It’s that time of year again when everyone starts to think about heading off to University. Whether you are an eager fresher bursting with excitement, or an anxious second year struggling for ideas for your dissertation, I hope that this article helps in some way.
Now that I am a graduate, having survived three years of university, I felt it was time to share some of the lessons I have learnt, the advice I was given and the tips and tricks I picked up along the way.
Student Bank Accounts and Budgeting
Let’s start with the serious stuff. It’s common knowledge that often your student loan will not cover all of your rent and living expenses so budgeting is vital. Having a separate bank account for your student loan is a really good way of keeping track of your spending. You can also receive certain benefits alongside your account. Take Santander for example, when signing up for their student account, not only do you get a very comforting overdraft but also a FREE 4 year 16-25 railcard (very handy for those who live far from home). If you’re unsure on who to bank with or what a simple overview of who has the best deal for you, visit the MoneySavingExpert website for more details.
In terms of budgeting, my advice would be to note down exactly how much you know you will be paying out each month/term. Things like your rent and bills (for those in private housing) MUST be paid or you can quickly get into difficulties, so set this money aside before browsing any sale rails. The leftover money can essentially be kept for food and any treats for yourself. It is also worth bearing in mind to keep a little extra in your account per month/term, just in case of any emergencies.
Take advantage of the discounts!
Following on from budgeting, student discounts and deals can be a really big help. I personally find that Unidays is the best site to use as it has discount codes for pretty much every site you will need aside from supermarkets (ASOS, Apple, Spotify and Urban Outfitters being a few of the big names). Other sites with a similar set-up include SaveTheStudent and StudentBeans.
Although these sites are amazing, they don’t contain all offers so it is worth investigating before you go shopping. For example, McDonald’s give you a free cheeseburger, Mayo Chicken or McFlurry when you buy a meal, which is pretty amazing if you ask me. KFC do 15% of anything above £5 and many other food outlets (Ask Italian, Frankie & Benny’s, GBK etc) offer a student discount even if they do not regularly advertise it. Your best bet is to always simply ask, the worst thing anyone can do is say no!
Learn to be a little independent
This was something I tried my best to do before leaving home for the first time. Moving away from home is scary enough without worrying about how to work a washing machine or how long to cook chicken for. Get your parents or older siblings to run you through the basics before you leave.
As easy as it is to live off different varieties of pasta, your body is going to need some veg every now and again, so it may be worth learning some simple recipes too. Things like stir fry’s and curries are a good start.
Talk to everyone!
Whether they like to admit it or not, everyone worries about making friends at university. One of the best things you can do is try and get as involved as you can during the first few weeks. Try and make conversation with everyone, find out what they are into and where they have come from. No-one is going to think you are odd or weird because you are all in the same situation. In fact, by the end of the first week, you’ll probably have met most of the people you will be spending time with in halls and on your course so embrace it and start chatting.
Don’t worry too much if you find it hard to click with people straight away. Who you live with in your first year is purely done to luck. I personally didn’t find a lot of my best friends at university until my final year. That’s one of the great things about uni, you are always meeting new people.
You don’t have to drink to have fun
Although you will go out more in fresher’s week than you have ever done before, drinking does not have to be compulsory. All universities cater for non-drinkers during fresher’s and beyond, so if you fancy a night off, there are always other options.
Make the effort to learn how to reference
It’s going to be the most laborious part of your degree but it’s also one of the most important. Simple mistakes in referencing can cost you a lot of marks in both essays and exams so it’s really important that you understand how it works. You will most likely be provided with a referencing guide when you begin your course, so give this a quick read through and hold onto it. I promise you it will come in handy! There are also hundreds of books on different referencing styles available in the library. I found sites such as CiteThisForMe really useful when writing longer essays, but try not to rely on them as they can sometimes be inaccurate!
It’s okay to feel overwhelmed
You get so much advice (like this post) in the months before you start university and the first few weeks of studying that it can make you feel like you should know exactly what you’re doing. It’s fine to be completely lost. Try to remember that everybody has or will feel this during the first few months. It’s also fine to be chilled and happy during the first few weeks and then be hit by a feeling of helplessness/homelessness/panic as the due dates start approaching and the fresher’s flu wears off.
Be real and be yourself
University is amazing because no matter your quirks or your insecurities, you’ll find your niche! Now is the time to forgo the need to be “popular” or put on a mask. Experiment with things that sound fun that you wouldn’t have tried before.
University is what you make it
I was told this during the summer between my second and third year and it really made me think. I would always hear people say that university is the best time of your life, but I didn’t feel that. So in my final year, I adopted the attitude of getting stuck in. I tried to get involved with as much as possible, with as many new people as I could find. And in final year I found my university family. University is about getting more than just a degree, so remember to make the most of the experience too!
I hope for any of you heading to university, or any returning students, that this blog post has eased your anxieties slightly or even just made your life a little easier. I wish you all good luck with the next academic year, and hope you have a wonderful time!