Fresher’s Fortnight: 6 Essential Places to Get You Acquainted With Student Life

Let’s be honest, starting to look after yourself and potentially living away from parents can be a daunting thought. However, in the age of digital technology and where everyone seems to have information available at the touch of a button, it doesn’t have to be quite so bad! If you, like me, didn’t quite have independence in the house as much and you’re just starting out in looking after yourself, be you a fresher to uni itself or to being the “proper grown up”, here’s 6 fantastic resources to help you to step into those shoes and make yourself proud.


Your University or College App

This one probably sounds a little cliche, but these days most institutions will have their own app on iOS or Android, or a web application built into their site. These usually let you access timetables, reading guides such as LibGuides, the library catalogue, resource booking, possible access to an online learning environment and an online directory or webmail so you can get in touch with different tutors, lecturers, professors and support staff. Whilst it may seem a bit of a gimmick at first, in time you’ll find this may become your daily companion to allow you to get to what you need. Back when my university campus existed, we used a tool known as the Pocket Campus (which also existed as an intranet as well as kiosks and a pair of giant touchscreens in the reception) and gave invaluable access to things like booking studio time or finding out what the latest bulletins for the campus were.

How-To Videos

These days, it’s easy enough to learn any basic skills you might need such has how to cook something, how to change a component in your car or how to fit a new cylinder on your gas heater. Depending on what responsibilities you may have been given at home, you might find you’ve got some new ones in your new digs, from cleaning up the house to making your own food.

Sites such as Howcast, Instructables and Wikihow offer great step by step instructions and channels like SORTED Food and How To Adult on YouTube give you helpful tutorials in video form. If you’re stuck for motivation, there’s even channels for that too such as The Life Survival Guide series on WERK! TV (Devon Werkheiser, of Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide fame).

Discount Websites

Living like a student is a pricey business. Fortunately many companies feel your pain and like to display offers and discounts to students. Unfortunately, it can be hard to keep track of this without a fairly centralised experience. In the UK, sites such as NUS TOTUM (formerly Extra) offer a great directory for deals, especially for students. Internationally there’s also  Student Beans, UNiDAYS and the ISIC Card to take advantage of, with an array of benefits online and on their app! Sign up early to make the most of these throughout your time at uni. Amazon also advertise their Prime service at a discount too, provided you have a student address.

Access to tech and software from the likes of Adobe, Dell, Microsoft and HP is cheap too from their websites. On certain courses, access to software may be free courtesy of your institution through the Microsoft Student Partner Program found on the MSDN website.

Finally, don’t forget the generic discounts you can get from the likes of HotUKDeals, PRIORITY (offers and event tickets) on the O2 Mobile network or Wuntu on the Three mobile network.

Student Forums

If you’re starting afresh or just need to find some like-minded people to share the experience you’re all going though, student forums and groups are good good place to start. Many colleges across the world will have their own community forums or apps that will be advertised to you at application (possibly even part of the apps mentioned above!), on the website or emailed to you as part of a welcome pack. The Student Room is also a popular option in terms of a message board, whilst typing in virtually any university name into Facebook can pretty much guarantee a wealth of groups already existing. Not seen a Fresher’s group for you yet? Why not start one featuring your institution or campus name – don’t forget to set it to public so other new students can find and connect with you. If you prefer a more Tinder style approach to making new friends and meeting people, Friendsy is another option more focused to US students available for iOS or Android on the respective app stores.

Welcome Parties/Events

Given a number of you will have already started or will be beginning in the next couple of weeks, don’t forget to attend all the welcome events and socials occurring both as part of Fresher’s Week and in local bars, clubs, sports teams and organisations. These are crucial networking events on different levels to allow you to meet others in the same boat as you as well as veterans that can steer you in the right direction, and in the case of interest groups may be people who share your passions and/or interests, breaking a huge chunk of the ice to get you involved in conversations and activities to allow for that all important bonding where friendships and partnerships form. Not found a group you like? Similar to the online groups, why not open up your space for a party or a meal? Just ensure you follow your house or college/university guidelines to ensure you don’t get your new found friends on the wrong side of things, or that first impression might not go down so well!

Don’t Forget Your Old Friends!

Whilst it might seem a little backwards, especially if you’ve moved cities, states or even whole countries to get to your institution, but friends are friends and will always be there to give you the same form of advice. If anything, they may still be going through what you are at a different institution and may be able to offer advice on what has worked for them as well as you offer them in return. For those whose friends may be in different fields, they can provide you with that sense of grounding as you get used to a new life and will ensure you still have those people to see when you go back home or visit a place where they live and allow your friendship to grow with you and your life as you both/all learn to adult together.


For those who have been through it before, what was it like adjusting to student life for you? Do you maybe have any alternative advice? Feel free to share any stories and comments down below!




Lectures & Seminars

Undoubtedly you’ve noticed since you’ve joined student life,  College and University teaching is on a whole different level compared to your school classes. For starters,  they’re usually much longer and,  particularly in the case of lectures feel something akin to  going to a cinema rather than a lesson (only less exciting and with no overpriced popcorn).  Now,  some people are cut out for lectures and can happily take in and write notes on the swarm of information thrown at you on the slides and spoken by your teacher. Others struggle to understand it or lose focus around the 45+ minute mark (the rough single track attention span of studying young adults).  Either way, if you’re struggling to get it all in and you’re afraid of having no reference when asked question in the seminar, here’s a few tips to keep you both to the lectures themselves and surviving the endless drone).

Keep Hydrated

Let’s be honest, you’re going to be in there a while and whilst your coffee/tea/energy drink might keep you awake and alert, you’ll get thirsty and the caffeine does only work for a finite amount of time. Water will help fuel your system whilst you’re in there and whilst it might not feel like it at first, it will help to keep you hydrated, which in turn will help to keep your focus (why do you think Athletes live by the stuff?). Bottles of water are usually the best bet as these are allowed in most lecture spaces. Make sure you have a lid on though or when you accidentally knock it (which it possible if you’re scrawling notes at speed) you’ll give your notes and the person in front of you an unwanted shower! – even if they probably could do with one!

Pens and Pencils

Even in this day and age it’s worth keeping these close at hand so you can get everything down. If you’re a technology user, it’s worth keeping at least one pen about as you’ll need one to sign in to prove you’ve been there (unless your campus has upgraded to the new badge/fob scanners). They’re also useful just in case your battery goes flat and you need to quickly transfer to a lo-fi solution. If you’re still an old school writer, take at least two – that way if you do lend one to a friend or peer (which if you don’t know them that well there’s a small chance you might never see again), you still have something to write with and it’s great as a back up for other emergencies too (e.g: Pen running out or pencil lead snapping and you forget to bring a sharpener).

Use Evernote or OneNote to Remember & Annotate Stuff

If you’re a laptop or device user, you might find typing notes an easier and more readable method. However there’s only so much help that Text Wrangler, Word or Writer can do to help with note taking at speed. Microsoft’s OneNote really shines here and comes bundled with the most basic versions of Microsoft Office (Home & Student). The notebooks will allow you to write anywhere on the page and bring in tables, bullet or numbered lists and images as quick as a few key taps or dragging and dropping. Best of all, this is automatically saved as you type, so you’ll never miss a word. OneNote is available on a huge number of platforms allowing you to synchronise your notebook through Office 365 (which online is free for students and teachers with an academic email address) or as a Notebook file through a network drive or OneDrive. The Program is available on Windows and Mac computers, on iOS (phone and tablet versions) and watchOS, Andorid (phone and tablet versions)/Android Wear, Chromebook and online through If you’re not an office user, never fear! Evernote is a free service (With a premium upgrade that’s 75% off for students,  for more features) on  that allows you to take a similar approach. Admittedly the “type anywhere” feature isn’t part of their notes, but you can import many things natively and everything else will be included as an attachment. The main selling point to Evernote (like many programs and apps these days) is that it backs up to the cloud (known internally as “Syncing”). This can be done periodically or on demand by pressing any of the large Sync buttons in the program or device apps and once completed can be accessed on any session you run on another device – which can range from PC or Mac programs, iOS, Android apps or the Web based version at

Can’t Keep Up? Record It

It’s worth getting permission for this one first. If you’re struggling to take in the talk first time around or you can’t keep up with writing notes, see if you’re allowed to record the lecture for playback later on. There are many options for this from inexpensive dictaphone style recorders to more high end capsule or externally connectable portable recorders. If you’re on a shoestring budget and have a smartphone or tablet handy that can pick up the lecturer or PA system, use that. I will be covering recorders like these in a later post on the sister site WAVE Media but if you’re already struggling and need one in the next couple of weeks try the phrase “portable recorder” on sites like Amazon or eBay or your local music/electronics shops.

Get the Slides

Much like obtaining the voice, if there’s some important data that you want from the lecture (that you can’t find from their references), ask nicely if you can get a copy of the lecture slides. You might have thumbnail versions on a hand out, but having a printed or digital copy will always help, particularly with visual learners that may have associated a particular part of the lecture with a particular slide. If you were lucky like I was in my later uni years, they may have already uploaded the slides (or plan to) to your respective virtual learning environment or LMS (e.g: Blackboard, Moodle, Sakai etc) so you can download them when you’re next in the library or on your computer.   I hope these few tips may help you out in the many years of being talked at and – on the rare occasion – talking back to your lecturer and your classmates.   For those of you that already have a few lectures and seminars under your belt, what methods do you use to retain the information? Feel free to leave a comment in the box below. Thanks for reading and class dismissed!   Mike