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A Survival Guide to College and University

Are you heading off to college or University soon? Moving away from home for the first time can be really exciting – and nerve-wracking! It means freedom, meeting new friends, learning new things and living on your own. But it also means learning to budget and look after yourself.

This article is also available in Welsh – I ddarllen y cynnwys yma yn Gymraeg clicia yma.

The first few weeks of college or University can be different for everybody. Maybe you are expecting this great new adventure where you’ll meet lots of new friends, have a wonderful social life, discover new places and study a course you love. But not everybody has this experience at first. Moving away from home for the first time can be difficult. Maybe you’re struggling to make new friends, feeling homesick, finding budgeting your money difficult, struggling with the workload or really hating your course.

People have different experiences in their first days, weeks and months at college or uni, so don’t panic if you feel your experience is different from others. Meic has a handy guide for freshers’ which we hope will help. 

Calculator and two people writing expenses for University guide blog

Learning to budget

This is one of the most important things you’re going to have to learn to do. You need to make sure that you can stretch that student loan. Check out this great guide on the MSE website. There are loads of money-saving tips, including student bank accounts, discounts, energy bills and making extra cash. Shop around for the best student bank account and see which one can offer the best deal for you. Banks often have incentives to try to win you over, like cash or freebies.

You won’t get your student loan every week or month. It will be paid into your account in larger sums three times a year (check out Student Finance Wales for further details). You’ll have to resist the temptation of blowing it all in one go. Learn to budget so that you don’t end up skint needing to fish food out of the bins around the back of Tesco (or begging to borrow money from the bank of mum and dad!).

Young girl covered in pink paint powder for University guide blog

Making new friends

Freshers’ week is a great time to make new friends. Social events will be put on so that the people on your course can get to know each other in a less formal setting. Make sure that you go!

You should also think about joining a group or society. There are lots to choose from, and they usually have stands at the Freshers’ Fair where you can find out more about them. This is a good way of meeting people with similar interests to you. 

If you need advice on making new friends, check out this Grab the Meic on our blog. Some great ideas on Save The Student include keeping your door open, offering help and cooking for people.

Glum young girl sat down staring at phone for University guide blog

Feeling homesick

It can be hard to adjust to university life, and missing family and friends back home can make the experience miserable for some. While some people seem to settle straight away, it’s not strange for others to struggle. Keeping busy is an excellent way of keeping this in the back of your mind. Meet new friends, attend social events, and join any groups or societies that interest you.

Try not to give up because you’re finding it too hard. This might be a decision you regret. If you can stick it out for a few weeks, these feelings of homesickness are likely to fade. You can make weekend visits home more often at the beginning if you need to. You should also make the most of technology. When you’re missing home, keep up with what your friends are doing on social media. You can also video call your family or friends if you want but try not to spend too much time contacting home; spend more time getting to know your new surroundings.

If things don’t feel like they’re getting any better, try talking to your tutor or student support services. Times Higher Education has advice on How To Deal With Homesickness At University.

Puzzled girl with glasses with memo stickers behind stuck on cotton wool clouds for University guide blog

Remember why you’re there

Freshers’ week is exciting and a time to settle into your new life. Pretty soon, you’ll need to think about getting organised. Make sure you go to lectures and hand in your work on time. Failing your first year is an expensive mistake to make. It will mean having to spend extra money to retake the year or dropping out of University. 

Creating a timetable or a study diary might sound boring in the middle of all the fun of freshers’ week, but it will prove helpful to you as the seriousness of why you’re there kicks in. Check out TopUniversities Top Five Tips For Getting Better Organized At Uni. Talk to your tutors or pastoral support if you’re struggling with the workload and getting organised. They may be able to help you come up with a plan.

Talk to Meic

Meic is someone that’s always on your side. If you’re struggling and need to talk to someone or just have a question you’d like answered, then you can contact Meic anonymously and free by phone, text or instant message from 8am to midnight every day of the year. We’ll talk through your options and help you find the best path for you going forward.