Starting university: a guide for students

White curve
Getting away from home

Heading to university may be the first time you’ve been away from home without your family or friends.

There will be things that you miss about home, and that’s totally normal. Yet being at university is an exciting step forward: it can give you the chance to grow and develop, and this is a natural part of life as an adult.

If you do not feel ready, or if you have any problems or difficulties, there are plenty of sources of support available to you.

In general, students tend to fall into one of two categories:

Optimist or worrier diagram

The Optimist

This is the time to break free from home. You may have struggled with your home life in the past, had poor relationships with your parents, or you may have been a carer. University is an opportunity to create a path for yourself - and breathe.

A change of scenery can make a big difference, but if you’ve experienced family problems in the past, these won’t necessarily go away.

If you need to talk, most universities have a wellbeing team or counselling service who can support you and help address your problems. Don’t ignore your feelings: process these difficulties to keep your head clearer for study and personal growth.

If you have been a carer, you may find yourself torn between your caring role and the new independence that you’ve been craving. Share these concerns, either with academic staff or the wellbeing team. You are not alone in these experiences.

Girl in wheelchair playing pool with help of friends

The Worrier

The thought of leaving home can be scary - especially if you have a supportive and loving family and a great network of friends.

You may worry that losing this network will be hard. You might be scared of being homesick. It may be that your boyfriend or girlfriend is going to uni somewhere else and you’re worried about your relationship.

Before you leave, it’s helpful to decide how little or often you will be in touch with friends and family - and tell them. A daily or weekly text or video call to your parents to let them know you are safe or letting your friends know you’re thinking of them with a quick message, can make a real difference.

Being homesick is perfectly normal. It may happen immediately or a few weeks in, but it should pass as you adjust to your new surroundings. Remember that it’s always important to ask for support and to talk to friends or family if you are struggling with your feelings.

Long-distance can be hard on relationships, but many do last. As long as you have trust and speak honestly and openly to one another, and as long as you allow yourself and your partner space to enjoy what is happening, things can be OK.

If the relationship breaks down, it can be very painful - especially if you are away from the home life that you’re used to. But if you have other support and people to talk to, things can and will get better. If you’re finding it hard to cope, seek counselling or wellbeing support from your university: there will be others who have experienced these same feelings and can relate to what you are going through.

Girl on laptop



Starting University

A resource for young people about to start university

View resource

Wellbeing Action Plan (child)

A simple, resource to help young people keep themselves well and get them through difficult times

View resource

Warning signs poster

A bold A3 poster showing the warning signs that tell you when someone may be depressed. This poster could save a life.

View resource

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