thousands of people at university, and you’re bound to find like-minded people with the same interests as you, so stick to who you are!



Amos, E. (Photographer). (2012, July). Ikea Brooklyn Marketplace. Retrieved from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ikea-Brooklyn-Marketplace.jpg?uselang=en-gb

University of Reading. (Photographer). (2005, October). Stenton Hall. Retrieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/universityofreading/6538082509/

Nottingham University. (Photographer) Join a society. Retrieved from https://www.su.nottingham.ac.uk/societies/find-a-society/

Helpful Links:

Nosh for Students


A great, easy to follow cookbook to help you through 1st year

The Student Room University Checklist


The Student Room provides good advice for joining university, including this university checklist