10 things to do before starting university

Author
Emma Knowles, Editor
Posted
July, 2019

To ensure the move to university goes as smoothly as possible, ensure you've made the necessary preparations

There's a lot to put into place the summer before starting your degree. This can seem daunting, but creating a university checklist - and knowing exactly what needs to be done and when - is a good way to help you relax.

1. Arrange your accommodation

First-year students typically opt to stay in halls, as they're protected by the university and present an easy way to meet new people. Privately-rented housing or off-campus university accommodation are alternatives, and are more popular with mature or postgraduate students. If you're attending a local university, you may choose to cut costs and live at home.

Universities offer different types of accommodation to suit a variety of needs. These include a mixture of catered and self-catered, sociable and quiet and single and mixed-gender halls.

It's never too early to start thinking about your preferences, as many halls places are allocated on a first come, first served basis. Get in touch with your university's accommodation office to book onto an accommodation open day and explore your options.

To get started, read our guide on what you need to know about student accommodation.

2. Sort out your finances

You'll need to get your finances in order before fresher's week. This may not seem like the most exciting task when preparing for university, but it's one of the most important.

You'll firstly need to set up a student bank account. Many of the major banks offer these with added incentives - such as a free, four-year 16-25 railcard or National Express coachcard - but what you should be looking for is the bank with the best overdraft facilities. Some will make daily charges if you enter your overdraft, so be wary of these and always read the small print.

If you're planning to receive government-funded student finance, you next need to get in touch with the relevant Student Finance body to get the ball rolling:

Securing student finance is a lengthy process, so make this a priority.

Once these measures are in place and you know how much funding you're entitled to on top of any family allowances and part-time job earnings, you can budget your day-to-day life accordingly. This should include allowances for amenities (food, utility bills, course materials), as well as luxuries (clothes, socialising, visits home), to avoid landing yourself in financial trouble later in the term.

3. Decide what to take

Find out what's provided at your accommodation to avoid making unnecessary purchases, and check how much storage you'll have - there's no point taking things you don't have the space to keep.

If you're taking a laptop, tablet or any other gadgets, look into insuring them - whether that's through your bank, family home insurance or cover provided by the company you bought the gadget from.

With the bigger items to consider, you might forget to pick up the little things. Items such as stationery, pain relief and cleaning products are easily forgotten, so by keeping organised you won't be left short of any essentials.

Take a look at our guide to packing when you're deciding what to take to university.

4. Organise a railcard

A 16-25 railcard, taking a third off the price of all train fares, could save you some serious cash if you're planning on visiting home or friends at other universities throughout the term. The card costs just £30 per year, or £70 for three years.

Taking a car to university isn't always necessary. If you have one, parking is limited, and it's likely you'll have to pay for a permit to leave it on campus. Public transport will keep you connected, especially in bigger cities.

5. Get reading

Many universities put their reading lists online weeks before their courses begin, or will send you the details via email. This will give you an idea of what to expect from your workload, and getting a head start on reading will build your confidence for lectures.

You don't need to own every book on the list - identify the core texts and buy these. Any others you need will be available to borrow from your university library or to buy from former students for a fraction of their original retail price.

6. Arrange a health check

Arrange a health check with your GP before you leave home to ensure that you're starting university in the best health possible.

Sorting out any ailments before you make the move will mean you're less likely to suffer from freshers' flu - which most first-year students experience due to a lack of sleep and exercise, a drastic change in diet and coming into contact with hundreds of new people, all in a short space of time.

7. Get to know the area

If you can, visit the city or town your university is in to familiarise yourself with your new surroundings. Daisie Johnson, Psychology and Criminal Behaviour graduate from the University of Bedfordshire, highly recommends this - especially if you're going through Clearing, as she did: 'Try and visit the university before you start so you know what to expect,' she advises. 'I didn't do this, and it took me a lot longer to feel settled in.'

To save money and time on making multiple trips, especially if your chosen university is far from home, it's a good idea to have a look around while you're visiting for an open day.

Once you've moved, use your spare time before the start of term to locate your nearest train station, local shops and GP surgery, as well as your campus library, students' union and lecture buildings.

This is a great opportunity to get to know your housemates by arranging to make these trips together, as they'll need to know where these things are too. The task will feel less daunting if you're not going alone.

8. Learn to cook

Ask for help with making your favourite meals while you're still at home - you'll be glad you did once you're fending for yourself. Student cookbooks, available in bookshops and online, focus on using simple ingredients and cooking on a budget.

Shopping cheaply is easier than you think - Co-op offers a 10% discount to NUS cardholders, and own-brand food from the supermarket is often of the same quality as the more expensive branded alternatives.

9. Spend time with family and friends

Spend quality time with your loved ones in the summer before university. Depending on how far away you're moving to study, you may not be able to see them for a few months. While you'll be doing lots of exciting things and meeting new people in your first term, homesickness is normal and might kick in once you've settled.

Recent memories of good times, and photos or mementos to keep in your bedroom, are a good way to combat these feelings. For more help on getting out of a slump, see What to do when you feel homesick.

10. Get involved in freshers' week

The welcome period is full of events designed to help you settle into university life, so find out how to make the most of freshers' week. Your students' union will host fairs to join societies and sports teams, and your course department might hold an icebreaker session in this time to introduce you to your peers and lecturers.

While you don't have any course commitments you can immerse yourself in these activities and make sure you're prepared to start your degree. Organisation is key - make sure you know in advance when you have to be somewhere, as will help with planning your time in the long run.

'I'd want new students to know that they should try and go to as many events offered to them as possible in order to meet new people and socialise, because isolating yourself will make the transition much harder,' Daisie says. 'Get involved in your students' union if possible, because they can really support you through your time at university,' she suggests.

Finally, have fun. 'Good luck to everyone who is starting. It really is the best experience of your life,' says Daisie.

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