In under a month, thousands of Freshers will be arriving in universities across the UK – including in your city. But what do we know about this new cohort of students? Unite Students and HEPI recently published the results of a survey they’ve undertaken of those who’ve applied to start at universities this Autumn.
Here are a few of their standout findings concerning this year’s Freshers:
They have mixed feelings about coming to university
81% say they are excited, 61% say they are anxious, and many are both excited and nervous! When it comes to living arrangements, 71% say they feel well prepared to meet new people but 47% feel anxious about living with people they’ve never met before.
They have some unrealistic expectations
60% expect to spend more time in university lectures than in school or college classes; in practice, this will be the case for only 19% of students. Many apparently over-estimate how easy it will be to find help locally if they have a problem. And whilst most feel comfortable with the idea of budgeting, most prospective students tend to consistently underestimate essential costs of living.
They mostly feel cheerful and optimistic, but many also experience negative emotions
More than two-thirds of those questioned said they always or often feel loved, and 61% said they always or often feel cheerful. But almost two-thirds described themselves as always or often stressed, and 59% feel often or always under strain. Those coming to university are slightly less anxious than present students, but 27% have had a panic attack in the past year.
They mainly feel well-prepared for day-to-day life
Perhaps challenging the stereotype of the life skills of an average Fresher, 90% of students preparing for university are confident that they could clean the house; just over 80% would be confident that they could cook a meal and 75% know how to do the laundry.
Around one in eight have a mental health condition
13% report currently having a mental health condition, the most common being anxiety or depression.
Prospective students from some backgrounds are considerably more anxious about coming to university
Prospective students who are LGBT, who are the first from their family to go to university or who come from socio-economic classes D or E (where the chief wage earner in their household is a manual worker or long-term unemployed) report feeling currently less satisfied with life than their peers. They also report higher levels of anxiety. As a group, LGBT prospective students feel less confident about making friends and living with strangers.
… so what implications might there be for churches and CUs in our ministry to Freshers? There are probably plenty, but here are just four:
We might remember that a significant proportion of Freshers have at least mixed feelings about coming up to university, and demonstrate a level of empathy. After all, many of us can remember having similar apprehensions!
We can play a significant role in offering friendship, and in helping students make friends, particularly early in the year. Giving some students practical ways of building friendships with and blessing their housemates can go a long way.
We might be particularly considerate of those particular groups of students who find the transition to university challenging or stressful.
We should be prepared to help students react well to their disappointments, particularly when some of their expectations of university life aren’t met. We should also be prepared to help students find the help that they need in times of heightened pressure and stress.
Today I’m starting a new job – and so I thought it might be a good time and a good excuse to refresh this blog!
I’m starting as UCCF‘s Head of Creative Evangelism. Whilst I’m not entirely without the apprehension common to starting a new job and a new phase of life, I’m excited about this new role with UCCF.
I’ve been employed by UCCF for 13 years, first as a Regional Staff Worker in Lancashire & Cumbria, and then more recently as Team Leader in Yorkshire & the North East. My new role builds on some of the passions I’ve developed over these years in student ministry. I’ll have three particular focuses:
Developing and pioneering some new evangelistic strategies that will increase the reach and effectiveness of university Christian Unions in the UK.
Training UCCF staff, Relay Workers and students in evangelism that is creative, engaging and biblically-faithful.
Cultivating relationships and training for local church-based student workers so that more effective partnership can take place in student mission in university cities.
As I start this new role, I want to share and discuss some of the things I’m learning and seeing. I want to be able to share some of the best practice ideas and approached that I’ve come across in student ministry. I’m writing with others involved in some way in student ministry in mind. I’m hopeful that whether you are employed by a church, work for a specific ministry or are a student wanting to think more deeply and creatively about reaching your peers, there will be things that fire your imagination and are helpful from time to time.
Please do get in touch – particularly if we’re in student ministry and have never yet met in person!