There’s a reason so many people say university is the best time of your life. For lots of you, it’ll be the first time you move away from home and practise real independence. You’d better get used to dragging yourself out of bed to that seminar, because your mum’s not here to do it for you.

Even if you stay at home for university, student life’s very different to school life. At school there’s a much more fixed routine; at university things tend to be a bit more free and flexible. 

Because there’s so much going on, it can be a bit overwhelming, and you might sometimes feel like you’re missing out on stuff. But if you keep these few things in mind, you too will have that awesome uni experience everyone keeps going on about.

Get out there

Seize the day! In Freshers’ Week, make sure you get involved in as many activities as possible. This is the best and easiest way of meeting new people. There’ll be meals, fairs, crafts, drinks, and other great ways to socialise. Don’t worry if you’re not much of a party animal – there’ll be events organised for quieter enjoyment too. Some unis offer a cake or ice cream crawl as an alternative to a bar crawl, for example – and it’s pretty hard to say no to cake or ice cream.

Try to get involved with the Students’ Union. Sign up for societies and teams – there’ll be stuff for everyone, whether your thing is sports or music, literature or chemistry. Remember that the Students’ Union is there to support you, and represent your views and opinions. Make sure you know who the President is, and which rep to contact for particular issues.

Watch your spending

Learn to budget! It’s very important you pay attention to what you’re spending, as you’ll have a lot more outgoing costs to deal with than before: rent, food, travel, course supplies, etc. If your institution is part of the NUS, get an NUS card as soon as you can. It’s a magical little wonder: wave it at various high street stores and you’ll get fantastic discounts.

Think about what you eat. Buy supermarket brand products, learn to cook basic meals, and bring your lunch to campus with you – it all saves money. Don’t buy all the books on your reading list – textbooks can be really expensive. Check them out at the library, or buy them second hand online.

Seek out opportunities to make money. Get a part-time job to support yourself. If you currently work for a chain store, find out whether you could be transferred to a job in your new town.

Look after yourself

Don’t be too hard on yourself. University is a shock to the system, but you can handle it – you wouldn’t have been offered a place otherwise. It might help to use a diary or weekly timetable to plan your schedule – that way you can manage your time effectively, and carry out the hours of independent study you need to succeed.

If you ever feel like things are getting on top of you, remember that universities offer extensive support services to help you. Seek them out if you require counselling or other mental health services, financial advice, or disability and dyslexia support. 

Go for it!

It’s weird, it’s hectic, and it could be the greatest time you’ve ever had. Student life isn’t quite like anything else. Don’t sell yourself short, and don’t restrict your opportunities. Keep a careful budget, maintain a good study/life balance, and immerse yourself in the in the things you really enjoy.

In a few short years, you’ll be the person telling everyone else, “University is the best time of your life…”