Blog post

The Freshers advice no one gives you

It is fairly common to find tips online for you to take advantage of as you start your grand adventure into university. While I’ve often found these tips useful, I also find them somewhat repetitive and lacking in some really important tips.

By Snow Gilfillan - 11 September 2018

I’m going into my second year of university and I have some tips for you that I really wish I’d have known before I got to university:

40% is a safety net, not a target

We’ve all heard the myth of the 40% rule in your first year, and how your first year doesn’t matter to your overall degree. This isn’t as true as you think. Your first year at university is not there to be a throw away year. Think of your first year experience as a practice round. That 40% minimum pass rate is a safety net put under you to help you learn how to balance your studies. If you rely too heavily on that net you will panic once it’s taken away. So, when it comes to those terrifyingly hard essays, remember that 40% is there to help; it won’t ruin your degree if you only get 40% but don’t make the mistake of aiming to just scrape it. The results of the first year can impact on your overall degree if you are on a borderline classification. Act like it isn’t there, because come second year, it won’t be.

DO NOT download food apps

There is a good chance you’ve just had about £3,000 dropped into your bank account, and you think that going on a spending spree is a fun idea. Let me tell you right now, that money does not last! One of the things that will get you is takeaway apps. Don’t download them. The temptation to buy a takeaway instead of eating home cooked food every night gets too strong when you have it on your phone.

Stop spending your money before you get here

When it comes to moving to university you just need to bring the things you seriously know you are going to need. Plates, pans, bedding, clothes, bathroom equipment, and that one stuffed animal you hide under your pillows when your flatmates visit. Everything else can wait, seriously don’t go out buying yourself 47 different coloured folders, and a supply of stationery that would make a professional artist jealous, because there is a good chance you won’t need most of it. Wait until you get here, meet your tutors and get suggestions from them what you need because otherwise you’ll end up with a lot of clutter in your room. If anything just get a notebook and some pens. It’s best to type your notes up and save them on Google Drive or Dropbox, you will likely be handing in everything digitally anyway.


As a mature student I came into my first year at university with one thing most of you won’t have, and that is experience. If you’re fresh out of college your CV is probably pretty lacking in anything outside of the work experience you might have done in year 10. Go out there and find some volunteering opportunities. The university offers some and there are also countless charities in Derby for you to get into. Remembrance day is at the start of November, and the Royal British Legion is happy for the help from students when doing the poppy sales. Get out there and fill your CV up, it will really help when you start looking for a job.

You don’t have to be friends with your flatmates

Flatmates can be a fresher’s biggest concern. I know people who are best friends with their flatmates, but I also know people who aren’t. You don’t have to feel pressured to be friends with them. If you are staying in halls, then there is a solid chance you have no clue who your flatmates are, and you might even be dreading living with people you’ve never met before. Flatmates can be your chance to learn some tolerance. Get to know them, develop some kind of bond, but if your interests aren’t the same that’s fine, a friendly hello in the kitchen, and a question of how they are doing is all you need. Just make sure you respect their privacy, and their belongings.

Become who you want to be

University is a place of discovering who you are, but it is also a pretty good place to become who you want to be, or discover who you’ve been all along. This point doesn’t apply to everyone, but for people coming to university who are members of LGBTQA+ and haven’t had the proper chance to come out yet, university is a great place to figure yourself out. There is an entire society dedicated towards LGBTQA+, Derby Pride also happens around the day you arrive, people here are understanding about it all, and the student support team are also there to give a helping hand if you need it.

Go to the Welcome Fair, and your Induction Week Sessions

Seriously, do not skip these two events. Some people will tell you that they are pointless but they are your biggest gateway into university life. Induction week is the perfect chance to get to understand what you will be learning about, how your course functions, and to also meet your tutors. The Induction Week will also introduce you to one of the most important people of your year…your personal tutor. Welcome Fair on the other hand is how you get to know Derby. All the major student businesses in Derby show up to teach you about the things you get to do outside of nightclubs and lectures. All of the societies show up as well so you can ask them questions, and there’s always a pretty huge range of freebies available, last year there was free pizza!

Go to taster sessions for societies you wouldn’t normally want to join

Societies are a major part of university life, but here is a little tip for you new students; go to taster sessions for a society that you never imagined yourself joining. If you can walk out of university, look back, and say you are the same person as when you walked in, then you didn’t really do much with your time at university. It is time to reinvent yourself, figure out what you like, and who you want to be. High School and college demand a lot of social stereotypes, but university really is a lot of semi-conscious human beings just trying to find the nearest supply of coffee. Always find yourself locked inside avoiding the crowd? Go to a sports club session. Always found those nerdy things a bit weird? Go to the Imagineers or Gaming society. At the end of the day, university is a place of learning, not just  academically, but learning about who you are and who you want to be.

Make friends with people older than you, both in age and experience

Old people are a wealth of knowledge that can sometimes out-do a library. However, I’m not talking about going to the nearest care home to make friends – although you can if you want (it could count as volunteering after all). What I mean is, make friends with people in their second or third years of the course you’re studying. Everyone has a module that is a tough one and there will be essays that will keep you up at night because that deadline is approaching quickly. Second and third years have been there, done it, and have the snotty, tear drenched t-shirts to prove it. Make friends with them, learn from them and when you make it to second year, adopt a fresher yourself.

Finally, just relax

Some people are beyond excited for university, while some people are terrified of moving day coming around. If there is one piece of advice I can really give to you all it is to just relax. You’ve got three or more years at university, and you don’t have to get it all right in your first year. In fact, you aren’t meant to get it right. That 40% safety net isn’t your only set of training wheels; your first year is the training ground for the rest of your life. Use it to learn from your mistakes, figure things out, you have an entire year to train for the marathon that is the rest of your life.

University is scary, but it is also really exciting. It is the moment in your life when you put your adult pants on and leap into the big wide world. There isn’t one right answer to how to do university; everyone does it their own away. Some people go out drinking all year long, some people, like myself, don’t drink and have made it through our first year just as happy. University, just like life, has an infinite number of possibilities. It is your story, so write it how you want to write it. Welcome to the University of Derby, and good luck!

About the author

Snow Gilfillan
Counselling and Psychotherapy Student

I'm a second year Counselling & Psychotherapy student. I hail from the frozen north, also known as Lancashire. I'm considered a mature student given I'm 24, so I have a fair bit of experience and knowledge to share.