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What to expect as a first year student at BCU

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What to expect as a first year student here, at Birmingham City University.

If you are about to start your first year as a student here at Birmingham City University, we have designed this blog post especially for you.  The first year student guide broken down into key parts to help you survive your first year at BCU.

Personal experience

I applied to study Criminology (BA with Honours) here at Birmingham City University through clearing due to a last minute change of heart about moving away from home since I am originally from Birmingham. I had a wide range of choices in terms of university from Aston to UOB to BCU, after intensive research about the course at this university, I realised that they had really good reviews as a university on a whole as well as good reviews of the course, lecturers and forms of assessment.

Academically, my whole first year was dedicated to 3 key modules in my first semester, followed by 3 key modules in my second semester. All 6 assignments were assessed in their own unique way from Video reports to Presentations. After completing my first year, each of my modules award me with 20 points equating to a total of 120 points towards my final degree.

Open week

Following your enrolment to BCU, you will be able to attend ‘fresher’s week’ which is not all that you may think. Fresher’s week is actually the week dedicated to helping first year students settle into their new homes, the university and the city on a whole nonetheless, there is an element of night life to fresher’s week, where there a range of bars and clubs offering student discounts to ‘fresher’s’.

In all, fresher’s week is designed to help the students gain the important insight into the campuses, personal tutors, lectures and a push to begin meeting new people… some who you may never see again and others who will become your lifelong friends.

One of the most popular days is the ‘fresher’s fair’. The fresher’s fair is where there are hundreds of stalls open just for you. They will be offering loads of freebies that you won’t want to miss out on, from free domino's pizza to free posters, pens and sweet treats. My personal favourite freebie from the fresher’s fair 2018 was the chance to sign up to a year’s free student account with Boohoo (you get unlimited free next day delivery all year round and up to 20% discount!).

Making friends

University can be a scary place for you to tackle alone, however, I did not come to BCU knowing anyone and even I, an introvert managed to make a variety of friends in the first semester alone.

Although, I understand some people find it was harder to make friends than others and that’s perfectly okay. The easiest ways for you to meet new people is to join societies or even just move out of your comfort zone a little bit and say “Hi”, spark a conversation because, after all, we are all in the same boat when starting university, so if you don’t do it… who will?!

Living at home vs in accommodation

I chose to commute to uni as I only live 30-40 minutes away using public transport. Closely linked to the previous topic of making friends at uni - people tend to think that moving into accommodation is the only guaranteed way to make friends. Which, as discussed is not true, although it may make it easier to meet new people, they may not share the same interests or opinion as you.

However, people often choose to move out for different reasons such as ease of access to the university. Freedom and to help them prepare for life after they leave home.

A new study of 1,900 undergraduates has found that students spend approximately £410 on accommodation. This leaves the students £265 out of pocket each month. So in order to make up for the remaining money to get through until the next Student finance payment - 7% have sold their bodies/services, 6% rely on gambling, 3% use a payday loan. All 3 being incredibly risky to the individual whether that be physically or monetary.

Other personal experiences include some extreme and others more bizarre examples - “It’s a constant pressure and my mental health takes a big hit whenever I overspend for whatever reason.”

“I sucked my friends toe for £100”.

“I was paid £20 to look after my neighbour’s cat whilst they went to furniture village”.

So, if you think you may struggle once you move into your university accommodation, please don’t fall into the trap of selling, gambling or borrowing money. Instead, look into these money saving tips;

  • The first obvious way to avoid money issues, you should increase your income. Aim to get a part time job, where you will work a few hours a week around your university schedule. This way you will be able to balance work and university life, ultimately, better organising your time. However, if you don’t feel like you will be able to handle this then there are ways around it!
  • Next way to avoid money issues will be to reduce your expenses through the likes of; student discount, sale items and cheaper alternatives. It may also be beneficial to prepare your weeks meals in advance therefore there will be no/less last minute takeaways and hungry trips to the supermarket.
  • Course materials- If you need anything from staplers to cameras for your course, BCU offers a large £150 off when you shop with their partners. This will save you £150 no matter what you choose to spend it on.
  • Stay away from pricy overdrafts. If you have not already prearranged your overdrafts with your bank then be sure to have the money available in your account when you are purchasing otherwise it is likely that you will be charged interest and so over time you will have to pay back more than you used.

Money management

University is well renowned as the time where most young people tend to struggle with money.

The first termly payment text from student finance England arrives telling you that “£££ will be arriving in your bank account in the next 3 working days” and everyone starts planning what they will be spending it on (Some more than others) and some forget to put money aside for necessities such as Accommodation! In fact, only 1 in 4 students in the UK have NEVER budgeted!!! Which may be the reason why 80% of students worry about ‘making ends meet’.

Starting lectures/seminars

The part that some students look forward to and others… not so much. However, it is not as daunting as you may think, all you do is walk in (on time) find a seat, pay attention to the lecturer or seminar leader as some choose to ask questions, make a few notes as these will come in handy for your future assignments and leave. It is also, always beneficial to ask questions especially if you don’t understand something because this will help you with the end assignment and this may also help others in the group.


Assignments are inevitable. No matter which course you have chosen you will be assessed at the end. However, the types of assignments will vary between modules. The most common types of assignment would be; 2000-2500 word Essays, Exams, Presentations, Focus groups, Reports and Video presentations.

The best way to be prepared for your assignments would be to;

  • Start/Learn how to manage your time better
  • Learn how you best manage stress
  • If you have exams, look for study tips
  • Always remember self-care!

Mental health

Due the constant stress that people may face at university it is common for mental health to deteriorate however, it is possible to avoid this by using self-care.

Self-care. A set of completely personalised, repetitive traditions that an individual completes as a way to prioritise their mental and physical health. For example, setting a target to drink 2 litres of water a day for clearer skin or choosing a new diet (such as veganism) because they realise their immune system isn’t as good as it could be. Either way there is no right or wrong to self-care it is totally up to and based on the individual’s needs. Google says that searches for ‘Self-care’ is now up by 25% suggesting that more and more people are realising that it isn’t a luxury but it is a necessity.

So, why is self-care so important?

With university deadlines fast approaching, the stress can sometimes be Overwhelming and looking after yourself by creating ‘me time’ is not looking like a risk you are willing to take. However, by avoiding crucial ‘ME time’ you are allowing yourself to be consumed by stress. Stress comes with a range of major complications for your health such as; Headaches, depression and anxiety. So, self-care may seem sacrificial at first however with time it will become second nature to you. In order to create a self-care regime it is best to create reminders or alarms specific to your needs on your phone. Whether it be; skin care, hair care, weight gain/loss/maintenance or practicing your religion. There are countless amounts of self-care pages on Twitter and Instagram with many pictures and guides for you to follow.

Ultimately, I hope you look forward to starting your new journey here at Birmingham City University and remember that no journey is too long with the right company.

Quote of the week: â€œWhen you want something you have never had, you have to do something you have never done.” ~ Author Unknown.