Starting university: a guide for students

White curve
Social life and friendships

Being surrounded by your peers and making new friends is great. You might make friends for life in your first week; you may also begin friendships with people who you can’t stand after the first week!

Try and meet people from different areas - from your course, your accommodation, your clubs or other activities - so you have plenty of friendship groups to choose from. If you don’t make friends in the first few weeks and feel very lonely, this can be really hard but try not to worry - friendships will develop over time.

If you can, join in activities that you feel you will enjoy and take time to listen and get to know people. While there may be an emphasis on drinking culture, times are changing and you don’t have to drink to socialise - your university website will have lots of information about the activities and events on offer to you as a new student.

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

Optimist or worrier diagram

The Optimist

It’s exciting going out every night, having fun and tempting to live the ‘wild life’ - but if you don’t learn some balance, it can be expensive and damaging to your health and wellbeing.

You may enjoy getting drunk but end up making choices you later regret; try to pace yourself and don’t go out alone if you’ll be vulnerable.

Sexual freedom can be liberating but be aware of consent and what it means - being too drunk to consent means no consent. Practice safe sex and if you are worried about sexually transmitted disease or pregnancy, seek help as soon as possible.

It’s easy to assume that everyone does drugs at uni and it’s just a bit of fun: remember that drugs are illegal and you may lose your university place if you bring any onto campus. If you have taken drugs and think you are becoming addicted, seek help.

Splashing your cash can be very tempting in the first few weeks, especially if you’re not used to having money. But try and make it last: money worries can cause stress, anxiety and depression.

Guy and girl riding bikes

The Worrier

There are plenty of opportunities to enjoy quieter activities at university if you’re worried that people will judge you for not joining in with loud games and parties.

Seek out like-minded people to enjoy quieter times with; remember that anyone who judges you for this is not being very kind.

Peer pressure can be a problem at university, but try and stay true to who you are. If you don’t want to party, drink or take drugs, then have the courage to say no. Choosing your friends wisely can make a big difference.

If you feel pressured into sexual activity, this can be harassment and you are entitled to make a complaint about it. Forcing you to have sex, or having sex with you when you are not able to give consent, is sexual assault and should be reported to the university and the police immediately. Your university will also have support services to help you if this happens.

Teen girl holding phone



Starting University

A resource for young people about to start university

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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.

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