With A-Level results day behind us, many students will now know which university they will be heading to in September. For many this will be their first choice. For many others, unexpected exam results will mean they are not necessarily going to a university they had planned to. This can make leaving home and beginning student life that much more daunting. However you feel about starting university, make sure you read these helpful tips to get you on the right track.
Coming Out of your Shell
Most students arrive at university just before freshers week, a week full of events to help you integrate into the new community before you begin your studies. Freshers week is the prime time to get involved in any opportunities that interest you.
Universities put on multiple freshers fairs for new students, in which many companies and organisations promote offers for you to take advantage of, and often hand out fun freebies.
Similarly, societies fairs run throughout the year at most universities to allow students to find out more about the many groups available to join. These are often across an enormous range of hobbies, interests and identities, so it’s guaranteed you will find at least one for you. Society membership often comes with a fee, but this is often yearly and worth for the new friends and experiences.
Getting involved in a society also has its benefits in the long run, as employers often look for evidence of skills gained outside of your studies. According to The Independent, employers are often impressed by students in media societies, such as the university newspaper, as they often show evidence of skills in teamwork and working to deadlines.
Most people know that university involves a lot of social events, whether they are nights at the student union or at the local clubs. If you are the extroverted type, you will find endless opportunities for nights out with your fellow students often before you even get to university. Make sure you join university Facebook groups where promoters will advertise events you can attend.
If you prefer something more downbeat without alcohol or loud music, there will be plenty of these events too. Information about these will most likely be found on your student union website. It’s often good to get to know people outside of the drinking setting, so we recommend doing this regardless of whether you are an enthusiastic clubgoer.
On a general note, just be yourself. Faking or suppressing your personality for their benefit will hinder your chances of finding people who you really want to share your university experience with.
Learning How to Budget
For a lot of students, living in university halls will be the first time they will have to manage their own finances. For some, the maintenance loan will be their first financial source after the help of their parents or carers. It’s important to develop the habit of budgeting, during both university and later life.
The first step to budgeting is to work out what you will be paying for each week - food, any subscriptions, travel, and any social activities will most likely come under this. It is easy to let the purchases pile up if you are not keeping track of them.
As an important tip, pay attention to discounts and offers when shopping to get more for your money. Buying course books, for example, is one of the greatest expenses of being a student. Before forking out hundreds of pounds, try websites like Abe Books to save a huge amount on books you may only use once. Additionally, sign up to a student discount website such as UniDays or Student Beans (both handy for clothes shopping lovers), and consider getting an NUS Card. When you’re out and about, it’s always worth asking whether the company does a student discount.
For even more responsible spending, consider creating a savings account. With one, you can set aside any extra money and only use it in emergencies. A savings account can also help you save your rent money until the day it is due, so you never fail to pay for your accommodation.
Finding a Part-Time Job
Most students could use that extra bit of cash. If you do not have many contact hours, filling up some of this time with a part-time job may be ideal. To avoid disappointment, only consider ads that clearly state the job is part-time or on weekends, and gage whether you will be able to juggle both employment and your studies. Also work out how much money you will have to spare before you decide whether a job is essential.
Alternatively, student union jobs allow you to work alongside your studies. Most only require you to work during term-times, leaving your holidays free. Note that student union jobs are often very popular – you will need to act fast. Consider moving to university earlier to be at an advantage in the recruitment process. Society positions are another option, with opportunities cropping up throughout the year. While you may not get paid for it, they’re a great way of building up skills you may be paid for in the future.
Making the Jump from A-Levels to University Degree
What you will quickly realise about a university degree is that it requires you to be a lot more independent and self-disciplined than ever before. It is your responsibility to keep up with course reading and attend lectures and seminars. Once you realise there may be little to no consequences for skipping, you will be tempted to take advantage. Don’t do this! It can negatively affect your exam performance, and you may have a hard time getting references from tutors.
On the other hand, some aspects of university can be less demanding than during A-Level study. On most English Literature courses, for example, you won’t need to remember book or critic quotations, as universities value the way you present your argument higher than your ability to memorise. This can lift some pressure and allow you to focus on developing your own opinions and arguments.
Going to university can be a daunting experience. You are fending for yourself for the first time, there are thousands of new people to interact with, and you have to learn a whole load of new information to pass your degree. There are countless things to consider, but hopefully we've helped you to consider some points we think are important. Above all, have fun and experience university life to the fullest!