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36 mistakes every fresher will make

It's inevitable. As you transition from the comforts of living at home to single-handedly boiling an egg, you'll make your fair share of blunders. Watch out for these...

man surprised surrounded by objects

Credit: Luis Molinero, Africa Studio, Maks Narodenko, Alter-ego, Yeti studio, timquo, Dimedrol68 – Shutterstock

Whether it's deciding that one last shot of tequila is a good idea (it's not) or thinking that one red sock in a white load won't make a difference (it will), there are some things almost every fresher trips up on during their early days of uni.

While making mistakes and (hopefully) learning from them is all part of the freshers' experience, your life will be a whole lot easier if you know the pitfalls lying ahead.

We've cleaned out every skeleton in our rather full closet of rookie errors to bring you the most common mistakes – all 36 of them, to be exact.

Moving to university

  1. Forgetting the essentials

    Packing your whole life into the back of a car is a daunting task. We're sorry, but the risk is high that your favourite stapler will be left behind in the mayhem.

    Most things aren't really that important and can be bought at uni. But some items are, like your passport and irreplaceable snuggly duvet.

    Now you're suitably worried, run through our what to take to university checklist or watch our what to take to university video. We have thought of EVERYTHING.

  2. Bringing pointless things you don't need

    By the same token, don't pack every single thing you own into the back of your parents' car.

    You're not moving to Mars (there will be shops). Plus, there's a good chance you'll struggle for storage in your new student room.

    Trust us – if you're studying English at uni, you really won't be needing your secondary school geometry kit.

  3. Not getting camera-happy


    Credit: ImageBySutipond - Shutterstock

    By this, we don't mean taking loads of selfies to document freshers' week (which you should also definitely do).

    We're talking about snapping pics of your accommodation when you move in – whether that be university halls or private housing.

    If you fail to document any faults or damage now, you could get the blame for them when you move out and risk losing some of your deposit.

    So, take a good hour soon after you arrive to go through your inventory and note down any faults (however small) and take picture or video evidence.

  4. Hiding in your room

    When you first move into your new abode, and there are all these strange new people wandering around, it can be tempting to hide away in your room to avoid any awkward small talk.

    But the fact of the matter is, you need to make friends at uni. Since you're going to be living with these people for an entire year, it's best to bite the bullet ASAP.

    Move-in day is the ideal time to bond, so prop open your door and be a friendly face. You could even offer to carry boxes or make a cup of tea for everyone.

    Our checklist of things to do when starting university covers everything you should be doing to help you get settled in.
  5. Throwing away your moving boxes

    Chances are you'll be moving into a new house at least once more before you finish uni, and you don't want to be sourcing new boxes every year.

    Stash some flattened boxes under your bed. You'll thank yourself for it in nine months' time, especially if you plan to use self-storage units over the summer months.

  6. Upsetting the neighbours

    In the student haze of late-night partying and stumbling home at 4am, it's all too easy to forget there are other humans living around you.

    If you annoy them repeatedly, they could make a complaint to the university or even the police. This could land you in deep trouble, both with your uni and the law.

    So be mindful of others and don't make the mistake of being bad neighbours. And, if you're at the receiving end of it, don't suffer in silence – complain.

  7. Worrying about next year's housing

    terraced housing

    Credit: Pompaem Gogh – Shutterstock

    The majority of British universities only offer accommodation for your first year of study. But don't panic! You will not be homeless next year, and you'll probably be sick of the 3am fire alarms by then anyway.

    Your first step is to carefully decide who you want to live with (for at least one whole year). You'll likely make lots of new friends in your first term but, for your future sanity, give it some time before figuring out who your long-term friends or housemates could be.

    Once that's decided, don't be tempted to sign for the first house you come across. Take your time and go to lots of viewings until you find something you really like and fits your budget.

    Make sure you know your tenancy rights and have looked through our tenancy agreement checklist before signing anything.

Freshers' week

  1. Attending every single freshers' event

    Now, don't get us wrong – we are familiar with the phrase 'go hard or go home'. But sometimes sleep is pretty good too.

    Freshers' week is billed as one of the most exciting, memorable weeks of your life, so it's understandable to feel the pressure to go to lots of events to feel you're getting the most out of it.

    Yet, aside from leaving you cashless for the rest of the term and with a serious case of the freshers' flu, dragging yourself to every single party will only end up taking the fun out of the events you do actually want to go to.

    We pinky-promise you'll still make friends even if you do miss the odd event, and you'll feel so much better for it. It's time to put that FOMO to bed.

    Heading to a themed event? See our student fancy dress ideas.
  2. Ignoring the non-drinking events

    While it would be a complete lie to try and tell you that freshers' week has nothing to do with alcohol, it's also not the be-all and end-all of organised activities.

    Universities host a whole range of events to help welcome you to your new home. This could be anything from local sightseeing and city tours, to IKEA trips and film marathons.

    Not only are they often really useful for discovering your new surroundings, but they're also a great way of making friends you'll actually remember the morning after.

    Our list of fun activities under £20 provides plenty more non-boozy inspiration too.

  3. Joining too many societies

    Getting asked repeatedly for your autograph at the freshers' fair may give a warm fuzzy feeling, but your inbox will be jammed with society newsletters within a week.

    And once freshers' week is over, you'll find you don't have as much spare time as you thought you did.

    Some societies will have membership fees, so only cough up the cash if you're sure it's something you're going to commit to. Get yourself along to a few different (free) taster sessions if they're on offer first.

    Finally, think about which societies and other extracurricular activities will look good on future job applications. For example, if you're after a career in journalism, it's a great idea to sign up for the student newspaper.

  4. Thinking you have to hang out with the first person you meet, forever

    Two friends on a bus looking at phone

    Credit: Dusan Petkovic – Shutterstock

    You've probably had everyone telling you that you'll meet your friends for life at university. As a result, many freshers find themselves in a wild panic when they don't discover these special people in the first few days.

    First of all, calm down! There's really no need to stay attached to the first friendly person you meet forever more (unless you do happen to become BFFs of course).

    Though many great friendships are made in the first few weeks, many, many more are made throughout the year (and the years to come). On top of that, there will be plenty of opportunities to meet your future soulmates.

    We've got a whole guide on how to make friends at university, whether you're living at home or away and whether you enjoy nights out or not.
  5. Ditching your folks at the door

    The desire to make a good impression on your new flatmates might be strong, but don't forget who helped you pack the car and drove you halfway across the country for this.

    Even if they're holding their cards close to their chest, your parents will be feeling pretty emotional (happy or sad) that you're finally flying the nest, so be nice.

    Perhaps you can convince your parents to take you for a nice meal out before they leave. Besides, it'll probably be the last decent thing you eat all week. This will give you a chance to say a proper goodbye without the pressure of your new flatmates looking on and will help reduce any initial university homesickness.

    Share our parents' guide to Student Finance with your folks so you're all on the same page. There's plenty for them to learn too...

Life skills

  1. Shopping when you're hungry

    It may seem like a money-savvy idea to hold out until the cupboards are bare, but remember: "you're not you when you're hungry".

    Shopping on an empty stomach will lead to impulse buys and overspending on more things than you really need.

    Before you hit the aisles, make a shopping list of the things you need and stick to it, regardless of how enticing that bucket of mini chocolate bites looks.

    Get yourself familiar with some great ways to save money on food.

  2. Setting off the fire alarm at 3am

    At some point, you're going to become everyone's least favourite neighbour when you attempt to cook something in the early hours of the morning and accidentally set the fire alarm off.

    So, if you're the kind of person that gets the munchies after a night out, save yourself from hours of abuse by stocking up on some food in advance – preferably something that doesn't require an oven.

  3. Not signing up to the doctor's surgery

    The first time you're ill away from home will always be a tough experience (freshers' flu, anyone?), with a notable lack of people to bring you hot water bottles and hold the sick bucket.

    Getting ill before you've signed up to your local doctor's surgery will make things even worse and harder to get medical help when you really need it.

    Take five minutes when you arrive at university to suss out where your nearest GP is and sign up.

    While you're at it, read our guide to saving money on prescriptions, dental care and eye tests. These are just some of the things you're no longer able to rely on your parents to sort for you.
  4. Putting colours in with whites

    red soak with white load in machine

    Credit: Monkey Business Images – Shutterstock

    Yes, it does sound like something your mum would say, but unless you want your new uni wardrobe to undergo a traumatic makeover, don't skimp on the washing skills.

    Always divide your washing into colour and white washes at the very least, and try and stick to the recommended washing temperatures. For more tips, head to our guide on how to use a washing machine.

  5. Leaving dishes until they're mouldy

    No one likes washing up, but when new life forms start to grow on them, you'll like the consequences of leaving them unwashed even less. The same goes for emptying the bins; it's not meant to be fun, but it's necessary.

    Make sure to sort out a plan of action with your flatmates nice and early. Decide whether you're going to just clean up after yourselves, attack the grime collectively or simply sort out a cleaning rota.

    To save money on cleaning products, check out our guide for low-cost alternatives to common products.

  6. Locking yourself out

    It's worth making friends with the security guards or your landlord if you're the forgetful type, as this common mistake can work out really costly.

    Keep your keys in easy-to-find places at all times, as new sets of keys can cost upwards of £60. Many landlords will also charge a call-out fee even if you just need to be let in.

    If you're known for being a scatterbrain, get a cheap replacement set cut and give them to a reliable friend for emergencies.

  7. Ignoring food use-by dates

    It's true that best before dates can be misleading. For example, you'll often find your potatoes will be perfectly fine a few days after the recommended date.

    But the same doesn't apply to all food and it's important to know the difference between best before and use before.

    If the product in question is dairy, meat or fish, then always make sure to chuck it when they tell you to or you could find yourself pretty ill.

    And if you don't think you'll use it all when you buy it, you may be able to squirrel some away in the freezer for safe storage until you need it.

  8. Running out of toilet roll (on the loo)

    Some things are pretty boring and annoying to buy, and toilet roll is one of them. While no one wants to spend money on something that will just get flushed away, it is a household essential.

    Save yourself from getting caught short by buying in bulk or setting up a rota with your housemates.

    We've also got a nifty trick to actually make money from your old toilet roll.

  9. Clogging the kitchen sink

    Out of sight does not mean out of mind when it comes to kitchen sinks. Even when you want to clean up in a rush, there's no excuse for tipping fat and nasty bits of food down the plughole.

    They'll only return to haunt you later in the week, when you suddenly discover nothing will go down the sink.

    You could use bicarbonate of soda, undo the u-bend or use a wire coat hanger to get rid of the blockage. However, it's probably best you try and avoid this catastrophe altogether.

    Hate splashing out on expensive cleaning products? Check out this guide to cleaning your house without breaking the bank.
  10. Never ringing home

    woman making phone call

    Credit: fizkes – Shutterstock

    You might have started your new exciting life at university now, but that doesn't mean you should forget the people who are important to you back home.

    Your family and friends are (hopefully) missing you and would love to hear updates on how you're doing, as well as some reassurance that you haven't forgotten about them...

    Parents are often a crucial source of funding at university and you might find yourself having to ask your parents for some money when times get tough – so stay in their good books!

  11. Pretending you're not homesick

    On the same note, it's totally okay to feel homesick sometimes – especially when you first move out. It's a huge step to head off to uni, and everyone else is feeling the same way, so don't be afraid to open up to others.

    If you do find yourself feeling a bit down, try being proactive to distract yourself. Round up your flatmates for an impromptu card game or, if you're not feeling too sociable, go for a jog.

    We've written an in-depth guide on how to deal with homesickness to help you out if you're struggling.


  1. Leaving everything until the night before

    Contrary to popular belief, the best time to finish essays is not 3am the morning they're due. A little forward planning (and our productivity hacks) can help improve your grades and decrease your stress levels massively.

    Unlike school, your university tutors aren't going to be checking up on you to make sure you're getting the essay done. You'll have to use self-discipline to get started early.

    We're aware this still won't have converted you all, so just make sure you bookmark our guides to writing an essay in a day and how to revise in 24 hours and ace it. We've got your back.

  2. Not backing up your work

    You've heard it a million times before from teachers and unfortunate friends – backing up your work is really, really important!

    Again, many students have a bad habit of leaving things until the last minute, but your computer crashing at the wrong moment can turn a stressful situation into a truly horrendous one.

    There tends to be zero flexibility on university deadlines so suck it up, invest in a USB stick and sign-up for some free cloud storage from Dropbox or Google Drive.

  3. Racking up massive library fines

    Books are a fundamental part of tackling essays and assignments, so take full advantage of them. Just make sure to always return them on time.

    While your local library might let you off with a slap on the wrist, the situation is less forgiving at uni. Late fees can quickly add up, and could even end up costing you your degree.

    To help you stay clear of these debts, we've put together a list of the best ways to avoid a library fine.

    No matter how lazy you're feeling, that walk to the library to return your book really is worth it.

  4. Leaving your referencing until the end

    dog using laptop

    Credit: Kalamurzing - Shutterstock

    Referencing is pretty much the most soul-destroying part of writing an essay, so trust us on this one – write your reference list as you go along.

    No one, and we mean no one, wants to be awake at 4am on deadline day wondering where they found that obscure quote on alcohol drinking habits in the thirteenth century.

    You could also learn how to use the Microsoft Word automatic referencing system. It will save you loads of time by putting together your bibliography for you! There are also a ton of handy websites that can help you with your referencing, including Cite This For Me.

  5. Spending more time on colours than notes

    We get it... Colour coding your notes can seem like a productive and engaging way to spend your time.

    But we all know, deep down, there comes a point where you're lying to yourself and your notes, and you just need to put the highlighters down and get on with some actual work.

    We've got a guide to better note-taking at university to help you with this one too.

    If you do happen to have particularly beautiful notes though, you could actually end up making money by Instagramming them.

  6. Sleeping through your lectures

    We all love sleep, but the harsh reality is that you came to uni to learn, not get a cheeky nap, so make it worth your time (and money!).

    If you haven't quite perfected your morning-after survival routine yet, save your sanity and only go out on nights when you can lie in without feeling guilty – or master the art of the hangover cure.

    For some added motivation, you might want to calculate how much your degree is costing you per hour (or not)...

    Check out No More Beans, the Save the Student podcast, where we relive some of our funniest university memories and discuss all the things we wish we'd known as freshers.


  1. Not shopping around for the best deal

    There's a whole hoard of companies out there claiming to offer the best deals for students. This applies to pretty much everything, from student bills to student bank accounts and clothing.

    Always take time to shop around before committing to anything, and don't forget to weigh up any extra perks against real price differences.

    Never be afraid to ask for a student discount and, if you're feeling particularly brave, have a go at haggling!

  2. Not budgeting

    calculator and pen

    Credit: eamesBot – Shutterstock

    Seeing your Maintenance Loan instalment land in your bank is a HUGE test for new students. It will go far quicker than you think (especially during freshers' week) and it needs to see you through a full term.

    Failing to make it last is one of the biggest mistakes you can make as a fresher.

    PLEASE set yourself a budget and download an app that'll help you stick to it.

    The average student spends £924 a month. Here's the breakdown to help you make a realistic budget.
  3. Leaving it too late to find a job

    Our National Student Money Survey found that 64% of students don't think their Maintenance Loan stretches far enough at uni, and 56% of students turn to part-time jobs to make ends meet.

    There are usually plenty of part-time job roles on offer at uni, but you'll have to be quick off the mark if you want to get ahead of the competition. Start with our part-time job search.

    If you're in need of some fast cash, check out these awesome ways to make money.

  4. Racking up a massive overdraft

    Overdrafts are a necessity for most students these days, but it's very important to understand this is not free money. A student bank account may be giving you 0% interest now, but when you graduate you will have to start repaying your overdraft and there will soon be interest to contend with.

    Make sure to budget carefully and try not to become overly dependent on your overdraft.

    Consider how to save money or look into getting a part-time or summer job to help pay it off.

  5. Not being insured

    One in five students is a victim of theft at university, with freshers' week being a prime opportunity for criminals.

    How would you feel if your laptop or phone was stolen or ruined, and you then had to pay for a new one?

    Not shelling out for cheap student contents insurance is playing with fire, and we'd strongly recommend you arrange it before arriving at uni.

  6. Buying your entire reading list brand new

    Being an eager student certainly isn't a terrible thing to be, but save your enthusiasm for the studying, as opposed to the part where you splurge cash when you really don't need to.

    You'll often find that university libraries are well-stocked with key texts. But, if you're struggling, check out second-hand bookstores or hit up university students who are in the year above you. We've got all the book-buying tips you need.

    And remember to try to look after them so you can sell your old books on when you're done with them.

  7. Not getting your free cheat sheet

    graphic with a preview of the cheat sheet

    Of course, there are thousands more mistakes you could (and probably will) make as a student. It's all part of the learning process!

    But when it comes to avoiding student finance pitfalls, you can do yourself a huge favour by downloading The Student Money Takeaway.

    This handy bit of kit distils the very best advice from our website onto just two pages. It's designed to be accessible, fun and engaging.

After more insights into what life is like at university? Here are some essential things graduates wish they'd known in their first year.


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