What to expect in your first term at university

Arriving at university for the first time is exciting, daunting, sometimes overwhelming. It’s a whole new chapter in your life, so what can you expect from your first term at university?

University is different to school

That might sound obvious but the reality of how you learn at university can be a shock to the system. It’s much more about independent learning than most school programmes. While GCSE and A-Level studies may continue to be spoon fed to a certain extent, university learning tends to leave a lot up to you. While that can be daunting, it’s also an incredible opportunity to bring your thoughts to the table and develop your own thinking.

Leave extra time

At university, it’s up to you to make sure you get to where you need to be, when you need to be there. So while it’s important to enjoy yourself and make friends, also make sure you’re well organised and ready to get to seminars and lectures in good time in the morning. 

Pace yourself

It might feel as though you need to be involved with everything from day one – every event, every student organisation, every party. While you should get involved where you can, especially in this formative first year, it’s ok to pace yourself – you have time! Enjoy it and don’t let yourself burn out! 


The same principle applies to your spending – you need to last all term and so does your student loan, so make sure you budget properly. Think about the books that you need, the cost of meals and any transport and accommodation fees. Lots of students prefer to go into catered halls in their first term because it’s one less thing to think about on this front.  Importantly, if you’re struggling, don’t suffer in silence – there are support services on hand.

Laying the groundwork

At lots of universities your grade at the end of the first year doesn’t count towards your final mark in your degree. Don’t think it’s the same as not counting at all however. What you learn in your first year lays the foundation for the rest of your tenure at university – you will need that knowledge to move forward.

Attendance counts

Back on this point about your first year grade – it’s not only important for laying the groundwork for your degree as a whole, you also can’t go onto your second year if you don’t pass your first. On which note, it’s not usually a question of ‘cramming’ at the last minute or pulling an all nighter with a piece of coursework. Attendance counts for a significant part of your first year grade – so make sure you turn up!


A lot of students think that first year will be an easy ride in terms of the volume of work. Most are surprised by the amount that’s expected of them – especially at Oxbridge. You can do it, but make sure you set out to be self-motivated and well organised.

Everyone’s new

Perhaps one of the most important things to remember is that everyone is new to university and everyone has things they’re worried about. While most people actually find moving away from home easier than they expected, lots find that they spend more than they thought, find the workload heavier than expected and don’t find societies that interest them at the outset. There will always be the people who look like they’ve got everything sorted, but if you don’t immediately feel like you have found your feet, it’s not only ok, it’s entirely normal.

At CamVision we offer university mentoring to provide students with support at every stage of the university application process, whether you’re applying for a BA or postgraduate qualification. Contact us to find out more.