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Top Tips for University Students
Being a student in the UK is great - with non-stop parties and events, day trips, and student deals on everything from coffee to concert tickets, student life is an experience not to be missed. However, many students find that it can also be difficult. Most students never lived anywhere other than their parents' houses before moving into student accommodation, so the prospect of being independent can be a bit daunting. But it doesn't have to be scary or hard - with these tips (many of which I wish I'd known as a first-year), you'll get by a lot more easily.
You go to university to study and bag yourself a degree - technically, anything else is a bonus, and essays, assignments, exams and homework must come first. Here's some advice to help aid you with your studies.
- Make sure you know everything about your timetable that semester. What are your modules? Make sure you know all your deadline dates, essay topics and word counts by reading the module handbook of your class, available on your university website. Knowing what you have to read up on early and being prepared for essays will make you feel a lot more organised, ensure that you don't waste your time studying the wrong part of your subject, and can help you avoid panicked all-nighters.
- Don't leave your work until the last minute. This is the oldest piece of advice in history, yet at deadline week the library is still full of stressed students trying to finish their work. Don't be one of those students - you'll do your very best work a few weeks before the deadline, and have time to proofread, submit a few days before the cut-off point, and relax.
- Some universities offer study abroad opportunities. You don't have to be studying a language to apply. See if you can spend a semester, or even a year, away in a different country. Your university could offer schools in Asia, Europe, the USA or Canada - if you'd like to travel, studying abroad is a great opportunity. Take a look at some tips on preparing for studying abroad.
Most students party at some point during their time at university - with house-warming parties, Fresher's week and countless student nights out, if you didn't party before, you probably will at uni. Here's some great tips on staying safe, saving money and making your night out better.
- Keep bacon and bread in the fridge. Sounds strange, but nothing will make you happier than waking up after a night out or party when you know you can make some bacon on toast, hangover or no hangover. Get some HP sauce too - a bacon sandwich cures a headache like nothing else.
- Alternate soft drinks and alcoholic drinks. Between shots, beer pong and the Ring of Fire card game, drink some water, fruit juice or pop. This will keep you more hydrated, stop you getting so drunk you're sick (let's face it, no one enjoys that), and keeps away the dreaded hangover.
- Keep a spare pillow, blanket and blow-up bed for unexpected sleepovers. When buying your bedding at the beginning of the year, get extras. You never know when someone from your party might pass out and need a bed, or someone you know might come to visit you.
- If you have a party at your place, keep the drink that's been left over. Finders keepers. Consider it payment for the mess you have to clean up.
- Have either a mental or a physical 'night out' list. Here's some ideas: clean underwear, deodorant, a hairbrush, condoms, flat shoes, emergency money, ID.
As in every situation, money is important. Your student loan may seem like a big chunk of spending money but it disappears faster than you'd think. Here's some tips on cutting expenditure.
- Ask for a student discount on everything, even when it's not displayed. Countless restaurants, high street shops and events offer a discount for students - and you don't ask, you don't get. For example, H&M sometimes has weekends where it's 20% off everything, and an Italian restaurant in York offered 30% off for students on Mondays. Keep your eye out for deals, and you could save yourself some cash.
- Get everything at Fresher's Fair. Your university will likely host an event where clubs and societies, as well as local businesses get together to advertise their causes with stalls, vouchers and freebies. Grab free pens, free pieces of pizza, goodie bags and vouchers - it's a giveaway, so make the most of it.
- Keep the takeaway vouchers for parties. Ordering pizza at a party is much more satisfying when you have a buy one get one free coupon.
- Share laundry with friends. Using the washing machine and dryer is very expensive in a lot of student accommodations. Share your load with someone you trust, and cut the price by half.
- Get a part-time job. You may not want to, but working is always going to be the most effective way of making money whilst you're studying. Here's some tips on bagging a part-time job as a student. Also try volunteer work to beef up your CV.
If, like many students, your cooking experience included cereal and the rest was cooked by your parents, don't despair. Here's some advice on eating cheaply.
- Learn to cook basic meals. Easy dishes such as cheesy pasta, sausage with noodles, spaghetti bolognese, tortillas and curry are simple to learn and are much cheaper than ready-meals and takeaways. YouTube and Google offer endless information on meals - and you'll never regret learning how to cook. Try getting together with your friends and cooking a meal together, all contributing towards the ingredients. It might turn out even cheaper than you expected.
- Discover the cheapest, not nearest, supermarket in your area. If there's a Spar two minutes' walk away and an Asda ten minutes walk away, get motivated and go to Asda. Convenience stores are good for things like chocolate, bread and milk, but for a full shopping trip, visit a cheaper and bigger supermarket. The quality is generally higher, there's a bigger range of choices, and it's significantly cheaper.
- Plan meals ahead. Buy groceries and think to yourself, "I'll have noodles tonight, soup tomorrow", etc. Knowing exactly what you're going to eat for the next few days will help you save money on things like spontaneous takeaways. Do this and a delivery pizza or kebab will be more of a treat for special occasions rather than a typical weekday's dinner.
What about uni is most important to you?
At university, you'll meet people who might end up being your friends for life. There are more ways to make friends than at parties - keep these tips in mind for meeting people.
- Join clubs you wouldn't otherwise see yourself in. Ever been in a play? No? Join the Drama Club and discover a new you. Never had an interest in rock climbing? Try it at the Mountaineering Society. You'll meet some incredible people and might find a hobby you didn't know you had.
- Accept that you will probably not be very close to your housemates. Unless you're extremely lucky, it's rare that the housemate you're put with will end up being your best friend. This might seem cynical, however - by all means, be friendly with your housemates and find common interests. One thing about housemates: make sure you all know who is buying what. Decide who's getting the toaster, who's getting the pan sets, and who's getting the cutlery. This way you won't end up with three toasters and no forks.
- Make friends with international students. You're not likely to meet people from all over the world this easily again, and most universities have students from all kinds of countries. If you make international friends, you'll always have somewhere to stay if you go travelling.
Don't forget to balance university work, your part-time job and your social life efficiently. Don't work too hard, don't take on too many hours, but don't party so much that your work is neglected. Follow these tips, and university life may be easier and more enjoyable. Being a student is great, so enjoy it!