10 things to do before starting university

Jemma Smith, Editor
June, 2016

You've gained a place at university, congratulations. Make sure everything is in place before you fly the nest by ticking off our ten point checklist

The summer before you head off to university is a busy time. There's so much to think about and put into place but creating a checklist of things to do before starting your course is a good way to organise yourself.

To make things a little easier we've started the list off for you. While some of the items are fun, others can be a little dull; however all are essential to ensuring that your new student life goes off without a hitch.

1. Arrange your accommodation

This requires some research beforehand. First year students typically choose to stay in halls, although off-campus university accommodation and privately rented houses are alternative options.

It's never too early to start thinking about your student living arrangements as many institutions operate on a first-come-first-served basis. It's a good idea to get in touch with your university's accommodation office to discover the dates of accommodation days and events, which allow you to view the different possibilities before making your decision.

For more information read our advice on what you need to know about student accommodation.

2. Sort out your finances

It might not be the most thrilling way to spend your summer but you need to get your finances in order before freshers' week.

First things first you need to set up a student bank account. The majority of banks (Barclays, Halifax, HSBC, and Santander) offer these so you'll need shop around. Try to concentrate on which offers the best overdraft facilities rather than which has the biggest freebie.

Next you need to get in touch with Student Finance to sort out your student loan; these things can take time to process so make this a priority.

Finally you need to draw up a budget. Calculate the money you have from loans, family donations, part-time job etc. and divvy this sum up to cover rent, bills, food and socialising.

University can be hectic knowing how you are going to incorporate restorative time into your diary can help you remain resilient

3. Decide what to take

Find out what is available at your accommodation to avoid buying unnecessary items. Are pots and pans provided? Do you need to take a toaster? Also find out what storage is available, as there's no point taking loads of stuff if there's nowhere to put it.

With all the big items to consider, it's easy to forget little things like stationery, cleaning materials and utensils so pop these on your list. If you're taking expensive items like laptops and iPads then consider getting these insured.

Take a look at our guide to the packing essentials when deciding what to take to university.

4. Organise a railcard

As a student you need to take advantage of discounts where you can find them. If you're going to be travelling home or visiting friends at other universities then a 16-25 railcard could save you some serious cash with a third off rail fares. Some student bank accounts offer this card as an incentive; alternatively a three-year card costs just £70.

While talking about saving money, an NUS extra card gives you access to over 200 discounts on everything from travel and clothes to food and cinema tickets.

5. Get reading

Some universities put their reading lists online, while others send the information via post or email. You don't need to buy every book on the list. Your university library will stock copies of the books that you need.

To get a head start on your reading before starting your course try to identify the texts that will come in most useful and purchase or borrow these. Pre-course reading can save you time and make you feel more prepared for lectures.

6. Arrange a health check

To ensure that you start your university career in the best health possible arrange a health check.

Due to an increase in cases of meningitis type W it's recommended that first year students (aged under 25) receive the meningitis ACWY vaccination before arriving at university. Make an appointment with your local GP to arrange this.

7. Get to know the area

Figure out where the local shops are and scope out the local gym and doctor's surgery. Getting to know your new town or city will really pay off upon arrival. As a student you’ll probably want to know where your favourite fast food outlet is too.

Visiting the campus to identify key buildings and on-site bars will save you a lot of time in the long run.

8. Learn to cook

Ask mum, or another culinary inclined relative, to teach you how to make your favourite meals. Once you arrive you'll be glad you did. There are plenty of student recipe books out there, many of which focus on cooking to a budget.

Getting to grips with a washing machine is also wise. This facility might be available in your accommodation or you might have to use a launderette, either way you'll need to know how to operate one.

9. Spend time with family and friends

In the weeks leading up to your first semester try to spend some quality time with loved ones, be it a family holiday or a road trip with friends. You might not be moving a million miles away but it could be a couple of months before you get the chance to visit and homesickness is bound to kick in.

Some recent memories of good times will go some way to combatting these feelings. To discover other ways of assuaging these unwanted feelings read our tips on what to do when you're feeling homesick.

10. Get involved in freshers' week

The welcome week, otherwise known as freshers' week, is designed to help you settle in so make the most of it. Your students' union will put on a number of events, including a freshers' fair, to help you make friends and discover new interests.

While student nights and pub crawls are a feature of the week remember to pace yourself. There will be a lot of information for you to retain and you don’t want to burn yourself out at the start.

Expert advice

Rowanna Smith, careers consultant at the University of Exeter, offers up some extra points to add to your list. She suggests reading newspapers to get up to date with current affairs, especially within your area of interest. Gaining some work experience, either paid or unpaid is also a really useful way to utilise any free time in the run up to starting university as it develops valuable skills needed in both your academic study and in further job applications.

Rowanna's parting advice to freshers is this, 'Think about ways that help you to stay calm and focused. University can be hectic and while it's great to dive into new societies, sports and friendships, knowing how you are going to incorporate restorative time into your diary can help you remain resilient and contribute to you emotional and physical wellbeing.'

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