My Top Tips For Starting University
Hi, I’m Aidan, a 2nd year Geography BSc student at Manchester. I learned a lot in my first year at university, and I’ve compiled some of my best advice for prospective and incoming students to make the most of your time at university!
First of all, one of the best aspects about the first year of your undergraduate degree is – for most degrees – it doesn’t actually count towards your degree. My Geography degree is weighted at 33% for 2nd year and 66% for 3rd year. While this doesn’t mean you should completely slack off and not do any uni work for a year (you are still paying tuition, of course!), it removes a lot of pressure and allows you to really focus on getting to know the city, meeting new people and getting involved in loads of events and extracurricular activities.
Definitely make sure you go along to the fresher’s fair – not only are there loads of freebies up for grabs, but it’s a great opportunity to get a sense of the vast selection of societies that are at the university. At Manchester, there are over 350 societies! (And if you can’t find one amongst all of those, you can create your own!) There’s no obligation to stick it through with a society forever, so my advice is to do what I did – sign up to a bunch, go along and see how you like it. Even if you only go for a few weeks, there’s a high probability that you’ll meet some cool people who have similar interests that you’ll stay in touch with and who will be friendly faces around campus, and remove the daunting feeling of there being so many people in such a big city all around you! Check out the full list of societies here.
Choosing your accommodation can be tricky, and it totally depends on the kind of person you are and the kind of experience that you are looking for. For me, I knew that I wasn’t a huge party animal, and I didn’t want to be miles away from campus and have to get the bus every day, which ruled out all of Fallowfield. I also knew I wanted to be in halls, which ruled out the city campus. Of the remaining halls in the Victoria Park area, there was a split of catered and self-catered options. I don’t mind cooking, but you’re pretty much guaranteed to be self-catering when you move into a house or flat in later years, so while it was an option, I opted for catered! This also enabled me more time in my day where I wasn’t having to think about shopping, cooking or cleaning, opening up the opportunity to go to more events and societies, which I have zero regrets about. I even made a video reviewing my halls experience on the official UoM YouTube channel, which you can watch here.
Managing finances is also very important. I kept track of mine on a big master spreadsheet that I made, but there are a tonne of amazing free apps and services out there to help you budget. I recommend not spending all of your student loan payment instalment in one go! There are loads of jobs for students available and the Students’ Union has a great board of job listings aimed at students, which include working for the SU themselves in their marketing, content or bar teams. You can also be an ambassador for your subject or department – I am a SEED (School of Environment, Education, and Development) ambassador, so every now and then will lead a group of visitors or prospective students around campus and answer their questions about life at university. It’s a fun gig, and you get a free hoodie!
First year of uni is a blast, so make the most of it! You don’t have to spend the whole time drinking, as is a common expectation. I wrote an article about having a zero-alcohol freshers’ week, which you can read here. If you need any support or guidance, the Students’ Union has some fantastic resources and a free advice service which is there for you to use.
Written by Aidan Rhode, a 2nd year Geography student.