uni girl in library

Essential Tips for First Year University Students in the UK

Film scenes of sprawling American university campuses and stories of wild fresher weeks from older siblings… if your references for first-year life are a little patchy, we’re here to help. From living at home with your family and going to sixth form, to (potentially) international removals and moving across the country, living with strangers, and taking on an undergraduate course – starting university can be a massive leap. 

Make things a little easier for yourself with this university checklist for first years. We’ll cover the first year uni essentials (for instance, what to pack), tips for first year uni students (on tackling things like homesickness), and general need-to-knows (like when your course starts). These are our essential tips for first year university students in the UK.

university girl in library

When do first year students start? 

Starting right at the beginning with the basics, knowing when your course starts has got to be number one on the university checklist for first years. In general university courses will start at the end of September or the beginning of October. 

In all likelihood, you’ll have received plenty of letters from your uni of choice with this information on them. If not, check out any online portals you’ve been given access to. 

Still not sure? Get in touch with the uni. They’ll be more than happy to give any information and advice for first-year uni students. 

That means you’ll usually have a summer break in-between finishing your A-Levels and sixth form college and starting your undergraduate course. This is the ideal time to prepare! It’s also worth pointing out that you won’t be thrown in at the deep end. This first week of uni will be all about parties, orientation, talks and tours.

What do first year uni students in the UK need?

The million-dollar question. Your first year university checklist should include any important documents, kitchenware, clothes, toiletries, and electrical items. Plus any miscellaneous furnishings for your bedroom. 

Important documents

Tick off your passport, driver’s licence, all university documents, and any health cards you need to carry. Store these all somewhere safe in a ring binder with copies online as well. 


This section will be pretty important for your studying, so make sure you pack your laptop and phone as well as any chargers and headphones. Optional extras include Kindles, printers, extension cables, speakers, and TVs. 


Speaking of studying, no university checklist for first years would be complete without stationary. Although you’ll probably be doing most of your essay writing on your laptop, it’s always handy to bring pens, pencils, notepads, and even a physical calendar if you need it. 

stationary for university checklist

Think about how you study, are post-it notes a part of your process? Ring binders with category bookmarks? This will give you a steer on what to bring.

Kitchenware, bedroom, and clothes

The largest part of your packing will be this step. Try and liaise with your housemates to avoid multiple stacks of pots and pans. For your bedroom, grab a mattress protector, duvet cover and pillowcases, and blankets. 

Clothing will be fairly self-explanatory but if you plan on getting involved in sports week or any fresher’s events – sporting outfits and fancy dress could be a good optional extra to include.


It’s better to be safe than sorry, so pack some medicines along with the usual toothbrush and toothpaste, hairbrush, shower gel, shampoo and conditioner, wash cloths, and deodorant. 

Stress-free shipping for first years

In terms of shipping, take the hassle off your hands and get a quote from Sherpr. All you need to do is pack your boxes before the big day. We’ll pick them up at a pre-agreed time and then drop them off at your chosen destination. You can even track your items in transit. Broken goods and stressful packing? Swerve all that with Sherpr. 

What challenges do first year students face at university? 

The first year of university can be the hardest. In this section we’ll outline the different hurdles you could come up against – but don’t panic, it might seem like a pretty negative list but we’ll cover all of our advice for first year uni students in the next section. 

You might find yourself struggling to manage your time effectively and feeling overwhelmed with deadlines. Staying healthy is another concern for first years who might be partying and eating out more than usual. 

Homesickness is the biggie, and so are challenging roommates which can be a classic problem for first years. Lastly, there’s the art of budgeting to get your head around.

uni students in the park

Tips for first-year students in the UK

Struggling to manage time

Going from having all of your time mapped out for you at school, to a university where you have so much more freedom, can be challenging. Particularly as there are so many other draws on your time – like social events and clubs.

But time management is a skill worth working on that will serve you well in your future career. Take the time to set up your Google calendar with deadlines, class times, and social events. Or even use a physical planner. This will help you keep on top of day-to-day lists and assignments

Staying healthy

As far as university checklists for first years in the UK go, we’d rank this right at the top. Physically and mentally your health can take a battering in the first year of university. Partying and ordering takeaways are all part of the experience but try and balance these with joining a sports club or cooking a home-cooked meal twice a week. 

In terms of your mental health, comparing yourself to others, getting into your first romantic relationship since leaving home (or maintaining a long-distance one), and dealing with perhaps your first house share can all be tough. 

Prioritise your mental health. If that means regular calls home, long walks, or going for coffee with a close friend, make sure you do.


A biggie! Schedule time to facetime or call family members and friends. Putting up pictures and some items from your room at home in your new university room can help too. Also, chat to others about it, they’ll be going through it too!

Challenging roommates

If you’re living in halls you’ll be thrown together with a group of people you’ve never met. Joining university chat groups and connecting on social media is a good way to break the ice before meeting in person. But take the pressure off. If you don’t find best friends within your block, you’ll find them on nights out or at clubs.

The best advice for dealing with roommates is to be respectful of other people’s property and space.

university roommate


We’re rounding out this university checklist for the first year with the dreaded spreadsheet. As boring as they are, a spreadsheet really is the best way to keep tabs on what you’re spending on your food, travel, socialising, rent and bills. It’s much easier to make shifts in your behaviour if you see it all laid out in front of you.

Getting a part-time job is also an option – although only if you feel this won’t detract from your studies.