The University Series 2017
Welcome to the very first post of my 2017 University Series! Now that I am a graduate, having survived four years of university, I felt it was time to share all the lessons I have learnt, the advice I was given and the tips and tricks I picked up along the way. I have put up the odd post here and there about university but I felt it would be a good idea to put it all together, for those who are off to university come September, or those thinking about going, a little series, something people can come back to, something people can wait for each week.
So, starting today(!) there will be a new university related video (over on my channel) and new blog post every Wednesday at 6 pm for the next eight weeks, leading right up to the point where lots of you will be heading off to university. I am SO excited for this series, I have worked super hard on it and I really, truly hope that is useful and helpful for those going to university (or even if you are already there!). If you have any questions at any time, please feel free to email me, tweet me, ANYTHING. I am more than happy to lend my ears and experience over to you, I know I would have loved someone to talk to about it all.
To kick things off, I am starting with the general Surviving University advice. The main points to get you through your first year, we are talking budgeting, studying and of course, lots more and I just felt this was the perfect way to kick start the series. As the series goes on, the topics will become a little more specific (we have a whole video on Freshers, for example) and more detailed. I cannot wait for you to see them all!
So without further ado, here is the very first instalment of the University series. Surviving University. I hope you enjoy!
Take Advantage of Student Discounts
Not so much a tip for ‘surviving’ university and studying, but certainly, one that is going to be a really big help… take advantage of all the amazing student discounts and deals that are on offer for students! Believe me, there are some truly amazing ones.
As soon as you are enrolled, sign yourself to Unidays, in my opinion, one of the best student discounts websites, with 10% off ASOS (all the time), 10% off of Apple, half price Spotify, tons more fashion and beauty outlets, tech, food, fitness and more… it is a brilliant portal that every student needs to be aware of. You have no idea how much money I have saved through Unidays. Download yourself the app and you’re truly good to go!
There is also the NUS Extra card, though this one comes with a small price. For the full three years it is £32 and for one it is £12. With over 170 benefits such as 50% off of Now TV, 40% off Pizza Express and 10% off at the Co-op, this is also a really great choice for knocking off the extra pounds. My advice would be to work out if you would really use this to figure out if it is worth the money for you. I had this card for one year and found I did not use it as much as I would have liked, but I certainly did not regret buying it!
As well, always make sure to check individual places too. For example, McDonald’s give you a free cheeseburger, Mayo Chicken or McFlurry when you buy a meal, which is pretty amazing if you ask me. KFC do 15% of anything above a fiver (this got SO much use) and so many over places offer a student discount even if they do not regularly advertise it. Your best bet is to always simply ask, the worst thing anyone can do is say no!
Apply for a student bank account
Having an account separate from your everyday debit card is a really good idea when you are a student. Not only can you receive certain benefits, it is a great way to keep money separate and organised. For example, my loan went straight into my student bank account, so I could clearly see how much I have left to survive on and then my other account was just for anything and everything else. May seem minor, but it really helps.
The other pro is naturally the benefits you can receive for signing up for a student account. For example, with Santander (who many of my university friends recommend!) you get a free four year 16-25 rail card and a really decent overdraft amount (as G states in the video, it is such a lifesaver). Nationwide also have free 0% overdraft limits. The MoneySavingExpert website has a brilliant breakdown of all the different benefits and the important stuff you actually need to know.
I already banked with Barclays so decided to open my student bank with them but I received no benefits from them, in fact, I did not even get an overdraft. I had to apply and it was based on really random stuff, which to me, did not personally make any sense. I would have been better off going with Santander.
Do your research, work out what you need and what works best for you and book yourself an appointment with the bank to open up your student account. It really helps!
Budget, Budget, Budget!
Yes, so boring and the last thing you want to think about when you’re off to university is budgeting but if you ask me, it is so important and the quicker you start, the better! If you get a loan, you are about to be handed a really huge lump of money, maybe more than you have had before, and the temptation to go a little wild is very, very present!
My best advice would be to straight away work out where your money is going. Make a note somewhere (a Word/Excel document is fine) of how much rent you are going to have to pay over the duration of your loan (usually four months), how much your bills are (work it averagely if you don’t really know), how much you think you’re going to spend on food, any essentials. Then you have a clear-ish indication of what you have left to play with. To take that step even further, I would then recommend breaking that down so you get an idea of how much you will have a week.
Once I worked out how much money for rent and bills etc, I then took that money out of my account and stuck it in a savings account where I told myself not to touch this. This meant that the money left was mine and I could use that account without worrying about dipping into my rent. You’d be surprised at how many people do not do this and then don’t really notice when they are taking money from what you need for rent. Landlords and agencies do not play around and won’t sympathise if you’ve accidentally spent your rent.
As much as your overdraft will help, you also do not want to be a few grand into it and it is always worth bearing in mind that one day, you will have to pay the overdraft back if you do go into it! Budgeting and taking an hour or so out of your day to calculate everything up will really help you with this!
This is definitely one of those things I wish I had done before I went to university. I assume that most people will know (and be good at) lots of home chores so this does not really apply to you if you do buuut if you do not know how to work a washing machine now is a great time to learn.
It would also be a good idea to perfect some basic student-friendly recipes before you head off, too. Pasta dishes are always great but it would be a good idea to learn stuff that is also healthy and balanced which will really help you out whilst at university. Instant ramen is always going to crop up but it is always good to have some basic meals you can whip out on hand too!
Making Your New Home Cosy
University rooms (whether that is halls or rented accommodation) are known for being quite frankly, pretty awful and probably not to your taste. Think bland, possibly even dated and maybe even a little smelly! It seems that university halls are getting better and better but you may still find they are not to your taste, so it is important to make your room feel like ‘home’, a little haven, somewhere you can feel comfortable.
For me, I would always have loads of photographs dotted around my room, of my friends from home, family, holidays… all sorts. Even in third year when I had got used to moving around and having somewhere new to call home every year, I still covered my room in photographs, it automatically makes it personal.
Blankets, throws and fairy lights are all key for making your room feel cosier. Primark is the best place for affordable homeware that will get you through the year, you can guarantee that every term I was standing in my local Primark with a ridiculous amount fairy lights, throws and cushions for my new room!
I know that when I talk to people about university, whether that is with university friends or the students I would meet at open days, one of the biggest concerns and fears is making friends. Now, looking at my group of friends I have made through university, I always find myself struggling to talk about making friends, it just happens, but I remember four years ago walking into that first welcome meeting and feeling so alone and nervous.
My biggest tip is simply… just talk to people. No one is going to think you are odd, or weird. In fact, in welcome week alone, you’ll probably have people just come up to you and introduce themselves to you. Embrace it, start chatting, it’s easy really… ask where they come from, are they in halls, what did they do at college/sixth form. You may not particularly care and this person may not be your ultimate bestie, but you’ll always appreciate the people who made the effort.
Take it from me, in my first year I had a handful of people I would talk to and could get along well enough with in class but it was not till second year where I found my ‘best’ friend and now we’re completely inseparable. Open your mind, join socials, join clubs, go to course events, take the opportunities that come your way, even if you don’t feel like it. It was pay off, I promise!
What is your top university tip if you’ve already been?
University Series videos at 6pm and blog posts at 7:30am every Wednesday!
University Series 2017
Thank you for reading!