Is the first week of University important?

So, uni is just around the corner, and you want to know what’s what? This article poses a question that’s probably on every student’s mind before starting uni. Is the first week of University important? You can also find out exactly what to expect in your first week. From welcome lectures to partying hard, this is a real example from a genuine past student (me) who ended up with a First Class Honours degree 😁

Before reading this post, it might be a good idea to check out ’10 things you may not know about university‘.

Well then, is it?

The answer isn’t as straightforward as you might think. For some, the first week of University is crucial, while for others, missing the odd day won’t be particularly harmful. In my opinion (and experience), skipping a day isn’t advisable.

It’s fair to say that everyone will have their own unique experience when starting University. It’s perfectly normal to be scared or anxious. The best advice I was given before starting was that everyone would be just as frightened as you. This is kind of soothing, knowing that other people will be in the same mindset as you. Remember that some people are better at hiding their emotions than others. Someone who seems bubbly, energetic, and confident, may be the least confident person you’ll ever encounter.

What happens in the first week?

The first day:

I wish I could tell you that it’s a beautiful experience and that it all goes without a hitch, but that’s not the case. There’s generally a lot of administrative stuff you have to complete, such as your enrolment, filling in forms and collecting your ID badge. Though most of this can be done quickly, you have to remember that hundreds of students are trying to do the same thing. As much as the University will try to stagger enrolment, there are generally huge queues. You could find yourself waiting around for longer than you’d hoped.

Each university has its own version of a help centre, and at The University of Sunderland, mine is called ‘Gateway’. This is the one-stop shop for anything you may need help with. It was chaotic on the first day, as students had issues and questions and were just generally unsure. Likely, this happens elsewhere too.

The inevitable welcome lecture

There’s a high chance you will be invited to a welcome lecture on your first day. This is something that’s, of course, avoidable but is frowned upon if you miss it. In this lecture, you can meet the academic staff, lecturers, heads of departments etc. You’ll also likely meet other people, perhaps the student union officers or even library staff.

You’ll be taken through various health and safety procedures and what the academic staff expect of you. You will be told where you can go for help and how you can access any services the University has to offer. After introductions, the staff will generally give you a little more information about your course and what you can expect.

There’s no opportunity to get to know people at this stage because there isn’t an opening for free discussion. Of course, you can ask questions. But there’s not a moment when you could go up to someone and say hello because everyone feels awkward and is ten minutes away from falling asleep. From my experience, other universities may do things differently, and I’m sure they do. As there is a lot of information to give students on day one, I imagine they all follow the same process.

Fresher’s Fair:

The next thing on most students’ to-do lists is attending the fresher’s event. Freshers is technically a week-long event, but usually, it’s held for one day. Other activities are spread out over the rest of the week, though. This is the first real opportunity to learn more about your University. There are students to discuss their experiences and staff on hand to discuss courses. There’s also a shedload of freebies (everyone loves a freebie). You can bag some hefty discount vouchers, pizza, pens, umbrellas, you name it (obviously, this is not a guarantee again; I’m sure each University is different).

Freshers is also an excellent opportunity to see what extra-curricular events are available. You can also peruse societies that are open to join (some cost). You could join a sports, gaming, or performing arts society; there’s something for everyone. Societies are generally student-led; if it costs, you’ll likely get something out of it.

Of course, fresher’s is also something you can do to socialise; it can be used to meet new people. I’d advise you to take the time to have a look around and get to know the place a bit better. What better way to start the academic year than knowing exactly where you need to go because you had the foresight to psyche the area out?

The rest of the week:

After you’ve had your welcome talk and sampled all the freebies at the fresher’s event, you might be wondering what next? It’s not likely you will be able to start your course until the week after. However, there may be taster sessions on offer. So you can get a feel for what it will be like.

For me, the rest of my week was filled with ‘drop-in sessions’. These sessions were optional and were for a variety of different reasons. You could attend a meeting with academic staff to discuss any concerns or ask any questions you may have. There’s generally a representative from student finance you can speak to, and you can chat about the library, study skills, etc. No teaching occurs, but there are plenty of opportunities to talk to who you need to during the welcome week.

Don’t worry if it gets overwhelming; that’s perfectly normal. If you have any concerns or questions, I’d urge you to speak to someone. I’m sure each university will have its own process through drop-in sessions, etc. If this isn’t the case, then I’m sure there’s someone not too far away that you can speak to.

Bottoms up:

My University held several events over the first week. There was pizza night, movie night, and a bowling event. Some of these are free to join and get involved with, but others require you to contribute.

And yes, there are plenty of opportunities to down a few shots and get merry. Students do what students do; they drink, party and drink some more. Even if you say to yourself, ‘No, I won’t do that’, you will, even if it’s at home. Why not? You’ve earned it; you can knuckle down for the next three years, but at least enjoy yourself for now.

On that note, my University hosts a ‘big night out’ each year. They usually invite a special ‘celebrity’ guest to perform; a couple of years ago, it was Dappy, yay… not! I hope you have better luck if this is something your university offers, too.

So there’s really nothing to worry about?

There truly isn’t anything to worry about. You won’t be thrown in at the deep end. You won’t be expected to come to University and spend the entire day there or commit to a 9-5 week. It’s an experience created to ease you into university life. It’s an opportunity to meet new people, get to know your University and get involved with everything there is to be involved with. You can bag some free stuff along the way and get free food, gifts and huge discounts.

Most students say that freshers is the best part of the University, and most will assume that you absolutely shouldn’t miss it. If you’re someone like me who is a bit of an introvert, then I’d say go, take yourself out of your comfort zone. You can use it as an icebreaker or a conversation starter when you get to know people properly.

The harsh reality:

So, you’ve survived fresher’s week; you’ve been partying and drinking like crazy. It’s 8 am, and you need to be at your first Monday morning lecture at 9 am. This is when the harsh reality of university life kicks in.

As a mature student, I didn’t go down this path. Yes, I had a few celebratory drinks, but I didn’t dedicate my whole week to partying. If you aren’t fortunate enough to have suffered the same fate, I recommend you sober up quickly.

Luckily for you, the first actual lecture will likely be a similar introductory lecture, explaining the course and your modules in more detail. You’ll probably be given a timeline or a breakdown of what to expect over the year—followed by some hideous icebreakers among classmates.

While you don’t necessarily need to be on top form, and let’s face it, the University probably expects that you won’t be. It’s not a good idea to finish for the day and ‘get on it’ again because that’s just a waste of £9000+, and if you are this person, then ask yourself why.

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My name is Dylan and I like anything tech-related, ironically I work in tech as an Integration Specialist. I recently graduated with a First Class Honours degree from the University of Sunderland. You can usually find me reading a book, playing a game or endlessley scrolling TikTok :D

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