Preparation for your course
Have you met all the terms of your offer? Some courses require health or a criminal background check, submission of evidence of your exam results, submission of financial information. It is very important to read through the offer details thoroughly and make sure you have complied with everything requested.
Is there a reading list ahead of your course starting and are there any course textbooks you’ll need to buy or borrow from the library?
Most universities offer places in halls of residence in the first year, but you do need to apply early and make sure any deposits to secure your room are paid on time. You might also be renting a room in a privately owned student accommodation block, for example in the big cities. Be aware of your financial costs attached to accommodation. As well as rent, will you have to contribute towards electricity, broadband, in-hall meals, or other incidental costs.
If it’s a campus university, make sure your accommodation is on the right campus for your course. There will be different types of accommodation including shared or single rooms and access to shared kitchen and bathroom facilities. Research all the options carefully and make sure you select the right one for you. You’ll make your first friends where you live so be sure to follow university recommendations for first year joiners, so you’ll be able to make the most of meeting those who are in the same boat as you.
Think about safety of belongings and money, keeping your room locked when away. Is your personal property insured via your parents’ home insurer or do you need your own cover?
University is about so much more than study. There will be 100’s of clubs, hobbies, and interests to get involved in. Use Freshers’ Week to investigate what’s on offer and sign up to some new opportunities to try, as well and keeping up with sports or other hobbies that you enjoyed or excelled in at school. Keeping fit and well is also important, so why not visit the sports center or gym and find out about classes or training schedules in sports that interest you. Be careful not to over-do your commitments, as you still need time for lectures and private study.
If you don’t already have one, opening a UK bank account will be crucial. Shop around and read reviews for those that are offering the best welcome deals for students.
If you are applying for a student loan, make sure you’ve filled in the form correctly and submitted all the supporting evidence to confirm your course and course provider. Your bank details need to be correct for your payments to arrive on time.
Budgeting is a key skill to learn at the start of university. As well as rent, bills, food, clothes and other living costs, you need to budget for joining clubs and societies, nights out with friends and travel to and from lectures/home. If your grant or parental allowance comes into your account all at once, make sure your budget will take you through to the end of the term.
Do you need part-time work to make ends meet? Look out in local papers, university noticeboards, social media, and other local portals for vacancies in local pubs, bars, and cafes so you can secure work that doesn’t clash with your lecture and tutorial timetable, and still allows time for socializing, relaxing via sport or other hobbies and interests.
Registering with a GP is very important. It’s much harder to find health support when you need it in a hurry, so make sure you have completed all the registration processes in your first few weeks, so you know what and whom to call when you need non-urgent medical help.
You’ll need a laptop for your studies and smart phone for keeping in touch. Make sure anything stored or viewed on any gadget complies with university data and online policies. It’s a good idea to read and familiarise yourself with these before you start to avoid trouble later.
Think about how you are going to back-up your essays and other university work. If your laptop breaks or is lost or stolen, you’ll want your hard work stored on the Cloud somewhere. Keep passwords safe, but you’ll need to know how to access Cloud storage.
Make sure your phone contract allows data use that works for your day-to-day life. Be wary of big bills if you’ve used your data allowance. Inclusive call packages are also a good idea.
Cycling is a great way to get around when you first go to university. It keeps you fit and is free of running costs. You just need to find out about safe storage at your accommodation if this is your plan. Buy a good cycle helmet, always wear it and keep safe.
Taking a car should be something you think through very carefully. Where will you park it? Can you cover fuel, insurance, and maintenance costs? Do you really want to ferry all your friends around and be the one who isn’t drinking on a night out as you are the designated driver? If you do take your car, be responsible and avoid alcohol or drugs if driving and keep concentration 100% if you are offering a lift to friends. One small mistake here can affect the rest of your or someone else’s life, so think before you drive.
When you first arrive, you’ll need home comforts to make your new accommodation feel cozy and ‘like home’, but don’t take too much until you know how much space you have for storage. The basics like bedding (duvet, pillows, sheets, pillowcases, duvet cover) bedside lamp, clock, pictures are crucial. Depending on cooking arrangements within your accommodation, you might also need kitchen basics such as pans, cutlery, plates and bowls, mugs, glasses etc. I also suggest packing a cookery book that covers the basics of how to cook tasty, filling, value, healthy, easy meals. Don’t go overboard on clothes as you’ll need to wash and iron them!
Learn to say no and stay safe.
University is a fabulous opportunity to make new friends, learn skills for life and your future career as well as trying out a whole new range of hobbies and pastimes. However, beware of picking up bad habits too. Drink alcohol in moderation and never alone, say no to drugs and other illegal substances and never feel pressured into doing anything that makes you feel uncomfortable. It can be tricky if peers are encouraging you down a path you are not sure about, especially if social media or alcohol are involved. Stay strong in your own views and beliefs. It’s ok to say no and walk away.
Be careful when opening the door to those you don’t know. Don’t go out in the dark alone and travel home together after a night out, leaving no-one behind alone.