First day at University: what to expect?

Student smiling

You made it! So what can you expect on your first day at university?

There's no need to worry asking yourself 'what will my first day at university be like?' As a new student in the UK, and most definitely at the University of Sheffield International College, the first thing you can expect is a big, warm welcome. The UK student population as a whole is hugely multicultural. Just over 18% of all the university students in the UK in 2013/14 were from overseas. That means that one of the first things you will learn on your first day at college in the UK is that you are not alone.

In fact, the University of Sheffield itself is home to a diverse spread of nationalities - 25,000 students that include 5,000 international students from more than 125 countries.

And there are plenty more great experiences awaiting you on your first day of university in the UK. There’s nothing to fear – here’s what to expect:

Everyone is as nervous (and excited) as you are

Your first day at college in the UK can be understandably nerve-racking. But when you show up and see that your fellow students are every bit as excited and nervous as you are you’ll soon feel at ease. It definitely helps to know that you’re in good company, with so many international students at British universities. It’s not just nervousness that you have in common; it’s excitement for the adventure and opportunities that lie ahead.

International staff to put you at ease

Most educational institutions in the UK are home to a diverse teaching staff who have lived, studied or were born abroad. The University of Sheffield International College has staff who have worked all over the world. It’s one of the first things you’ll notice on your first day, as you are introduced to the tutors and lecturers you’ll be working with throughout your course. Their collective experience not only ensures you’ll have a warm welcome, wherever you come from, but also means that staff truly understand the challenges you face and can do everything they can to help you along the way.

The weather will surprise you

It’s a known fact that the sun doesn’t shine year-round in the UK, however, it’s not permanently raining either! When you arrive in September you’ll find that the weather across the UK will mostly be mixed, with as much chance of sun as there is rain. As we move further into autumn and winter, the temperature will start to drop so grab yourself an umbrella and an overcoat and you’ll be just fine. By March it will warming up again, ready for summer. As the famous Scottish comedian, Billy Connolly, said “There’s no such thing as bad weather – just the wrong clothing!”.

You’ll be guided through registration and explore the campus

In practical terms, your first day at college in the UK will often mean filling in a lot of forms. You’ll often need to queue up with others as you officially register as a student. You might need to have your picture taken so you can be issued with an official student ID card too. Don’t worry, you’ll be shown exactly where to go, with plenty of signposts and friendly staff and students on hand to help you find your way.

You can also have fun exploring the campus, discovering routes between the campus and your accommodation. Don’t be afraid to ask other students for their advice here – they’ll be happy to show you the quickest routes which can save you time.

Freshers Week

A real institution at every university, Freshers Week kicks off on your first day. It’s designed to help students experience the social side of university life. There will often be a fair running all week long somewhere on campus, with stalls from university societies, the Student Union, sports clubs, local businesses, bars, shops, cafes, bookstores and more letting you know about their services, offering you discounts, and sometimes even free food, drinks and more. You can expect free gigs and performances in venues around town and a fun atmosphere as people get to know each other. It’s a great place to mix and find out about the range of cool things there are to do besides study.

The University of Sheffield International College and the University of Sheffield run their own events, where students find it easy to fit in and meet their classmates. Look out for more information about this soon. It's all part of the Big Sheffield Welcome - introducing students to a fantastic College, University and City!


How do I prepare for the first day of university?

A great tip for preparing for your first day of university is to create a plan. This will bring organisation and structure to day where you may be feeling nervous. You will have a warm welcome wherever you choose to study. 

Most universities will have an online group where new and existing students can ask questions and get to know other people at the university. Joining and browsing one is a great way to prepare for your first day as you can get a feel for what student life will be like at your chosen university. These groups usually include information about freshers events so they are a great tool to utilise. 

What do I need for my first day of university in the UK?

If you are already in possession of your student ID card you will definitely need it with you on the first day. Some UK universities ask for students to present or swipe their ID card to gain access to the campus. 

Having something to make notes on, like a notepad or laptop, is very important. The first day is usually spent taking in a lot of important information and you need to make sure you can remember everything. 

What do you do on the first day of university?

Most first days at university include a student orientation. This is where you will get your student ID card, class schedule and get the chance to meet other people on your degree. 

You won't be thrown in the deep end so don't worry about having intense classes on the first day. Usually your first classes will be spent going over what they are about and the different modules they are made up of. It's a good idea to bring either a notepad or laptop to make notes as this is often when you will find out exam and assessment dates.