Freshers: what’s in store for you at university?

Monday, March 4, 2013 12:00 AM

Which? University is the free and impartial guide to choosing degree courses and universities, brought to you by Which?. This month the team have been taking a look into the world of the university fresher…

Let's face it: no amount of research, leafing through university prospectuses or heading to yet another open day will ever fully prepare you for the rollercoaster ride of your first year at uni. But at Which? University we aim to take prospective students as close as we can get to the realities of what their university experience could be like.

That's why we've been busy asking this year's freshers cohort how they've been settling in to life on campus. You can read the full report in our article on what to expect in your first university term (or check out our student infographic for a quick snapshot) - here are some of the key stats.

Academic life

The good news is that more than half of the students we spoke to said they're enjoying their degree course more than they actually thought they would - with 44% of students finding lectures more interesting than expected and 55% saying their university's facilities had exceeded expectations.

On the other hand, a fifth of students said they'd anticipated a greater number of teaching hours (perhaps not the same 6% who admitted missing at least half their lectures!). There were some interesting distinctions between subjects, here, too: 2% of medicine and dentistry students versus 12% of law students said their course experience had been worse than expected so far - while students on business and admin courses were more likely than average to say their lectures were less interesting than they'd hoped (23%).

Social life and settling in

Outside the classroom, our first-termers have also been getting to grips with uni life well - finding it easier than they'd expected to make new friends (54%) and live independently (51%).

More than half of freshers said they'd joined a society, club or sports group - although 11% of everyone we spoke to said they'd also dropped out of at least one. 28% said they'd struggled to find any extra-curricular or social activity that appealed to them at all - while about a third of students told us they'd also felt pressurised at some stage to go out socialising.

Student spending

Some of our first-years - the first intake under the new tuition fee system where universities can charge up to £9,000 a year in fees - told us they were struggling with money.

Tuition fees aside, it appears to be daily living expenses that are fuelling worries about being able to afford to stay at university for just under one in five of our students. 37% didn't realise how high the cost of living was. A fifth went into their student bank account overdraft, while a worrying 3% had used a bank loan to help pay for some aspect of university.

Put the ground work in

If you're off to uni in the next year or two, we'd suggest getting prepared where you can - getting on top of your finances, planning a budget and making sure you choose the right degree course for you, at a university suited to what you're looking to get out of it.

And for all the possible things in store that you can't plan for, be open-minded - and enjoy…

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