18 Things You Need To Know Before Starting Uni at 18

The people who want to be your BFF seconds after meeting you at Freshers are usually the same people who need their search history monitored.
Two people at a party
Photo: Sian Bradley

If you’re 18 and got a spot at uni, you’ve probably spent the past few months celebrating the fact that school uniform, “the popular group” and living under the same roof as your parents will very soon become a thing of the past. 

However, with this newfound emancipation from the shackles of all things childhood comes a new realisation: You have to start completely afresh with a whole load of other 18-year-olds who also have no idea what they’re doing. But don’t worry, we’ve got you: Here’s a list of all the things you should know before starting university.


Nobody gives a fuck what A Levels you got

Fairs, against all odds you got an A* Geography. It’s probably only right that you’ve spent the past month subtly finding ways to tell anyone who’ll listen that you’re basically God’s gift to metamorphic rock formations. Sadly, this ends now. Whether it was through good grades or by some miracle in clearing – all that matters is that you got in. What’s cool about university is that you have the chance to meet a bunch of people from a huge range of backgrounds. Don’t be the guy fixating on a set of exams in Freshers Week. No employer asks about them after uni, why should you?

Learn some basic culinary skills

Easy Amatriciana Pasta Recipe

Eating Shreddies for three meals a day is not a quirky way of saving money. It’s probably giving you scurvy. Learn how to make two pasta sauces, a stir fry, wash your rice and make one green vegetable not taste like mud. After mastering this, you’re basically Fallowfield’s grotty version of Gordon Ramsay.

First year requires the least effort

Remember that A* you got in Geography? Well, now you celebrate getting above 50 percent. Most of the time, first year does not count towards your final grade. Don’t miss out on the fun stuff just because you’re a slut for academic validation. 

… But don’t fail

Even if you view the entirety of first year as a party to celebrate finally being able to escape your parent’s house, a surefire way to end said party early is by needing to do re-sits over summer or not passing the year. Write down all your deadlines as soon as you get them and make sure you turn something in… even if it sounds like it was written by a pensioner on psychedelics. 

Learn how to budget, and ignore everyone else

The girl in your student halls who is currently “so fucking broke” after spending her entire student loan on Depop bits and cocaine probably has at least one horse at home named after her father’s boarding house at Eton. One person’s “Daddy will be very angry if I ask him for another 100 to pick up” is another’s I-cannot-afford-to-eat-until-the-next-student-loan-drop. Locate your nearest Lidl, memorise the bus timetable and focus on yourself, king.  

You don’t need a relationship immediately

I don’t care if they can make pasta from scratch, gave you your first orgasm and own vinyl. It will probably end in tears. First year is not the time for cosy monogamous bliss and the inevitable earth-shattering heartbreak to follow. Save that for final year when the agony of a broken heart just makes a dissertation appear less nightmarish. 


Know how to clean

Having to baby wipe the soles of your feet before getting into bed because your bedroom floor is so filthy is not chic!!!

Be kind, especially if you’re sleeping with someone

Sex can be confusing, awkward and emotional… especially if you’re pretty new to it. But you do not have to behave like Patrick Bateman in American Psycho just because you don’t want a relationship with someone. Be honest, wave at them on campus and text them the next day. Just don’t be a dick, basically. 

Your life will not be over if you don’t go to every freshers event

In fact, your life will probably be better. The people who want to be your best friend immediately three seconds after meeting you at a Freshers event are usually the same people who need their search history monitored. Have a night off, your body and brain will thank you for it. Good friends usually come later when everybody’s stopped pretending to be such a nice person and started being themselves. On this note…

Real friends are not disposable

The sheer volume of new faces can be pretty overwhelming in the first few months of uni. Everybody wants to meet as many people as possible and nobody really has a real friend group. Even if it feels like you’re meeting a million people a day, if you find someone who gets you, makes you laugh and shares the same values – meet up one-on-one! Quality over quantity. Always. 

Do extracurricular stuff

Join societies purely for the socials. The chances are your randomly assigned flatmates will not be your lifelong friends and the niceties won’t make it past the first bin rota. Escape the passive aggressive WhatsApp tantrums by pushing your liver to its limit every Wednesday night with Badminton Soc. Why not? Your liver will never be this young and sexy again.

Don’t live with a couple in second year

Inevitably, two people in your friend group will eventually start fucking. Do not under any circumstances live with them in second year. It will not be the cute, hilarious existence that American shows like Friends and How I Met Your Mother have falsely led you to believe. It will either end in civil war, or the couple becoming so visibly co-dependent that they start saying things like “we really think you shouldn’t use our favourite mug as an ashtray”. Sickening. 


If your uni is taking the piss, take action

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that universities are pretty much the same as any other profit-driven organisation – they value money over people’s needs. After the lockdown months of online learning with no reduction in fees, it became clear that students often aren’t a university’s top priority. It they take the piss, protest. It worked for Manchester

Remember nobody knows how to take drugs

At a uni events and parties, there are always going to be a couple of people on it. But it doesn’t mean that they know what they’re doing. If you decide to use drugs, always use with caution and start with low doses. See if your uni has a drug testing service like The Loop, or failing that, buy a reagent testing kit online to make sure you know what you’re taking. 

You don’t need to be friends with people you dislike

The hell that was secondary school is now over. Large, incestuous friendship groups in which you despise at least three of your friends no longer has to be your reality. If you don’t like someone’s vibe – don’t be mates with them. It’s really that easy. 

It’s OK to change your mind!

Probably the most fucked up thing about the UK’s education system is that we’re expected to decide what we want to do with our lives at the age of 17. Personally, I wouldn’t trust my 17-year-old self’s ability to decide what festival to go to after A Levels, let alone any kind of life-altering decision. If you really don’t like your course, admit it! Take a year off, work, travel, reapply and ignore what everyone else is doing. It’s a lot smarter to admit that you’ve changed your mind than pay nine grand doing something you hate.

Get a job

Do it even if it’s just ten hours a week, because you’ll probably have a load of free time and no money to enjoy it whatsoever. Making friends with people who aren’t students also lets you get to know your new city from a different perspective. 

Make mistakes 

Everyone always talks about learning a lot from uni, but people very rarely want to admit that these lessons come from allowing yourself to make mistakes while you were still young, single and can get over a hangover in an hour or two. Just give yourself a break. Things will go wrong but it doesn’t have to be that deep. The chances are, everyone is so concerned with what they did or said on the last night out to give your fuck-ups a second thought.