How to Survive Your First Week of College

A group of multicultural university students walking outdoors

The first week of university can be an overwhelming experience, to say the least.

Moving away from home, saying goodbye to your family, living with new people, starting your degree… There are so many things happening all at once, and it’s perfectly normal to feel stunned by the amount of information you need to take in and the tasks you need to do.

But fear not! These handy tips will help you survive your first week of college and start your freshman year on the right foot!

1. Make a List

Before you head off to university, it would be a good idea to create a list of things you’ll need, like linens, cutlery, stationery, clothing and even gadgets. A thorough inventory will make packing a lot less stressful for you as you can tick off things while you pack and keep track of anything you’ll need to buy once you’re there.

Remember: the more organised you are, the smoother the move-in process will be and the faster you will get settled into your dorm and university life.

2. Get Everything in Order

A slightly tedious but necessary task you’ll need to complete is to sort out all the documents required for your enrolment. Before you hit the road, then, make sure to check what legal documents you’ll need for your student loan, registration, university account and student card. The more familiar you are with the requirements of each item, the less likely you’ll be short of necessary documents to enrol at your college.

Unless you’re extremely confident of your parents’ abilities to scan and send you your documents online, it’s safer if you take everything you might need with you. To add on that point, make sure you organise all these documents in one folder. This will save you from frantically searching through your things to find all the required paperwork you didn’t file in advance.

3. Create a Schedule

There will be a lot going on during your first week. Before you jump into the deep end of orientations, welcome talks and nights out, you’ll need to get organised. The best way to do this is to create a calendar or invest in a planner or even find a good organisation app.

Include every important event you need to attend, along with its time and location. You may think you’ll remember everything, but before you know it, you’ll be running on the other end of campus trying to find the registration line because it slipped your mind.

Your schedule will span from introductory talks at your department to library and campus orientation tours, and freshers’ fairs to even mentor meetings. By having all of these written down with the necessary details, you’ll be good to go.

4. Make a Budget

For many students, living away from home means having to manage their finances on their own for the first time. It might seem like a daunting task, but by creating a budget sheet, you’ll be able to track your expenses and stay on top of everything, especially during your first week. Keep in mind that you’re likely to spend more money at the beginning, so don’t panic if you fall out of your estimated costs!

Set a sensible weekly and monthly budget and log your expenses during your first few weeks. That way, you can adjust it accordingly and avoid any mindless spending.

5. Learn How to Cook

If you’re not living in catered halls, you’ll have to figure out your meals. So, finding easy recipes will save you from the infamous pot noodle diet. Although you might be tempted to live off fast food during your first week, this won’t seem like the best choice after your 20th pizza slice for the week. You don’t need to be Gordon Ramsay to create decent meals, but knowing the basics will be helpful.

There are plenty of student cookbooks out there which offer affordable and easy meal ideas, meanwhile, including Student Eats and Tiny Budget Cooking. If you’re a vegetarian, meanwhile, The Vegetarian Student Cookbook will be perfect for you. You could also compile different recipes on your Pinterest account or even check out Mob Kitchen’s YouTube channel for video tutorials on recipes that will ‘feed four people, for under £10’.

6. Get a Campus Map

You might be tempted to maintain a façade of confidence as you try to navigate around campus, but a map will make life a lot easier for you. It will also be a good idea to familiarise yourself with the campus’ layout and memorise possible routes to all your classes before they begin.

Soon enough, you’ll be able to find your way to the most obscure areas of campus with no problem, but until then, get yourself a map.

7. Socialise with Strangers

Depending on how extroverted you are, socialising will either be your forte or the bane of your existence. Either way, stepping out of your comfort zone and forming new connections is essential, especially during your freshman week. You need to be open and friendly and to seize opportunities to meet new people.

There are plenty of occasions to do this, from dorms to societies to faculty meetings and nights out. Although you might find that most friendships you make during your first week won’t be very substantial, some of them could stick. Most importantly, these friendships will help you step out of your shell and eventually create real connections with your peers.

8. Explore the City

Part of what makes moving to a new place so daunting is the unfamiliarity of it. During your time at university, you should take the time to learn about the city you live in. Why not start in your first week? The more familiar you become with it, the more comfortable you will feel with your new surroundings.

Learn about the history of the place and explore areas beyond the realms of your campus. That way, you won’t just feel that you are a member of your university, but also the community beyond it.

9. Get Help

If homesickness kicks in, try to remember that there are thousands of students who feel the same way. While it’s not a pleasant emotion, use it to bond with others, and take comfort in the fact that you and your peers are in this together. Soon enough, you’ll start feeling much more at home with them as well.

Getting used to your new routine will take some time, and even if you don’t feel like you can open up to your newly found friends, your university will help if you are struggling to adjust. Most colleges offer on-campus consultancy services and advisors who will be more than willing to help you if it gets a little too much. Either way, you will have a support network to fall back on.

10. Make Your Dorm Feel Like Home

Your room should be a space that you feel comfortable and safe in. Fill that space with anything that will help you achieve that feeling. Even if there’s limited space, you should still make the most out of what you have. So, maybe it’s time to put your saved Pinterest posts to good use!

Invest in things like potted plants, fairy lights, posters, colourful duvets or whatever floats your boat to create a homey environment you are happy to be in. If you start feeling at home, even in a small area of your university life, you will gradually begin adapting to everything else. Plus, decorating can be a lot of fun!

11. Mind the Fresher’s Flu

Fresher’s flu is very common during the first week of university. It’s a bad cold caused by a mixture of physical and psychological factors that negatively affect your immune system. It’s a combination of stress, alcohol, lack of sleep, junk food and mingling with hundreds of people. If you don’t fancy having a cold for the first month of your first year (like I did), make sure to eat and hydrate properly.

Bonus tip: take vitamin tablets to strengthen your immune system before the start of your first week. Trust me; you’ll thank me later.

12. Don’t Give Up

On average, it takes nearly a month to get accustomed to a new environment. When the blues hit, try not to jump the gun (or on the first train home) and declare that university isn’t for you. Even if it’s not, give yourself at least a month before arriving at a conclusion. Allow yourself some time to acclimate, explore the city and join societies that will offer you a sense of community away from home.

Just know that what you are feeling is normal and that it takes time to process all the changes happening around you. It’s essential to keep your expectations at a rational level, too. If things don’t fall immediately into place, it doesn’t mean they won’t; it just might mean you need more time.

13. Keep Yourself Busy

The best way to make friends and avoid homesickness is to stay busy. Your first week at college might seem daunting, but with all the events taking place, you will always have an abundance of things to do. Treat your first week as an unlimited pass to new opportunities and experiences and seize any chance you get to learn new things.

A lot of societies and clubs offer tasters you can join. Even if you don’t see yourself doing things like water polo kayaking in the long run, why not give it a try?

14. Pace Yourself

Although slightly contradictory to the previous point, you need to find a medium between being busy and isolating yourself from everything. While university life is all about new experiences, you need to be mindful of your personal needs.

Expose yourself to a healthy amount of socialising and university activities but do also take care of your wellbeing. Don’t feel pressured to attend events and nights out that you don’t want to. Remember: it’s just your first week; your university experience won’t be solely based on it.

15. Plan Ahead

Your first week is a seven-day rollercoaster of emotions. You probably spent so long worrying about those first few days that you didn’t even think about your student life after it. So, once you’ve survived your fresher’s week, it will be wise to plan your next steps.

Make sure that you’re prepared for all your upcoming classes and that you check for any assignments that need to be completed beforehand. Now that your first week at university is over, it’s time to start learning!

Even if freshman’s week turns out to be completely different from your initial expectations, remember that this is just the beginning, and those are often awkward. As long as you keep an open and curious attitude towards everything, you are bound to enjoy it.

But no matter how your first week at college goes, I guarantee you will look back to it fondly in a few years. The key to avoiding unnecessary stress and panic is to be prepared, organised and aware of everything you might need to sail through your first few days and kickstart your university life!

Have you got any more useful tips to share? Let us know in the comments section below!