Starting University or College

Starting university can be a daunting experience, with so many new things to think about. Preparing for living and studying away from home can help to minimise worries and can turn it into an exciting, inspiring experience, full of new people and new places.

Preparing for University

A few hints and tips on getting ready for the big day.

Taking Care of Your Finances

How to successfully manage your money

Getting Help and Support When You Need It

Being away from home can be hard. Luckily, there are people out there to help you.

What If Things Go Wrong?

What you can do if you have a problem with your university.

This video may help to give you a bit of a heads-up when it comes to preparing for university and that epic ‘fresher’s week’…

Preparing For University

Starting university can sometimes seem a bit of a blur, with so many new people to meet and new experiences to be had. For many people university will also be their first experience of being responsible for themselves as an adult in an adult situation. Making sure you think through the basic things you need to consider before you start could stop you feeling overwhelmed.

Accommodation

Try and find out as much about your accommodation as possible before you move in. The last thing you want is to end up somewhere that you are uncomfortable, or even worse at risk, thus ruining the excitement of starting university.

Check that your accommodation is safe and secure, and that it has working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.

Also check what is included in the cost of your accommodation from the start. You don’t want to assume that bills are covered by your rent then have to find money for these costs later on.

You also need to make sure that you know what eating and drinking arrangements are included in your accommodation. Is in entirely self-catering or are some, or even all, meals included?

Transport

Living in a new city or town can be daunting when you don’t know your way around. Make sure that you know the safest and easiest ways to get around, whether by bus or on foot. Take some time to explore the area you live in during daylight hours and make sure you ask around about the best ways to get to places during the night. Most universities will have student advice centres that can help advise you on staying safe.

Reading

You may be asked to do preliminary reading before you start your course. If this is the case you will be notified by the university itself. Try and make sure that you complete all requested work before you arrive as they will assume you have done so and you don’t want to fall behind on your first week!

What You Will Need

Make sure you have a careful think about what you need to take with you. It’s all very well making sure you remember your TV and stereo, but if you forget to bring your laptop, it could be hard for you to keep up with your work.

Make a list of all the things you will need and there is less chance that you will forget something essential.

Finances

Make sure you have your finances as straight as possible for you start studying.

The first stage is to open a good student bank account. Don’t be fooled by all the bells and whistles that banks will offer you. Think about what you really need from your account long term, such as an interest free overdraft or lower bank charges.

Make sure you know where and when you have money coming in. If you’re expecting loans or bursaries, makes sure you know what date they will be paid and what method whoever is responsible for paying them will be using.

Make sure you know what you need to pay and when. If you have payments for fees or accommodation due, make sure you know when, how and where you need to pay these.

Insurance and TV Licence

There are any number of things that you might have never thought about while living with your parents. Practical considerations, such as contents insurance and TV licences are the sort of thing that you will need to get your head around once you leave home.

Many insurance providers offer special student deals, so shop around for the best price and the most comprehensive deals. Making sure that your things are insured could save you major hassle if the worst does happen and things get broken or stolen.

Making sure that you have a TV licence if you are planning to take a TV, or a PC with a TV card, to university is essential. There are hefty fines for watching television without a licence which can put a real dent in your delicate student finances.

Here’s another great video giving you a few more tips for preparing for uni:

Taking Care Of Your Finances

With the cost of higher education rising, it is now more important than ever that all new students have a good idea of how to deal with the financial issues that university life can raise.

Working and Studying

Many students will need to work part-time to help fund their education. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with this and, if you’re very lucky, it could even offer work experience opportunities that will benefit you in the long run.

It is essential that you get the balance right between working and studying, however. You will need to find a job that does not clash with teaching hours and that leaves you enough time to complete the work your course requires. There are no rigid rules that govern this. Some universities suggest that students should not work more than 10 hours a week, while other suggest 15 hours. Many students work much more than this. If you find yourself struggling to balance work and study, however, it may be a good idea to visit your student advice centre and talk about other financial options available to you.

You will also need to be aware of your tax status as a working student. Most student income, such as benefits and bursaries, are untaxed, so you should retain your full tax allowance even if you are working. If your income from work is below your tax allowance you shouldn’t need to pay any tax at all.

For more information visit: http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/students/

Budgeting

It may sound obvious, but making sure you know what is coming in and what is going out is essential for maintaining a handle on your finances. You will need to add up ALL your costs to get a good idea of this. There are fixed costs, such as fees and accommodation, but there are also flexible costs, such as food, books and social life. You might not be able to anticipate every cost that you will incur throughout your year.

A good idea is to work out how much money you have coming in, from all sources, then deduct the fixed costs that you are aware of. The remaining amount is the budget for variable costs that you have left. Many students need to take advantage of overdrafts and credit cards at some point so don’t be dismayed if this remaining budget looks far too small. You will be far from the only one for whom this is the case. Attempting to stick to it will give you the best chance of having minimal debts when you graduate, however.

Choosing A Bank Account

Choosing a good student bank account can make a real difference to your financial situation throughout university and beyond. Shop around for the best deals and make sure that you know where the nearest branch is in case you need to go in and talk to your bank in person.

Things to consider:

Interest Free Overdrafts

As a student you will almost certainly need to use your overdraft facility, so make sure you shop around for the bank which offers the most attractive rates, or the largest interest free overdraft. Remember that an overdraft is a loan so make sure you know when and how you will need to pay it back after graduation.

Graduate Bank Account

Many student accounts turn into graduate accounts after you have finished studying, allowing you to keep your interest free overdraft but decreasing its size each year. Look into the options available to you upon graduation to see how each bank will help you transition to working life.

Online banking

Most banks offer online banking these days, which can prove extremely valuable when you are trying to stick to a budget and need to know what it is going out and coming in.

Credit Cards

Be careful with credit cards. They can be hugely valuable for getting you out of a tight spot when funds are tight, but they will charge you interest on all the money that you borrow. Letting your credit card debt get out of hand can be a fast and effective way to end up extremely short of money.

Overdraft limits

Even the generous interest free overdrafts that many banks offer to students have their limits. If you go over these limits you will be charged, so keep track of your finances at all times.

For some handy tips on how to save money, why not check out this video?

Getting Help and Support When You Need It

Starting new things can be hard, particularly if they require you to move away from home and family for the first time. If you find that you are experiencing any issues after starting university there are a number of places that you can turn to for help, depending on the nature of the problem.

Experiencing Stress or Depression?

If you are experiencing emotional problems while at university, there will most likely be a number of places that you can turn to for advice.

Your university or college is likely to have guidance, counselling or advice services which should be your first port of call so that they can point in the right direction to resolve whatever issues may be affecting you.

You can also call Nightline (http://www.oiahe.org.uk/), a confidential and anonymous listening and advice service which operates across many UK universities.

Academic Issues

Most academic issues can be resolved by talking to your Director of Studies, or to a tutor that you like and trust. If you’re not enjoying your course, or you’re having trouble keeping up with your work, they will be able to suggest strategies that could help to resolve this.

Accommodation Problems

If you are living in university accommodation and are having an issue with your room or your building, your best bet is to visit the accommodation office. They will then try and resolve the issue, or suggest alternative accommodation for you.

If you are living in private accommodation try and get in contact with your landlord or agency to resolve any problems. If these problems remain you should be able to find advice from your student advice centre on what to do next.

Social Life

For many people the social aspects of university are one of its key attractions. Others find making friends more difficult, however. If this is the case, it might be worth investigating the various clubs and societies that your university will offer to try and meet people with similar interests to your own. You are not obliged to be best friends with your housemates, or your course mates, so spread your net a little wider and you are likely to meet people you get on with much better.

Health Problems

Many universities have their own health centres. Register with your university health centre and they can help you with any medical problems that you may have. If you have medical problems that are affecting your studies, contact your Director of Studies or a student advisor to find out how best to resolve this.

Legal Problems

If you have legal problems during your time at university you can usually get free advice through your student advice centre.

Leaving Your Course

If you continue having problems throughout university, you may find yourself considering leaving your course or institution. Make sure you talk to people before making this decision and decide if it is the right thing for you. There are lots of people who can help, including friends, family, tutors and advisors, so get as much advice on your options as you can before committing to leaving your course.

What If Things Go Wrong?

Universities are highly regulated and standards of teaching and pastoral care should be fairly high at most institutions. Unfortunately, there are times when things can go wrong and you may wish to make a complaint about your university.

The best thing to do if this is the case is to talk to your Director of Studies, who is responsible for maintaining an overview of your academic experience. If you feel that you don’t have a good enough relationship with this person to approach them, try approaching another member of the teaching staff that you click with on a personal level. This is probably the quickest and easiest way to resolve any problems.

As a last resort you can make a complaint about your university to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA) (http://www.oiahe.org.uk/), if you’re grievance cannot be resolved by your university.