How to Prepare for University Over Summer as a Fresher

A group of students
July 2023 by


After working hard to achieve your A levels, you’ve finally done it. You’ve got into your university of choice! While the lead-up to going to university can be exciting for many students, it can also be daunting to start thinking about this next phase of life. That’s why the summer months are a great time to begin preparing for this next big step.

So, if you’re heading to university for the first time in September 2023, keep reading for top tips on how to use this summer productively to get you both physically and emotionally prepared for starting university.

Get ready to live away from home

For most first years, they’ve never known anything different to living with mum and dad, so suddenly having to fully fend for yourself can take some time to adjust. That being said, living away from home for the first time – not to mention being surrounded by many other people your age in the same situation – can be a real adventure. Getting yourself ready to live away from your parents will mean your experience in first-year halls goes a lot more smoothly.

There are a few ways you can get ready to begin living away from home:

1. Learn to cook

While it may sound fun to live off takeaways and ready meals for the next three years, this won’t do either your health or your wallet any favours. Learning to cook over the summer – or even brushing up on some preexisting culinary skills – will help you ease into having to make yourself three meals a day when you’re living away from home. Teaching yourself to cook some basic dishes to fuel your studies, as well as creating some more complex plates to feed a crowd and impress your new housemates, will ensure you can start being a whizz in your new hall’s kitchen right away.

2. Learn how to wash your clothes

While you might have helped your parents with the laundry while you were living at home, nothing prepares you for just how many dirty clothes you get through – and just how many times you need to head to the laundrette! While the majority of first-year halls have laundry facilities in their student accommodation (or even in the flats themselves!), lots of students don’t know their way around a washing machine. Learning how to properly wash your clothes as a student over the summer means you’ll likely be one step ahead of your future flatmates – and one step ahead of letting that dirty laundry basket overfill!

3. Learn how to budget

Having to manage your budget is a big part of living independently. However, keeping track of your income, your outgoings, and even your student finance payments can be tricky if you’ve never had to do it before. As well as brushing up on student budgeting tips that’ll help you figure out how to make your loan go further, sitting down with the billpayers at home over the summer can help you familiarise yourself with the basics of how finances work. You never know, they might even have their own helpful tips and tricks for managing a small budget from their own university days!

Get to know your new city

Moving to a whole new place to go to university is as intimidating as it is exciting. How long did it take you to find all your favourite haunts and spots in your hometown? Getting to grips with the layout of your new university city or town means you’ll start your first year with enough sense of direction to avoid walking you and your new friends around in circles!

Scouting the streets of your new university city and the campus layout using Google Maps is an easy way to get to know where you’ll be living for the next three years. Equally, reading blogs about the best ways to explore your new home, like this blog about how to explore London, will help you begin to place where everything is located.

Finally, considering the available public transport options will help you decide the best way to get around a new place. Is it walkable? Are there regular buses that run between town and the campus? Is it worth taking your bike up with you? These questions are all good places to start.

Introduce yourself to coursemates and flatmates

Starting your course and moving into your first-year halls seems a lot less daunting when you already recognise a few friendly faces. And universities know that! Get to know your new coursemates and flatmates over the summer by joining the many different chats and Facebook groups created each year by your university.

When you join these groups, it’s easy to search for other people doing the same course as you, or who are going to be living in the same halls. If you can’t find anyone, why not post your own introduction? Chances are, a shy flatmate of yours is just waiting for someone else to go first.

These days you’ll find Facebook groups, Whatsapp chats, and even Snapchat groups all created to help new students connect before term time begins. Student accommodation chats are also especially great to join since they’ll usually add all the hall’s events and important information there, whether or not you’ve decided to live in halls off-campus or on campus.

Buy your university essentials

You’re never going to be able to pack everything you need for university over the summer. However, buying your university essentials over the summer break means you won’t have to face the inevitable rush in Fresher’s Week where everyone completely ransacks the town centre of everything they’ve forgotten to bring!

Some of the essential items worth getting ahead of Fresher’s Week are:

Cleaning products

  • Bin bags
  • Microfiber cloths
  • Washing up liquid
  • Multi-surface cleaner
  • Bleach
  • Rubber gloves

Kitchen utensils

  • Chopping board
  • Saucepans
  • Crockery (plates, mugs, bowls)
  • Cutlery
  • Tin opener
  • Tupperware

Bathroom bits

  • Bath towels and hand towels
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Toiletries
  • Bathroom bin
  • Toilet brush

Study kit

  • Notepad
  • Laptop
  • Pens
  • Calculator (if needed)

Get started on your reading list

You’ll likely have already been given a reading list for the first term of your degree, or you’ll have access to one online, and summer is the perfect time to get started. When you’re busy socialising and meeting new people in Fresher’s Week, the last thing you’ll likely want to do is crack open a hefty hardback and start making notes. That’s why it’s a great idea to use your free time over the summer to start reading, instead.

Getting through your reading list over the summer months can also help you stay focused and excited about your upcoming degree. Don’t let your passion for your chosen subject dim before you’ve even got started! This period is also a great time to look again at your course outline and refresh your memory of exactly what you’ll be learning in the first semester.

If you find that your reading list is a little on the expensive side, you can look for used copies in the aforementioned online course groups. Better still, they’ll likely already be heavily annotated which will work in your favour!

Refresh your CV

While student loans typically cover the costs of most university essentials, some students still find they need to take on an extra part-time job to make ends meet. If you’re not sure your budget will be able to stretch from student loans alone, get ready for job hunting in your new university city by refreshing your CV over the summer.

Improving your student CV means you can just send it off to local companies as soon as you move into your new halls. Equally, if you get your CV ready to go sooner rather than later, you can also pick up a seasonal part-time job over the summer to tie you over until the first term starts. Not only is this an excellent way to earn a little extra income in the break between college and university, but it’ll also set you up with feeling confident about budgeting by the time the first semester rolls around in September.

Check out which societies and clubs you can join

The UK university experience is so much more than just going to class and partying afterwards. Every university will have a Student’s Union that’s home to hundreds of societies and sports teams. These clubs and societies are great for meeting new people, discovering new interests, and having fun outside of lecture halls!

It’s normal to sign up to these societies during Fresher’s Fair, however, with the sheer amount of clubs on offer, it can be helpful to first do a little research into precisely what societies you’re interested in joining. By going online and visiting your university’s Student Union page, you can use the summer to browse exactly what’s on offer so you can make an immediate beeline for the right table at Fresher’s Fair.

Whether it’s women’s hockey, K-pop dance club, or even Quidditch, you’re guaranteed to find at least one society you’re interested in joining when you first start university.

Start packing

It’s never too soon to start setting things aside to take to university with you. Especially if you’ve done well with buying all your student essentials before leaving home! When you start thinking about your packing list, consider storage space in your first-year halls might be limited. Don’t be tempted to take anything and everything you own “just in case” it comes in handy!

If you do start packing for university over the summer, don’t forget to include the following essential documents. While your leavers’ hoody is great for reminding you of your home friends, you won’t get very far without bringing some ID to take into clubs with you…

  • Confirmation email from pre-registration online
  • Accommodation confirmation (if you’re living in University halls)
  • VISA (if needed)
  • Additional Learning Support form (if applicable)
  • Form of ID (passport and/or driving licence)
  • Bank statements (if you want to open a student bank account on campus)
  • Passport photos (for signing up for clubs, etc)

If you’re planning to get a part-time job in your first year:

  • P45 from your last job
  • National Insurance number

Spend time with family and friends

After spending the last few years working towards getting into university, it’s normal to want to leave as soon as you open your results. However, a few months into starting the first term, it’s normal for homesickness to kick in. Spending your summer seeing family and friends before you go will help keep homesickness at bay.

It’s also a good idea to organise some weekends to return home before you leave for university. Having these plans already in the diary will give you something to look forward to if you do go through any rough patches in the first semester. Keeping regularly in touch with loved ones at home on FaceTime will also help you ease yourself into your new life away.

Get mentally prepared

No doubt starting university marks a significant change to studying for your A-levels. While this blog provides you with ideas to start preparing for this shift over the summer, nothing can quite fully prepare you for moving away from home for the very first time.

Your university experience won’t be like anything you’ve ever done before, so trying to mentally prepare yourself for the change can help the transition to becoming an independent adult. For example, you might need to reassess your study techniques to make them more adapted towards university tasks. You can do this before term time begins by searching online for similar work.

Similarly, it’s worth reading blogs from other students about their first-hand experience going to university. There are lots of entries about the reality of starting university as a fresher on the Ivory Research blog. Spending a few hours in summer reading about how other freshers found their first year of university in the UK can help ease any worries about the transition from A-levels to full-time university student.



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