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It’s often said that university is your gateway to self-discovery and those three years will be the best of your life. Never again will you have as much freedom as you do in your days of being an undergraduate student. Assuming you have excellent budgeting skills and a hearty appetite for knowledge you will breeze through and graduate a more intelligent, better person.
Sounds easy right? Not quite. College leavers are plagued with worry before going to university. It’s the first time you will be paying bills and rent, you’ll have to cook for yourself and there’s the worry of not knowing anybody.
This on top of managing your assignments and gaining work experience, university can become quite stressful if you’re not prepared. As long as you don’t go overboard and spend your entire student loan on an expensive laptop and rounds of drinks in your first week, you will be fine. Take the following advice and you’ll find yourself in the category of super-humans who manage to balance decent grades with a healthy social life.
Before leaving for university, learn some basic cooking skills; trust us when we say pasta becomes very boring very quickly. If you’re lucky enough to get on well with your first year flat mates, offer to share the cooking, this will save everyone money and you won’t have to cook every night. There are lots of student recipes, which are easy to make and very affordable. If you haven’t got so lucky and you’ve found yourself living with a recluse; don’t panic. Freshers’ week is there for you to make friends. Go out and introduce yourself.
If you’re quite a shy person and approaching someone in the SU bar sounds like your worst nightmare, a great way of meeting new people is by joining societies. There are so many on offer, from badminton to street dance it’s the perfect time to try a new skill and realise a talent you never knew you had. You’ll make friends without even realising.
On the subject of making new friends, it’s important not to spend too much time with boyfriends/girlfriends or friends from home. It’s nice for them to visit but it will prevent you from getting to know new people. By the time second semester roles around you will have settled into university life and bagged yourself a group of close friends. This is when you will need to start thinking about accommodation for your second year. Choose your second year flat mates wisely; they become your surrogate family. Arguing over the washing up or food that’s missing from the fridge can easily turn you from great friends to nagging housemates. Lay down some ground rules when you move in so you don’t annoy each other.
Now you’re sorted on the social side of university, its time to talk money. (Trust us – We’d avoid it if we could!)
Core textbooks are expensive, especially if you have a few recommended texts for each module, rent them from the library or buy second hand from websites such as Amazon or eBay. If you keep them in good condition you can resell them once the module is over. Unfortunately, your student loan is not a magical source of money; it will end at some point. Buying rounds of drinks for your friends may seem like a good idea at the time, but another good idea is making sure you don’t starve in the second semester.
Being financially conscious is very important, you don’t want to spend your time worrying about your finances when you have assignments to do so learn to budget from the start – there are lots of tips and advice to budget as a student at university. If you’re short for money host a flat party instead of going out in town, take advantage of the free pizza nights held in the SU bar and only go to the cinema on Orange Wednesdays. You’ll find your student loan can go a long way if you’re careful with it. So where to keep your money? Student bank accounts are great because they come with freebies. Shop around for the best deals as some come with free railcards or NUS discounts. (Also the £2000 interest-free loan may become your saviour if you choose to ignore our budgeting advice!)
We’ve covered your social and money issues, now for some basic student advice. Take note of the following: 5 am fire drills are something you will have to get used to. Keep your coat in an easy to reach place for when you’re stuck outside in the rain waiting for a residential assistant to turn off the alarm. (You can get revenge on your drunken, pasta cooking flatmate in the morning). Find your place in the library and stock up on red bull, snacks and pro plus for the last two weeks of term. Trust us.
Use your summer break wisely. Summer for undergraduates lasts around five months. Cram in as much work experience as you can, you don’t want to waste valuable study time beefing up your CV in your third year. Most work experience placements will require you to work for free – search around, as some will reimburse you for travel expenses. Working for free shows determination and this will help you to gain some valuable contacts – it’s never too early to start thinking about your next steps after university. Lastly, it’s important to remember to have a good sense of balance throughout your time at university; you want to have fun but don’t compromise your degree. Likewise don’t spend the entire three years in the library, work hard and play hard.
So here’s to all you undergraduates, enjoy your time at university. Work hard and have fun, three years will fly by and before you know it you’ll be graduated. Be proud of what you have achieved, you’ll soon be swapping assignment briefs for job applications. Good luck!
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