a) Money, money, money
- Check out how much money you're going to be getting from student finance, then check out the cost of your accommodation. Sometimes, the amount of money you'll be getting in won't quite cover the cost of the rent.
- Equally, check when you have to pay rent, and the date your student finance gets into your account. Don't get caught out by not having the money in your bank account on the day the rent needs paying! Most uni's will have the option of either paying monthly rent, or termly. With the monthly rent, you'll have more money in your bank account for more of the term. However, some monthly rents will start before you get student finance in. If you pick termly, you're bank account is going to get hit pretty hard each time the money goes in. However, you'll have a better idea about how much money you realistically have to spend (or save) over the course of the term.
- Either way, it's a good idea to do a mock budget. I sat down with a calculator and worked out that if I set aside a certain amount of money for rent, food, clothes and books, I'd be left with £18 per week for other 'fun' things. Realistically this might not be exact - you might spend a lot more or less on some of the necessary things, leaving you with more or less money for extras - but it can give you a good starting point.
- Get a job. You ARE going to need more money. I know people whose parents paid for their accommodation, but still ran into debt. Get a job over summer, earn some extra pocket money, and SAVE IT. You'll have plenty of free time to spend with people who might be going away, you can spare the odd evening to earn more cash. You won't regret it.
- Put as much money as you can in a savings account - but make sure its one that you can still access. Every month, I put the majority of my earnings in a savings account, leaving myself less to play with in my daily account. This means I feel poorer than I am, so save more money by spending less.
b) Do the work!
- Preparing for seminars is really important. Remember, you're paying up to £9,000 per year, and even if the first year 'doesn't count you don't want to just throw that money away. Attend as many lectures and seminars as possible, you'll finds yourself a lot better prepared for the second year, when it really starts to matter.
- Practise over summer. This might sound ridiculous, but if you're on a lit course, you're going to have to do a lot of reading. Reading is a skill that you can train yourself to do, so read for half an hour every day. You'll soon find yourself getting quicker and better at it. Equally, you're going to have a read more than one book at a time, so practise swapping between texts. A lot of uni's will have reading lists available, so if you know you're slow, get ahead.
- For non-reading based courses, keep up with revision. Its amazing how much knowledge can melt away on long summers days. I'm not saying spend every second with your nose in a text book, but set aside an hour or two every week to keep your brain ticking over.
c) Remember your friends
- Spend time with your nearest and dearest over the summer, and make the most of it.
- Set up Skype or another messaging service of your choice, and start chatting to each other in a routine. Or, if you're staying close to home for uni, arrange a day a week when all your friends are likely to be free. The biggest mistake I made was loosing contact with some of my closest friends in the first term of Uni. Keeping in touch is so important, especially if they are stuck in a boring gap year job whilst you're off having fun with bright and shiny new friends.
d) Have fun!
- You're paying for the experience of Uni just as much as your paying for the education. When you get there make the most of what they have to offer - go to plays, poetry nights, gigs, the gym, the library. A lot of things with be cut price for students - I went to a play for £6 and poetry nights for £3, and the gym/pool is only £1.60 a go. My biggest regret if not using these facilities to their full extent.
- Don't spend all your money on booze. You want to remember your year. A couple of mates of mine went a little freedom crazy, and now they're seriously paying for it (both in the liver, the mind and the wallet).
- You'll have a lot of free time at Uni, and no one will tell you what to do with it. Use it.
- Join at least one society. I have made all my closest friends through society, and I'm living with people in my society. Some of the best hours of uni have been spent in society. Most are cheap to join if not free (mine was £3) and they are so worth your money.
- The biggest skill Uni teaches is to ask questions. Whether this is in a seminar, for an essay, or for help (scholarly or emotionally), the University is there for you. You are paying for a service, and that service includes the lecturers or the finance officers or the dean of students giving you a hand. They will appreciate being asked, rather than you struggling through and not doing the best you can.
I know some of this is perhaps more dedicated to what to do when you get to uni, rather than what to do before Uni, but its all stuff to think about. Oh, and if you've got a shared kitchen there's no need to bring toasters, microwaves, kettles etc. Most Uni's will provide the basics, and if not, you can work it out between your flatmates what to buy. You don't want to end up with 12 toasters but no kettles!