Life in Halls: Moving in and Freshers Week.

28 01 2008

So, its September, you’ve spent the summer earning lots of money so you can afford the next step- moving out into the big, bag student-world. I was (along with a lot of people) pretty worried about the prospect of living with a lot of people I’d never met before, for the year. And the Universities know this! And the last thing they want is for students to be unhappy and not get along with people in hall. That’s why when you fill out forms for accommodation it will ask stuff like hobbies, interests etc, so they can put you with people you’ll probably get along with. But, besides that. Here’s the pitch.

Its the morning of the day you move out, the car’s packed up with all your belongings and you’re about to head out to face your destiny. So here’s a few tips that I found from The Student Room – a wikipedia-type resource on Uni-Life, that might help as you take your first step into the big bad world of Life in Halls.

Keep an open mind

Just because you enjoyed lots and lots and lots of heavy metal at full volume at home and through high school, the people around you might not exactly share the same taste, and since quite a few universities still like to put fresher’s in shared rooms, your room mate especially might not agree! I do remember one evening after dinner one of the guys down the hall coming in and putting on some very bass-y house music and turning my subwoofer waaaay up. After about 45 seconds I had about 10 people at my door…Maybe not the best way to get to know people, especially when their anger is directed at you.. University is all about new experiences, learning not only academically but socially as well. When I went to university, I had a very limited taste in music, I liked acoustic, rock, and bit of classical. While I was able to find people who had a similar taste to me, by the time I came home at Christmas, it had changed a lot, before I’d never really listen to dance music, and I don’t mind it now. Just be aware that Uni will change things about you. Its the beauty of it!

Prop your door open.

When you get there, get into your room, let you parents do the parental thing, then once they’ve gone, get some ‘general’ listening music on the go (it depends what is at the time, for me, it was KT Tunstall- hello! She’s from St Andrews! and since it was the summer of Indie music, the Fratellis, the Kooks etc) and prop your door open. When people around you are moving in, instead of them coming in and it being all awkward ‘Hi… I’m… um….’ it might start ‘Wow! I love that song! Oh Hi! I’m…’ And before you know it, you’ve got a friend for life, or for the rest of the day at least! The people you meet at university are some of the people you will know for the rest of your life. Once you’re all unpacked, have a little wander down your hall/corridor, and pop your head around the doors and say Hi to people. My ice-breaker (and this is in NO way recommended- see later, the section on “alcohol and 9am’s do not mix”- but since it’s freshers week…) was a crate of beer. FW in hall will consist of a lot gatherings of people in rooms, listening to music, talking about their summers, just getting to know each other, and when you walk into one of these rooms with a few beers, it makes a little bit easier!

The day after the night before

While, you’re getting all philosophical and clutching your head, pulling on some jeans because someone has promised to leap into the harbour and you don’t want to miss that,  (I’ll get the video on YouTube at some point…) take 5 minutes out, and call your parents. They will have will have stayed up all night with worry, if its going good, tell them. All they want to know is that you are fine, and not in some gutter somewhere!

Freshers Week- time to party (note to parents- what you don’t know can’t hurt you! So look away now!)

You will find that the University will have arranged all sorts of stuff throughout FW and your hall will probably do also. Whether it’s entertainment at the Union- the university’s very own massive pub- which sells Coke to all you underagers (and when I say underager I include myself. If you’re not 18 and are caught drinking in St Andrews Union for example, you will get banned for 6 months- that’s a lot of bopping to miss out on!) or walking tours of town or the University departments, there will be SO much to do, for that one week the words ‘i’m so bored’ will not be known in your vocabulary. Just dive in! I can remember on the first night, our hall arranged a ‘3-legged-pub-crawl’ ending at the Union where we partied the night away- it was AWESOME! You’ll also find that your department will put stuff on to. The Physics dept did a quiz so we could all get to know each other, and also a lot of the lecturers were on hand to answer any questions about the coming week that we may have. Getting back to the partying etc, our hall put on a ceilidh (pronounced kay-lee) one night, which is for all of you who have not been to Scotland, its a night of dancing to Scottish music- its truly awesome. No offence to our friends over the pond, but there is nothing funnier than teaching some Texans how to ceilidh dance! During the week, between attending Sports Fayres, Society fayres (which I’ll come back to) the university will probably also put on seminars on stuff like how to study well, take notes in lectures etc- these are like gold. They are well worth dragging your butt out of bed for. I went to one with a few people from hall, and sitting next to me was a girl I’d never met in a life, who I just happened to say ‘Hi’ to, just happened to be in my Physics class and we got talking and haven’t really stopped since, so much so, we’re getting a flat next year. FW is about getting to know as many people as possible! The possibilities are endless!


If there’s one part of Freshers Week that isn’t about socialising or getting drunk, it’s matriculating. Each university will be different, but it will probably involve seeing your advisor of studies, proving to the university that you will (or have) paid your fees, registering with your doctor and picking up your ID card. For me, it meant going to see my advisor, (and being me I got one of the early spots) and after getting the paper work from him, I was able to matriculate quite fast and with ease. For some people, who didn’t get the paper work from their entrants park sent back in time, or their finances sorted, it did result in a few people outside Younger Hall making some angry phone calls… After all that, you are officially a student of the University, and can call home to proclaim such a fact!

So, its the end of the week, you’ve now got a million and one friends, a slightly higher alcohol intolerance, and butterflies in your stomach which tell you one thing- CLASSES START TOMORROW! Then, the real excitement begins. :mrgreen:


University Application: Post UCAS

24 01 2008

By now you’ve probably accepted your place, and started packing your bags, but there’s a few other things you need to do first before you pack up your favourite teddy bear and your Spice Girls poster. First of all, once you’ve clicked ‘accept’ on UCAS, they’ll send you a little slip that you have to sign and send off to the university to confirm your place. Most universities will now accept a reply via email. It’s all on the slip, but do bear in mind, they want it back within 14 days of the date on the letter. I can remember my panic as I got to the 13th night and found the slip under my desk- SEND IT BACK ASAP!

After UCAS

Each university will have a different post-UCAS protocol. At St Andrews for example, to get my place in a halls of residence, I had to submit a form pretty much as soon as I accepted my place. Even if the offer is your insurance choice (ie. if you don’t get the grades for you conditional first choice) they will more than likely like be you to apply for halls anyway. It’s easier reject a space than try to get one at the last minute. If in doubt, contact the university.

Entrants Pack 

That will probably will be all you will hear until the summer, when they send you your ‘entrants pack.’ Mine for St Andrews contained information setting up my computer account, how to access my email, how to pick my modules, information on Matriculation (the fancy term for seeing your ‘Advisor of Studies’ to make sure you have picked modules related to your degree and handing in forms for doctor registration and picking up your Student ID card) and all the information they required from me before I got there. It also contained information on what was happening during ‘Freshers Week.’ Suddenly you go from being Joe-Bloggs High School-leaver to Joe-Bloggs Uni Student. Its exciting. You might require a new pair of pants by the end of it all…

So, you’ve sent all that back, all that’s left is waiting for Fresher’s Week to roll around..

Applying to University: UCAS

24 01 2008

The big bad UCAS application

So, you’ve whittled your list down to your final 6 courses, and it’s that time to get your UCAS in. When I was going through UCAS last year, the application (all done online) had to be completed and submitted by mid January, but our school wanted to get them away before Christmas, but that still left us 3 months to decide our fate. It’s relatively simple to do, but as myths fly around, here’s a few tips about filling it in.

Personal statement

Since most universities don’t interview potential students any more, they ask that you write a personal statement, 4000 characters on why you are not a prat and why you think they should let you run riot around their university for 3-5 years. It sounds a lot more daunting that it actually is. I can remember it took me a few initial drafts and about 3-4 final drafts, before I had written my fate. Basically what they are looking for, is to see what your interests are, your ambitions, and your passion for studying your chosen subject. Most of all, you have to be honest. Admissions officers will see HUNDREDS of statements, and can tell a liar from a mile off. The statement is basically there so that should 2 candidates with the same grades come along, they can (and will) pick the one who has interests outside of school, ie. extra curricular activities, so don’t be afraid to pop those in too. If you play in a heavy metal rock band, or you’re a guy who is on your school’s gymnastic team- put it in there! If I can remember, I opened my statement with how I wanted to study physics, because I liked spinning on my computer chair as a five year old… (hey! it got me 4 unconditional places!) But, before you click ‘Send’ get someone you trust and who knows you (possibly one of your teachers) to check it over. I gave my statement to 2 physics teachers, my guidance teacher and a few others to check over. I was very glad I had at the end of the day as my guidance teacher wouldn’t have known it was ‘Max Planck’ and not Max Plank’ the famous Physicist who I was trying to describe. I think my application might have been tossed in the trash with a mistake like that!

Only 6 courses! :O

Yes. You can apply for up to 6 different courses, and contrary to popular belief, these 6 can be all at the same university, different universities- whatever you choose. I applied for Physics and Astrophysics at St Andrews (yes- 2 separate courses at the same University) Physics and Mathematical Physics at Edinburgh, Physics at Heriot Watt, and Nuclear and Astrophysics at Surrey. Applying for 6 courses costs £15 in admin fees to UCAS, which has to be paid before you can submit your application. If you want to take your chances with just the one course, it will only cost you £5. I’m not sure if this will have changed, the best thing to do, is to check with the UCAS website at

Playing the waiting game

I can remember checking the website about five times a day after submitting it, waiting ‘patiently’ for replies from universities. Did I get in? Did they reject me? Generally thinking ARRRRGGGH! I think my first reply came through the end of January, and the rest through February and March, but it may take longer, unfortunately, you’ve just got to wait it out! Don’t think that if they are taking a long time, it must be bad news- some universities will have THOUSANDS of applications to sift through, and will probably take a while getting through them all. Once you get your replies, they might invite you up for another open day. When I got accepted to St Andrews, they offered all of us with potential places another chance to see the University. At the time I was still dithering between Edinburgh and St Andrews, and by the end of day I had sent my reply via UCAS- St Andrews was my choice. Once you accept, the excitement can begin. 😀

Applying to University: Choosing your future

24 01 2008

Right, so it’s your last year of High School, and all of you have been squeezed into a room and pestered by guidance staff to PICK YOUR FUTURE NOOOOOOOOOW! Sound familiar? I remember it well. So, you’re sitting there thinking, ‘What about Uni? get a degree, then a job, and see from there.’ But applying, finding the money, finding a subject to study, and more importantly somewhere to do it,  are a few things going through your mind, as that folder tucked away titled ‘UNIVERSITY.’ opens. Sounds like quite a daunting process. It’s really not. Take it from me, I did last year.

First off- you want to go to University, you want to get out of the nest, take flight, get as far away from your parents and their constant ‘do this! No, you’re not going out dressed like that! Have you done your homework?!’ hounding in the mornings when you come stairs in your school uniform with a hair out of place… But, how do you start going about this? First port of call- Careers Officers. These are awesome people, find out in school how to get in contact with them, get an appointment, and pour your heart out to them. Tell them what makes you tick, what you enjoyed studying at school, what you’d like to study beyond school. Even if you’ve not a clue, I’m sure they can get you sorted out. They can get you information on anything from courses and what grades you’ll need, what universities do the subject of your choice and can give you advice on what you could do with that degree. They can also give you advice on applications, open days and answer any questions you may have. I got myself a meeting with our school careers advisor/officer and she was able to give me lots of advice. At the time I was torn between studying engineering or physics, and she was able to get me endless amounts of information on each and various open days, prospectuses to read etc, to help me decide. Which brings me to the next part…

Open days.

So, you’ve decided on a subject and you’ve picked all the universities that do that course that are just far enough away that your parents won’t drop into visit and embarrass you. (just kidding) What you want to do now, is get prospectuses for these uni’s, you can usually order a copy online from them direct (for free, of course) but you might find that your school will already have a good few copies of their own, so if you find time during your ‘study periods’ have a flick through them. If they are still ticking boxes for you, have a look at going on open days. They are great excuses to skive off a day of school, and are they best way to find out what it would be like to go there. You can read a book, but that’s second to none to actually experiencing it for yourself. So, when you get up there, between going ‘ooooh’ and ‘ahhhh’ ask questions! By the end of the day, you want to have a clear ‘ya-eh’ or ‘nay’ in your mind. But, if you are still dithering when you get home, you can still contact people at the university. Email the lecture of the course, and they’ll more than happy to help.

The blog has landed.

24 01 2008

Hey there, how’s it going?

I’m Claire, I’m 17, and I’m currently a Fresher at University of St Andrews studying Astrophysics. I’ve created this blog to put out there my experiences of University, to give a bit of insight into what it is like being a student. If you’ve got any questions, feel free to leave me a comment, whether it’s about St Andrews specifically, or just about student life, gimme a shout 🙂

Peace out!