I wish I’d had someone to guide me through those initial weeks of university when everything felt so new.
When I arrived at university three years ago, with far too many boxes and dreading the moment my parents would leave me on my own, I never could have imagined how at home I would end up feeling.
On your first day there will likely be so many different thoughts flying around your head. I, for one, felt completely overwhelmed. But what I quickly learnt was that I wasn’t the only one. Thinking back, I wish I’d had someone to guide me through those initial weeks of university when everything felt so new. So here are my top tips for getting through the first year without the stress.
Tips for saving money at uni
The initial costs of books, other course-specific items and rent can be a shock, but learning to budget your money will mean a lot less stress later on. This is what I learnt:
Don't spend your student loan all at once
It’s tempting to blow your loan all on one thing but instead, save for it bit by bit - that way you won’t be full of regrets.
Shop around for cheaper alternatives
Each supermarket offers different deals and often on well-known brands, so shop around, and look for cheaper, own-brand alternatives when there aren’t deals. Plus, farmer's markets are great for fresh fruit and veg on a budget.
Find your free student shop
Find out if your university runs a free student shop, like mine did. That way you won’t spend money on items you could get for free.
Buy second-hand textbooks
Textbooks can be expensive and there’s lots of them! The best way around this is by finding second-hand books. I looked online - quite often students will sell their old textbooks to make some money back.
Set up an online savings account
That way you can separate your loan from the money you’re earning (if you have a job) and also give yourself a weekly allowance.
Speak to someone for advice
If you find yourself really short on money, a lot of universities will have a system in place where you can borrow a small amount from them to get you through. So speak to someone at your uni for advice.
Tips for organising your uni work
It might feel like a big jump going from sixth form or college to university; it’s only natural to miss the routine of school. Independent learning and assignment management can be hard to get the hang of at first, but creating a system that works for you can make it easier.
- Plan early: Learning to plan your work early avoids unnecessary pressure later on in the term. It’s easy to say 'I’ll do that reading tomorrow,' but, chances are, new readings are so regular that you probably never will.
- Think ahead: Prioritise readings and exercises that will help you with your assignments later on in the term.
- Give yourself time to redraft work: The best advice I was given was from a tutor who said that he could always tell if someone had handed in a first draft of their work. This always stuck with me, and after, I always gave myself time to redraft my work to ensure I was happy with it.
- Try your best: Some weeks are not as productive as others, so try not to stress if you don’t get everything done - your best is all you can do.
Some weeks are not as productive as others, so try not to stress if you don’t get everything done - your best is all you can do.
Tips for finding a balance
It’s important to find a balance between ‘work’ and ‘fun’. Obviously, the main reason you are at university is to get your degree, but it isn’t the only thing you will learn.
- Give yourself time to find things you like - have fun and meet new people.
- Universities offer such a wide range of societies and clubs as well as a new take on education. You’re likely to have such a variety of experiences during this time that you will learn a lot about what makes you happy.
- Don’t worry if you don’t immediately gel with the people on your course or in your halls of residence. Making friends is a process; you are likely to meet so many different people at university.
- In my experience, I didn’t click with my flatmates, but I did make friends with people in nearby flats and they remained my main group of friends throughout my time at university.
Making friends is a process; you are likely to meet so many different people at university.
More information and advice
Have a look at our page on looking after yourself at uni for information, tips and suggestions on where you can get help.
Where to get help
However you're feeling, there are people who can help you if you are struggling. Here are some services that can support you.