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Photography Frankie Cordoba

The Dazed guide to surviving your first year of uni

September is just around the corner, so here’s some friendly advice for all you incoming Freshers

While you might have spent all summer trying to forget about the mortifying fact you got Alexander I and Alexander II mixed up in the exam, results day has finally arrived. Your grades are in (somehow you still got a B in history!), and now it’s official: you’re going to uni.

At long last, the time has come to raid IKEA for a cutlery set and a Fejka, break up with your boyfriend, and join about five different Facebook group chats (all equally annoying) with your future coursemates. But that’s the boring stuff: what’s much more thrilling is the prospect of trying acid and becoming an anarcho-communist after joining MarxSoc in Freshers week.

It’s an exciting time, but a nerve-wracking one too, and it’s entirely normal to feel a little anxious about being wrenched away from family and friends and plonked in the middle of a big city far from home. Luckily for you though, we’ve all been there, which is why we’ve put together this guide to surviving the next three years. This is everything we wish we knew before turning up to university all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed – we hope you’ll find it useful.


I used to roll my eyes along with Mark at that bit in Peep Show where Jez says “I didn’t go to university to get a degree”. Little did I know – Jez was right all along. It is so cliché to say so, but uni really is about making lifelong friends, trying new things, and having fun. If you’re really, really struggling academically, you can – and should! – reach out to one of your new tutors. But if you’re giving yourself a nosebleed over getting a couple of 2:2s in first year – please don’t. It’s better to miss one 9am lecture than it is to miss a night out where you could meet your future best friend.

Also, if, like me, the whole experience of school totally decimated your self-esteem, try to realise that you don’t have to pander to every person you meet. This is especially important when it comes to sex and relationships: amazingly, you don’t have to sleep with someone purely because they are giving you attention!

With regards to drugs – for the love of God, please just be honest about how little you know. It’s far less embarrassing to admit you don’t really know how to take MDMA than it is to end up in a medical tent – or in hospital – after gulping down a whole gram in one go. If you do decide to take drugs – and, obviously, it’s completely fine if you choose not to! – try to be as safe as possible. Some unis offer drug-testing facilities and you can always check The Loop for harm reduction advice. – SS


Join societies! Lots of them! All of them! Even if you don’t think you’re all that interested in capoeira or archeology. You never know what new hobby you’ll discover and at the very least you’ll give yourself an opportunity to make friends.

This is vital advice, particularly for all you arts students. The daily one-hour lecture you’re paying 9K for is not going to lead to the lasting bonds that the science kids enjoy. On her first day, my friend’s medicine class was told by their lecturer to look around because three in five of them would marry someone in the room. They spent eight hours a day together for five years. She is now engaged to someone from her class. I did literature and today would struggle to pick out from a crowd most of the people on my course. 

Unlike medicine, all you philosophy and classics students don’t get an in-built way to make friends and lovers. You have to put a little more effort into it. Don’t make my mistake and think it’s cooler to be aloof and not participate. Don’t let your social awkwardness or anxiety get in the way of being involved. This is a rare time where everyone is in the same boat – no one knows anyone and they are all looking to make friends just as much as you are. Let them be your friend! Join a club! Put yourself out there, don’t be shy, and maybe discover a love of bell ringing along the way. AP


If you have chosen a humanities degree you will NEVER have this much free time again. NEVER again will your existence be solely about socialising AND making yourself smarter AND getting free(ish) money for it. So I would recommend burning the candle at both ends: DRAIN your nervous system!!! At 18 years of age, your body takes about 20 minutes to recover from a hangover and your neural pathways still have some kind of elasticity, so feed your body’s pleasure centre AND brain.

People are immediately nicer at university than they were at school, so while it’s daunting to be thrust into a group of strangers from places in the UK with names like Widdlescombe, you will weasel out your friends quicker than you think. Do a year abroad if you can. Set up an internship in your final summer. Read boring books in old libraries and imagine yourself as the protagonist in Starter For Ten. Sign yourself up to a tutoring agency. Spaff whatever you earn on something grossly beyond your means. And get lots of mistakes out of the way, because life only goes downhill from here, I’m afraid!!! DR


Be very, very careful if you join in or participate with your university's student union. I was a major keen bean at university and got involved to represent the student voices, but too many student unions are purely there to ensure the university looks good (they low-key don't care about you, I'm sorry). Though, I'm sure SOME of them do care and support their students! It's super important to watch out for how they make you work for free, ESPECIALLY if you're a person of colour. If anyone asks you to be BAME (Black Asian Minority Ethnic) Officer, run for the hills!!!!!! Too many student unions want to appear woke as fuck, and get marginalised students to do work for free, without any support. Please don't make my mistake! HJ


Just have fun. Don’t work too hard. It’s generally accepted that people who get firsts are boring. There’s a lot to be said for being a 2-1 or 2-2 girlie – we know how to balance work and play, which is an important life skill. I agree with what Daniel said about how if you’re doing a humanity degree, you’ll never have this much free time until you retire lol. It’s true. I had about six hours of contact time a week and wish I’d spent more of my free time reading classic books and watching cult films – do that, it’s just as much education as lectures. Maybe more.

My only other advice would be don’t stress out if you don’t meet your best friends straight away. On my first day of uni, I met so many people I didn’t like that I thought something was wrong with me. I met person after person who I thought ‘we will never be friends’. I kind of panicked. But I made friends soon enough, several of whom I’m still close with to this day. This goes to say if you don’t meet your people in your first week, or even your term, don’t freak out, you’ll find them soon enough.

Oh and if your lectures are really boring, as many of mine were, find creative ways to use the time. For instance, I taught myself how to knit. So while I may not have picked up everything about the intricacies of Michel Foucault’s various philosophies, I can now knit a scarf quite proficiently. TS


If I could go back in time and tell myself one thing about university it would be: “don’t get too hung up on the significance of the student experience and absolutely don’t buy into the idea that this is supposed to be the best three years of your life.” Putting too much pressure on yourself to have a life-changing, revelatory, magical experience – the kind you might one day recount in a wistful coming-of-age memoir – just stands in the way of that happening. Sometimes being at uni does feel like that, but in my experience this tended to happen when I wasn’t looking for it or only revealed itself later. Maybe it’s nostalgia talking, but I genuinely think I had more fun as a student than I realised at the time.

Part of the problem, for me, was that I went to uni in quite a small city and spent the first two years kicking myself for not having gone to London or Manchester. I wasted so much time torturing myself by imagining the glamorous and exciting adventures I could have been having, if I’d only I’d gone for a bustling metropolis. I now see this as being frustratingly stupid, and wish I could go back and tell myself, “it’s just three years, it’s not that deep, you’ll come to miss it and you have your whole life to move to a bigger city – so stop complaining and enjoy it for what it is.” And if you find yourself hating uni unreservedly, it’s worth bearing in mind that it’s honestly not that long or significant a period of time – and your twenties will probably be better. – JG