It’s so strange to think that this time last year I was preparing to leave for university. It’s an understatement to say I was pretty nervous about the whole thing, and I wasn’t really sure how best to prepare for this major life-change. Over the next eight weeks or so I’ll be helping all you new students through the process of preparing, packing and moving away to university in my Freshers’ Guide. It’s designed so can have the best start to your uni career as possible! At the end of each post there’ll be a piece of downloadable material to help support you in your preparations, so be sure to stick around.
First up, I’m breaking down the weeks between getting your results and place at university to moving into your accommodation or starting your classes, if you’re choosing to stay at home. There’s a lot to do in what is a relatively short space of time, so it’s good to have some idea in advance of what to expect, so you can best prepare.
Confirm your university place
I really don’t want to be the person to remind you, but A-Level results day is not that far away, landing on Thursday 18th August. The first thing to do is check your status on UCAS Track: this should go live at about eight-am but given the huge numbers of students trying to access it the site is often slow so be patient.
Once you’ve logged in you may discover that you have been accepted into your first- or second-choice university. If so – congratulations! If your status is still pending, don’t panic – it doesn’t necessarily mean you haven’t been accepted, as not everyone’s are updated at once. If you collect your results and find you’ve made your offer, you will have been accepted and Track should update in the next day or two. If you haven’t made your offer, it’s time to start making phone calls. Don’t call UCAS – call your chosen universities to find out if they have accepted you.
If you haven’t been accepted into your chosen universities, you may decide to enter Clearing. Alternatively, you may have received higher grades than your university asked for. If this is the case you can choose to enter Adjustment, which allows you to change to a higher-ranked university. The links above will direct you to two guides by The Student Room which will help you understand these two processes.
Once you’ve secured a place at a university, it’s time to celebrate – you’ll be off in no more than a few weeks!
During those few weeks, you might be surprised at how much admin there is involved. Your university will most likely need you to fill out some forms for their own records, and you’ll need to set up your new uni email account and check it regularly. It might also want you to find or take a photograph of yourself for your uni ID card. Make sure you do all of these things as they are super important! You should also receive the details of the events your uni is putting on for Freshers’ Week, so take a look and buy your tickets.
If you’re living in student accommodation for your first year, this will need to be organised asap. I actually had to fill in my choices for my accommodation some time before Results Day, but this probably varies uni to uni. In the days after Results Day you’ll be given the address of your accommodation. You may be able to change this if you haven’t been given what you asked for, but this process is very hit-and-miss. There is normally an opportunity to change accommodation after you arrive, although universities often request that you wait some time to see if you settle in first. Whatever you decide, confirm your accommodation choice and start planning how you want your new room to look!
Facebook groups have become an invaluable resource for universities in the last few years. It’s almost certain that you’ll be able to find a group for incoming freshers to your university, one for your accommodation block or college, and one for your courses. If there isn’t one, start it yourself – other students will thank you. Join all the relevant ones you can find, as well as the official event page for your Freshers’ Week if there is one.
If you’re getting a constant stream of notifications all of a sudden you can mute the group, but it can be really helpful to be on there. Get involved and chat to people: it’s the best way of getting to know your new classmates, and you might find someone to meet up and go to lectures with weeks in advance of arriving at uni. Next year, I’m living with a girl I started talking to on one of those groups – otherwise, we might never have met!
Above all, join the group for your accommodation. I can’t stress this enough. With a bit of luck you’ll be able to find your flatmates and start getting to know each other in advance. Be kind, open-minded, and involved – you’re going to live with this group of people for a year, and although you don’t need to all be best friends it’s vital that you can at least find some common ground on which to build a friendly relationship.
I know that some people are averse to Facebook and I don’t want to say “you need to have Facebook to have a good time at university!”, but in my experience it’s been a really useful tool at uni. Societies in particular organise themselves through Facebook groups and events and it’s a fantastic way of getting to know and keeping in touch with your new friends. I’d highly recommend getting an account before heading to university, even if you want to keep it private.
This one is potentially course-dependent but if you’ve received a reading list from your faculty start buying and reading. If you haven’t got one, it’s worth emailing the department and requesting it in advance. This can be scarily expensive (my reading lists are always over £100 per term) so have a look around for cheap deals, second-hand books and special grants in your area to support you. You may find that your faculty holds a book sale at the start of each term where you can pick up books from upper years, but it’s worth getting a few of your key texts before you arrive at uni so you can get ahead on the material. Make sure that you buy the right editions though, as older versions might not include everything you need.
The big one! This can seem like an impossibly huge job, but with some forward planning it can be made much easier. Firstly, make a list of everything you’re going to need to bring with you. Focus on that word need! I’m throwing a lot of TSR links out today but only because they’re super helpful (this post is not affiliated with or sponsored by them in any way). Here’s their definitive list of what to take – read it carefully, especially the bit about not taking everything on it!
Use your list to work out what you’ve already got at home that you can pack and what you need to buy new. Think about how you want your room to look and what you might want or need to make it homely, like photo frames or pretty cushions. When it comes to clothes, it’s generally advisable to bring about two weeks’ worth of clothing, and think carefully about the weather where you’re going. If you’re likely to come home regularly, you might want to take a little less, whilst if you’re not going home for many months you may need to bring clothes for all seasons.
When packing, consider your accommodation agreement and how you’re likely to travel to and from university. If you need to take everything with you on the train, pack as light as you can. If your accommodation agreement requests that you remove everything from your bedroom during the Christmas and/or Easter breaks (so that your accommodation can be used for conferences), think about how much effort it will take to keep packing and unpacking everything you own. And if you’re on the top floor of an accommodation block with no lift, well, maybe it’s time to start cardio training…
Congratulations: you’re all ready to head to university. Or at least, you will be – so long as you check back here every Wednesday for the rest of my Freshers’ Guide! Right now it might seem super exciting or incredibly daunting, or most likely a mix of the two. That’s totally okay; almost everyone is in the same boat. But if you set yourself up the right way, you can make the transition from school to university much easier for yourself – and I’m here to help.
If you’ve got any direct questions about moving to university, feel free to contact me using the form at the bottom of the screen, Twitter, or my email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.