A student rite of passage, freshers' week gives you the opportunity to throw yourself into university life, make friends and experience new things
Freshers' week, often referred to as welcome week is an incredibly busy time, filled with social events, fairs and the completion of important administrative tasks. Its purpose is to give you the chance to make new friends and settle into your new surroundings before lectures begin.
Last year, freshers' week looked remarkably different due to COVID-19 and while certain rules are still in place surrounding in-person events, this highlight of the student calendar will resemble some form of normality in 2021.
To find out more about your university's COVID-19 process and guidelines, visit their website. If you have events lined up or tickets booked for freshers' week, make sure you're aware of any safety rules in place.
You'll usually have a few meetings scheduled during freshers' week, such as welcome talks with your department, an introduction to your students' union and induction sessions with the library, careers office and your accommodation provider. Pre-COVID these would all have taken place face-to-face - but it's now likely that some may take place online.
The most important date in your welcome week diary will be registration. You'll need to complete registration by a certain date and be aware that failure to do so may result in a fine. For example, students who fail to register by the designated deadline at The University of Manchester can be charged £200.
Your institution's website should contain a step-by-step guide on how to register, whether you're an undergraduate or postgraduate student.
It's not just student registration that's important. Registering with your local GP is a must too. Hopefully you won't need a GP for anything more serious than 'freshers' flu' - the sickness and tiredness most students experience as a result of a lack of sleep and a change of diet and routine - but it's better to be safe than sorry.
In addition to this, make use of your welcome week to complete other practical tasks while you're free from the responsibility of lectures. If you're on campus, find out where the library and students' union are, suss out where your teaching spaces will be and locate local food shops and launderettes, if your accommodation doesn't provide washing facilities. If your course requires you to spend some time studying from home, make sure your internet connection is sufficient, check that you have access to all the required resources and ensure you have all the necessary equipment to complete your work.
The first thing that comes to mind when thinking of freshers' fairs might be freebies, but that's not all these events have to offer. Your university's freshers' fair offers you the chance to discover new interests and sign up for new experiences. Pre-pandemic these events were traditionally held indoors and gave you the opportunity to speak with the students' union, members of clubs and societies and local employers face-to-face.
However, over the course of the last year, institutions have seen the benefits of virtual events - so don't be surprised if your university chooses to host their freshers fair online this year too.
For example, the University of Stirling plans to hold a mixture of online and on-campus activities including a virtual freshers' fair and a freshers' UV welcome party hosted at the students' union.
Look on your university and students' union websites for information on how your freshers fair is being conducted.
Keep in mind that by signing up to a society during freshers' week you're not committing to becoming a member - you'll just receive more information about what their activities involve.
There's no denying the importance of extra-curricular activities and when it comes to your job hunt they can prove incredibly useful. Future employers will be impressed by your enthusiasm and ability towards trying new things and your involvement in clubs and societies can provide practical examples for you to use during an interview.
Ask any student what the best part of freshers' week is, and most will tell you it's the nightlife. Now that pubs, bars and clubs have reopened, 2021 freshers can experience typical student nights out including foam parties, silent discos, theme nights and pub crawls. Bear in mind that some events and venues may require you to produce a negative COVID test before admittance.
Last year, the pandemic meant that students' unions had to get creative, and they rose to the challenge - hosting virtual events to try and make up for the lack of traditional fun. The success of these events mean that you should expect a variety of online night-time events this year such as DJ sets, quiz nights and even virtual escape rooms.
Freshers' week can be a little overwhelming. While social events are planned on every day or night of the week, you don't have to attend them all.
In previous years, because of its boozy culture, freshers' week could also feel a little excluding for the introverted or teetotal. If you're not a drinker, many freshers' weeks now include no-alcohol nights out as part of their schedule and the majority of universities have their own sober societies. Activities include karaoke, go-karting and film nights, and bring together students of a similar lifestyle who may find the stereotypically alcohol-fuelled student culture alienating.
Help and support
While some students sail through freshers' week, others will find adjusting to university life more difficult. If you fall into the latter category, it's important to know that you won't be the only one feeling anxious or experiencing homesickness.
If welcome week isn't working for you, don't suffer in silence. All universities have dedicated and friendly welcome teams, so talk to them if you're feeling a little lost. These teams are on hand to listen without judgement, suggest events that might work for you and signpost you to the right people if you're in need of further support.
Freshers' week can be a stressful time if you're struggling to make friends or fit in but remember that this one week doesn't have to define the rest of your university experience. Once teaching starts things usually get easier, as you'll meet coursemates and fall into a routine.
Find out more
- Discover what to do if you're feeling homesick.
- Read about how to look after your mental health at university.
- Explore 5 ways to manage student stress.