Disclaimer: ♡ As an affiliate, I may earn money or products from the companies mentioned in this post. I only recommend products or services that I use and trust and that will be valuable to you. ♡ :
It is hard to get an understanding of what university is really like until you have experienced it all yourself. Even then, everybody will have a completely different experience. However, there will be some things that every uni student will experience. I know before I started I was asking myself what is uni really like? Somethings did turn out the way I expected but the majority of things did not.
If you were wondering, I have currently finished second year and I am about to go into third year. So I myself have experienced first year and freshers. I know exactly how you feel when you think about starting university.
You may be asking yourself the question:
What is uni really like?
Life at university can be a number of different things. You may have certain expectations but everything will change when you actually get there. You realise that the university myths you heard aren’t so true.
I want to give you an accurate representation from a current uni student who has heard all of the typical university myths and exceptions. I wish when I started University there was a guide about the accurate things to expect during first year. So I hope this will be helpful to you.
RELEVANT POST: The ULTIMATE Top Tips for freshers (20+ tips)
What is uni really like: Overview
- Packing for university
- Nights out
- Sports clubs and societies
- Making friends
- Living independently
- Living with other Students – common questions about halls – dealing with homesickness
- Food shopping
- The actual course and lectures
- Having a part-time job
- How to budget at uni
- Things don’t always work out how you want them to
- Bonus: Quotes from current uni students/ graduates
Freshers week is the most spoken about event of university. It includes a variety of activities through the day and night.
TIP: Do not spend all of your money in freshers week. You have another 11/12 weeks to spend your first student loan instalment so use it wisely. Don’t get sucked into buying the most expensive freshers tickets either, make sure you do your research.
What is it?
Freshers is during welcome week which is where the majority of uni’s put on lots of events and activities during the day.
The University also organise different events each night normally in the student union or on different clubs around the city. Usually, you can only attend if you are in 1st year and attend that university. Sometimes you may be able to take plus ones.
The events will have a theme, such as a beach party, zoo animals or army. So get your fancy dress ideas ready! If you love a good night out then freshers week will be great fun.
What to expect
Whether you go all out and go out every night, or just a couple of nights, or even just attend the day events, you will get tired. After the majority of freshers having a massive summer off after A Levels, jumping right back into waking up early to attend sports trials and the freshers fair as well as going on nights out will have you very worn out so look after yourself!
Freshers week is a great chance to speak to lots of different people and get to know more about the university. Party at night and get stuck into the freshers fair in the day. Learn about all the sports facilities and the societies you want to join.
Packing for University
If you are worried about leaving anything out when you move to uni then DONT WORRY!
I have creating a packing list so that you won’t miss a thing!
You can find the university packing list here.
I am currently writing this in 3rd year and it is safe to say I still haven’t learnt my lesson about over packing…but you will see that as time goes by you have far too many clothes and you haven’t been able to wear them all.
I guess it is better to over pack than under pack as long as it all fits in the car.
Don’t expect all nights out to be like freshers. Being in a new city means things may be slightly different. Make sure you take the time to learn your way around the city. The worst thing that could happen is you get lost on a night out and not knowing where you are.
I remember my first few nights out, I didn’t know the way home and I had to rely on others and I was worried about the fact I didn’t know my own way home.
Try and share taxis or Ubers with friends – save your money wherever possible.
Sports clubs and societies
If nights out aren’t your thing. Then take time to go to the freshers fair and see what takes your facny.
If there was one tip I wanted to give, it would be to join a society.
It is something I didn’t do in first year and I wish I had. There are so many options, from the cocktail society, to chess club, to ballet, to snow sports. I guarantee you there will be something you like. This is a great way to mix with different people and find people that share the same interests as you.
Don’t be scared to go alone.
Just remember that so many people are in the same position as you are. They are just as nervous. So make the first move if you can and try chatting to someone.
One of the things you have to do at university is putting yourself out there. It is all about growing your confidence and learning new things. I always say that with university, you get out of it what you put in. So you do have to make the effort if you can.
Join the facebook chats
A great way you can do this is to join the Facebook group chats for your university. There are flat chats, halls chats, society chats and course chats. So get to know some people before you even get there.
I joined my flat chat so I knew who I was living with before I got there and it made me way less nervous so I really recommend you try and find your flatmates online beforehand.
Join a society
Another thing you can do as I spoke about earlier is to join a society. You will be able to meet like-minded people.
One of the things you have to come to grip with is that you do lose touch with old friends. In my case, this wasn’t the case so much but I know it does happen to others.
A myth you may hear is that you make friends for life at university. Which on my behalf I found to be true – in fact I met my boyfriend at university and I couldn’t be more happy.
Now is the time when you can finally move out of your parent’s house, you don’t have to obey by their rules anymore. Now for some people, this is a dream come true. But for others, it could be their worst nightmare. So you have to remember that everyone is in different situations.
Living away from your parents means you have to learn to do things for yourself. You have to do the cooking, the cleaning and the food shop. You’re the one who has to motivate yourself to get out of bed and go to your lectures. You are the only one who has control over what you do.
Dealing with homesickness
Living away from your family can get difficult at times. But I know at my own university, they offer an amazing support team. We have student mentors for the first years. Which are second or third-year students that will be there for the first years. There are also multiple services provided by the uni which I am sure is available at every uni. So if you do need help, it is there for you.
It can get lonely
I have asked a couple of people to get involved and give there overall opinion and experience of their first year at university. So that you can see the reality of it:
“When I entered university, I was in a dark place mentally, I was depressed and there was a lot of issues going on at house that I just couldn’t deal with, I was honestly thinking of dropping out of school because I was so worried about paying for my school fees, now I am grateful that I didn’t. Uni helped me in getting me out of my state depression, I made friends with people accepted me without questions, they thought me that life isn’t all about crying and worrying about things that I can’t control, life happens and there is nothing anyone can do.
It also helped realized that I should stop limiting myself to what I have been thought rather I should move out of my comfort zone and do things that I haven’t done before.”Adenike Opere – Nikes Corner
Living with other Students
Now if you are living in halls, it comes with the pleasure of meeting and living with other students – complete strangers from all over the country or even the world.
Now without a doubt, there will be someone in your flat who you don’t see eye to eye with. If you get on with all your flatmates then you are very lucky. But don’t let that put you off. Halls can provide you with the best experience. You get to live with other students and make friends with completely new people. I got on with the majority of my flat and I loved halls.
Your milk will get stolen
It’s happened to me – and it happens to everyone. Your things will get taken and you will have arguments over the washing and who has to take out the bins. But it is all a big laugh at the end of the day.
Also, they can be a lot of noise created from uni halls. So maybe take some ear plugs with you if you like your sleep.
“When I moved to uni, I moved all by myself and it was a 16-hour drive away from home. It was by far the most daunting yet incredibly liberating feeling. I went to uni with so many expectations and to be honest, in first year it was exactly what I thought it would be.
I lived in uni halls and had a roommate for the first time in my life. The overall feel of living in uni halls is having family on campus that you know you’ll always get a hug and a smile from.
The workload was not as intense as I had expected it, we had plenty of time to work hard and many free periods in between to sneak a lunch date with a friend.
Luckily for us, our campus was a walking distance away from EVERYTHING. You could walk from your uni halls to go and get your hair & nails done, buy groceries or even go get midnight McDonalds (there was plenty of security on campus keeping us safe). First-year was a great time to be away from home and still feel like I’m having the best time of my life. I will never forget those memories I made during that year!”Nons Mshengu
Questions you should ask about halls
- What supermarkets are around you?
- What is your price budget?
- How many people were you looking at living with?
- How far away from university are you willing to be?
- Do you want to live on or off campus?
- What facilities does it come with? Does it come with kitchen appliances like a kettle and toaster or do you need to buy them?
- How much is the deposit?
- Is the building well managed?
- Do they offer any activities?
- Are there any quiet spaces?
- Is there a gym?
- Are there any unusual rules you haven’t heard about?
Use Aldi and Lidl!! I absolutely swore by Aldi in first and second year. The good thing is you can buy whatever you want to eat. The bad thing is you are the one who has to cook it. Now is when you see the value of money and you can see that sometimes it is best to go for the cheaper option.
The thing is, if you supermarket is anything more than a 1o minute walk away, carrying a couple bags of food back can be proven quite difficult. I always had to take someone with me to help carry it all.
I roughly spent around £15 a week on food, some week more some less. People I know have managed to spend only £10 a week on food so it really does vary with what you are buying.
Get looking for cooking resources. I use the app called Tasty to find easy recipes. Learn from the other students in your flat. Follow some youtube videos. There are so many ways you can find different recipes to learn how to cook. now is the time you can experiment in the kitchen!
Just don’t set the fire alarm off for the whole block!
Make sure you buy all the staple foods like pasta, rice and bread. Wrap pizzas are also an excellent idea.
You can also do flat cooking and make things like enchiladas and fajitas that come in kits. It is a lot harder to cook just for one person as things come in packs of 2 or 4.
Pasta bake is a brill meal that you can make a couple of servings and eat it over a few days. Try meal prepping! You will find it saves you so much money and you will waste less food.
Don’t live off KFC!
You will find yourself gravitating to fast food chains. But after time you will find that it is just not feasible and that you just don’t have room in your budget for it.
The actual course
Somehow, attending your university classes seems way hard then waking up and going to school. Having to wake up at 10am seems like so much effort.
Also – First year does count!
Especially if you are looking to do a placement after the second year. Companies will expect you to have a 2:1 from first year, and sometimes a 2:2. You will also want to get into the groove of things so that you are fully ready for second year which odes count. Most of the time you are building on what you learnt in first year so if you only scrapped a pass then you will just struggle with second year.
Make sure you turn up with the right equipment, check out my guide on University essentials.
A seminar is a smaller group of 12-20 students where you get taught in a class by a lecturer. You get the chance to ask questions and work with other students. Seminars are the most important part because there is less of you so you get more of a chance to focus on what you are struggling with. So make the most of your time.
One thing I have to say is: GO TO YOUR LECTURES. Even though I beelive the majority of univesities record their lecutres, there isa reason you are timetabled to go in. The likeliness of you catching up with it is probably low so you may aswell just get it done.
I only had 12 hours of learning a week so it would have been silly for me to miss any of my class when they were asking so little of me. Compared to a 30 hour week of school, contact hours at university are nothing. Obviously it will vary from course to course and even between universities.
Another excellent thing about university is being able to take on a placement role in your chosen career or even an internship.
What I have found being in a business school (I take Accounting) is that firms love it when you have experience. I feel like they look for expericne over getting a 1st in your degree. A 2:1 with expericne will always be preferred.
Get some real life work experience
I recommend getting some work experience if you can’t secure a placement even if it is for two weeks.
If you are into fashion I have a post all about How taking on a fashion placement during university could be the best thing you do.
Having a part-time job
So having a part-time job during university can be a win or a lose. I had a job during first year but it was only a zero hour contact. I was working in the cafe at university so all I had to do was select the shifts I wanted for the following week. If any of the slots clashed with classes then I didn’t have to go.
I personally felt like I had plenty of spare time available to be able to have a job alongside my studies. I know many people who have worked throughout university. It is a great way to make a little bit of money on the side. Especially if your loan is a little less.
How to find a job
If you are looking for a job then I recommend looking on Indeed. You will be able to find so many part-time jobs in your area. Also, look on your university website and see if there are any jobs available around the university. I was able to get a job as a Student Mentor and a Student Ambassador so I could work with first-year students and on open days and get paid for it. It also looks great on my CV.
Things don’t always work out how you want them to
As I learnt myself, reality doesn’t always live up to expectations. There will be somethings that you imagined slightly differently. For example, you may not enjoy your course, or you may be totally different from all your flatmates and not get on. But things will work out in the end. If university is not for you, at least you can say you tried it.
“My uni experience was an interesting one. It was always my back up plan anyway since I wanted to go to a professional dance school rather than university, but when I didn’t get into any of the dance schools I wanted, I settled for going to uni for the year, still to study Dance.
As I had suspected, it wasn’t even nearly the same as the expectations I had for dance school, and I didn’t really get involved with social things either – I thought going to uni would make me more sociable and more of a party person but I think that was the most unsociable year of my life!
I ended up hating the course and falling out with the friend from school I went to uni with when I decided I was going to finish the year and then audition again for dance school. It was a valuable life experience I guess and I’m a firm believer of everything happens for a reason!
I took the next 2 years doing an additional Level 3 qualification but in full-time dance and the training. I’ll be 24 when I graduate but I’ll have so much experience and confidence knowing I didn’t settle for something that wasn’t right for me. “Lauren Ash – Lauren Hollie Fitness
How to budget at uni
So I felt like I needed to budget at university just so I could control my spending. When you get your student loan it is so easy to go wild with it. However, sometimes, your student loan won’t even cover your accommodation. So budgeting is very necessary.
Student loans are a tricky one due to them being based on your parents income. My parents were happy to help me out but I know some people’s parents were not so happy despite their child getting a lower loan.
Save the Student have a great guide on how to budget at Uni.
So, what I did is work out how much of my loan I have to spread over each term. I then divided it by the number of weeks per term to find out how much money I had to last me a week. This came to £30 a week. I soon figured out I was spending about £15 a week on food which only left me £15 for socialising, clubbing, travelling and anything like books for university. I did manage to stick to this most weeks by not buying anything that was unnecessary. So it just shows it can be done.
If you need any help I have a post on How you can save money as a student.
Bonus: Quotes from current uni students/ graduates
Reading about other peoples experiences can be a massive help when realising the reality of things. A myth about university is that it will be the best years of your life. But you also have to understand that every bodies situation is different and everybody grows and learns in different ways. So what one person might enjoy, someone else would hate.
“I met lots of new people”
It’s fair to say uni was a mixed experience for me personally. In general, I had a great time during my first two years. I met lots of new people, had a large group of friends and got involved in a number of societies. But it took a while to get to that point. Having always been close to my family, being away from home for the first time was tough and I definitely spent a lot of the first month feeling quite homesick. It all started to improve as I made genuine friends and pretty quickly Bristol began to feel like home. This led to me having a great two years and going into my third and final year really excited about what was to come, even though I knew there would be a fair amount of work involved too!
However, about a month into my final year I became very ill. I could barely leave my bed for around six weeks and was left extremely fatigued by even the simplest of tasks. By Christmas, with my condition not showing much sign of improvement, any hope of graduating that summer with my friends had gone. What followed was a long struggle of balancing recovery and trying to salvage what was left of my last year, with the help of my friends. I ended up having to defer most of my exams and my dissertation into the Summer, but persevered. When I did graduate, a summer later, it felt all the sweeter. While at the time my illness ruined my final year, looking back now in many ways it made it as I came out of it far stronger.Katie – The Twenty Percent
“university isn’t about one course, area, or experience”
For me, university isn’t about one course, area, or experience. At university, I have been an undergraduate, postgraduate, and mature student. Living in halls was good, I also lived at home. I loved the learning side of it, but the social side of it wasn’t always easy.
Over a decade ago, I first went to university, but I hated it, I had all these great ideas about what it was going to be like. I hated being away from home and I think I learnt more about myself in that first year that I had before or have since. I think I was probably too young, and I think this because seven years later I moved into halls at a different university when I did a graduate course and I loved it.
Looking back, I think I thought that university should be one thing, or that I should be one thing, and neither happened. Yes, you can go out partying all the time, but it’s also OK to not. Sometimes age and growing older mentally can help with realising that you should only ever be you.
Altogether I have studied five courses at university (six if you count changing undergraduate courses where I lived at home for years 2 and 3), and each one has been very different, with each having their good and bad points. You get out of university what you put into it, and each person will arrive to it with their own goals and mindset. Overall, perhaps learning about yourself is more important than what you will learn studying.Sarah – The Keeping Approach
“take advantage of every opportunity”
My experience of University was probably slightly different to most. I had my daughter in the summer after my second year, I very nearly dropped out. Luckily for me, I had a lot of support and was able to continue to attend. Although originally I was completing a 4-year degree, with a year abroad, I did change this to a 3-year degree to work around my new commitments.
After I had my daughter, things changed a lot for me, in terms of my mindset. I became fed up of hearing “what a waste”, this was people referring to me having my daughter. As though, because I was now a mother, I couldn’t possibly be successful. I suppose this became my drive. I worked hard, I would spend full days at the university. When I didn’t have lectures, I sat in the library. I couldn’t study much at home, so I used the time I did have to my advantage. The times that I did, I made the most of it, I didn’t socialise as much as I did before.
I recorded all the lectures and would listen to them on the way home. Rather than take books from the library, I purchased them. The way I learn best is by reading something 2-3 times and then highlighting it whilst reading it again. It then becomes imprinted in my brain.
My tip to anyone thinking of going to University or attending already is: take advantage of every opportunity they offer. Work placements, trips abroad and socialising events. Take it seriously, because what you do here, the people you meet, the networking you do and the experiences you participate in, could change your life. I managed to do it, I am now semi-successful (I’m always looking for a promotion) and my daughter has a great life. Just remember you can achieve anything if you work hard enough!Mrs D – Travel Blogger
“I have some amazing friends at uni”
“I was so excited to start university but I was also super nervous too! I’m quite a quiet person when I first meet people and I was worried that I would struggle to fit in at university, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. I don’t mind going on a night out, but it’s not my favourite thing but that’s alright!
It’s your university experience, so you can make of it what you want to! Don’t feel pressured to do things if you don’t want to, you’ll find your people. I have some amazing friends at uni and I feel so lucky to have met them! I also moved away which was pretty scary and could be lonely at times, but your flatmates are experiencing the same thing and there’s nothing stopping you from popping home if you need to. I’m studying nursing which is such an amazing course with a mix of academic work and placement too! But good luck with uni, you’ll love it!”Little World of Rachel
“It was a life experience”
“Being in a bad place, before going to Uni, just meant being stuck in a toxic friendship group and having to confront my mental health around people who called me an attention seeker because of it!
Although I had many bad experiences, including a loss of identity, I wouldn’t, and don’t, ever regret going. It was a life experience, and I developed as a person so much! I met some amazing people who helped me to accept my mental health, I re-built my confidence, and I learnt some valuable life skills I wouldn’t have got had I not gone. But I wish I had chosen to do a placement year- so coming out I wouldn’t be told ‘I have no experience’, in every job interview!”Beth from Lev’in life
“Uni is really a time to explore”
“I was in and out of a university for the past 15 years, from getting my BSc to getting a PhD, all in Mathematics. Those times formed me into who I am today.
Besides the degrees. I got to make good friends and build a network. On the other hand, the sleepless nights, tears and really sad moments shaped me into an adult with strong will, resilience, patience and grit.
With that said. It is important to know that everything you need in can’t be learnt at a university. However, the experience equips you with the ability to learn what you need outside of the university, be it while you are still studying or when you have graduated.
Uni is really a time to explore, schoolwork gets overwhelming but when you get the time, explore! Find out what is going on there, find out how the passion you have which may be different from what you are currently studying can be further developed. Participate in school politics and attend parties.”
“Decorating my halls”
I found that decorating my halls room really helped me settle in during the first few weeks as making the place feel like mine made it seem a lot less terrifying! Having pictures of friends and family made the space feel less daunting and having things from home made it feel like a second bedroom rather than something scary.Natasha from A Girl with a View
“There is no one experience of university”
“There is no one experience of university, though your familiarities are unified by other students. Whilst it’s freeing to have your independence and space, it’s not uncommon to find that you often mould yourself to fit into your social groups, be it with those you’re living with or are on your course. It’s a unique journey and one you can only truly understand if you’ve moved out for university yourself. It’s easy to lose your sense of self and get lost within the university sphere so it’s important to keep yourself grounded and true to your inner self. Don’t let everyone convince you it’s supposed to be a super happy, peak of your life moment – because it won’t be – not all the time anyway.”Faye Zubs – CultureEighteen
Conclusion: What is life really like as a uni student?
Life as a uni student will be whatever you make of it. I have had the most amazing time at university so far and I can’t imagine myself doing anything else. I will be able to come with a degree, along with some amazing friends and some great memories. Learning to be independt has been a big win for me. I have learnt so many new skills and taken up so many opportunities.
If it wasn’t for university then I would never have been able to take the time to work and travel in America for 3 months.
So to anyone debating if University is for them, I think that the amount of opportunities you get given to you on a plate is too good an opportunity to give up.
More on What is Uni really like:
- 10 Tips on how to actually revise properly
- How to find the right uni for you
- University Stationery bundle: Student Essentials Packs
- Travelling after university VS a Career: The Benefits
Thank you for reading my post about what uni is really like and the university myths I have heard going around.. If you want to find out more check out my about me page. My name is Amber Page and I run The Unpredicted Page. You can find me over on:
Aislinn Short says
Great post! I’ve been out of university for a little over four years and all of this is very accurate. Especially regarding roommates 😅
This is such a great post for anyone starting uni to read! I think its so important to remember that everyone is nervous and just wants to make friends too!
Mind and Body Intertwined says
Love this! I recently graduated and although I studied in the Netherlands and it’s a little different here, it’s making me reminisce the old days haha.
What an amazing post Amber, you really put a lot of time and effort in this! The post is really detailed and has lot’s of valuable information for new uni students! And it gives a laugh to all people who have been a student 🙂
Nic | Nic's Adventures & Bakes says
Thanks for sharing, this all remind me of my first year, meeting new people, going out not sure whether jeans were acceptable, the four am fire alarms were not my best friend ether 🙂 Great tips as well 🙂
Nic | Nic’s Adventures & Bakes
I have to say this is the BEST uni advice post I’ve come across so far. Its a long read but it has absolutely everything I needed and wanted to know..i move in to my halls in 15 days and I’m so nervous but I’m in different chats for my flats, course and the freshers events look really good – cant wait for welcome night!!! Great advice about shopping and cooking too which made me feel so much better. Saved this to refer back to again and again during freshers!!! xxxx
Thank you so much for the feedback I am so glad it was informative!
Whenever I get asked about university the one piece of advice that I give is to always join a society in first year! I joined a lacrosse club in uni (without any actual lacrosse experience) and it honestly made my entire university experience. I loved this post, it’s so helpful for anyone starting university 🙂
The busy shelf says
Can I just say that I loved it how you inserted other people’s experiences? that is to prove that Uni time is a wonderful time but it is unique to every single one person. Sure, you can use some things as a guideline, but we’re all different and should never feel the pressure to experience something we don’t want just because “it’s what you do in uni”
Overall, great post!
Kelly Diane says
This is such an interesting post and youve included some great tips. I never went to university so didn’t really know what goes on.
This is such a brilliantly detailed post! I am in my second year at University and really wish I had made more effort putting myself out there and making friends in my course. I also didn’t find any society that really interested me, so I made my own!
Hey, thank you for the post.
However, could you please increase your font size? It’s very difficult to read.
Fab post Amber! I finished Uni 6 years ago and wow was it the best 3 years of my life 🙂
Great post! I left uni a few years ago and this actually made me miss it… it’s scary to start with but the main thing to remember is everyone is in the same boat! I remember being so scared that I wouldn’t make any friends etc, but no one there really knew anyone else, so it just happens! I love the ‘your milk will get stolen’ bit 😂 I wasn’t in halls but had a lot of these experiences too!
Lucy Mannion says
Really comprehensive post, I loved university but I found the first couple of months really hard on my mental health. x
What an in-depth post! I agree with you about putting yourself out there! I did this more in my second and fourth year of uni and they were massive highlights, even over freshers! I graduated 6 years ago now and loved every minute of my uni experience!
great post for people going to attend the uni. Thanks for sharing.
This is such a useful post for anyone going to uni soon. I’m in my first year and only got to stay in halls for 3 weeks due to covid. Hopefully I’ll go back in January because those first 3 weeks were the happiest I’ve been in years! Living from home ever since has made my mood go downhill and I’ve been feeling lonely – also I feel much more motivated living in halls to do work than at home. The best thing about living at home, though, is that I don’t need to wash up! But I’d obviously much prefer to be at uni, it really sucks that our freshers fair got cancelled and I haven’t managed to join any societies yet because they just haven’t really had anything on 🙁 But hopefully in the summer it will be better…at least that’s what I’m hoping xx
I really do hope it gets better!! I know exactly how you feel!
Anna Jo says
This is such a comprehensible guide to uni, and would definitely be helpful for anyone who’s about to start their jouney. I would say it’s the best opportunity to meet as much people as we can in this time, so joining clubs and organizations is definitely a good idea! Thank you for sharing with us 🙂
Anna Jo / http://www.helloannajo.com
Emily Adventuring says
Such a good post! So helpful for new university students! I definitely relate to the overpacking though! In my third year at the moment I’m still a terrible overpacker!
Baby Boomer Super Saver says
Attending a university is an unforgettable experience. I have not forgotten mine & it’s been many years, haha.