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10 things to do before starting university

By Prospects

Tuesday 12 September 2017 Making Friends/Settling In

Now you've gained a place at university, it's worth following a checklist of the things you'll need to help make the move run as smoothly as possible. Graduate careers experts Prospects give us their top ten things to get sorted in advance.

There's a lot to put into place the summer before starting university and this can seem like a daunting task. Creating a checklist and knowing exactly what needs to be done and when is a good way to help you relax.

Read on to find out how to get started. Some of the items on this to-do list may not be the most exciting, but all are essential in ensuring your new student life begins without a hitch.

1. Arrange your accommodation

First-year students typically opt to stay in halls as they are protected by the university and it's an easy way to meet new people - although privately-rented housing and off-campus university accommodation exist as alternatives which are more popular with mature or postgraduate students.

Universities offer different types of accommodation to suit a variety of needs. These include a mixture of catered/self-catered, sociable/quiet and single/mixed gender halls.

It's never too early to start thinking about your preferences

It's never too early to start thinking about your preferences, as many institutions allocate their halls on a first come, first served basis. Get in touch with your university's accommodation office to book onto an accommodation open day and explore your options.

To get started, read our guide on what you need to know about student accommodation 

2. Sort out your finances

Your finances need to be in order before fresher's week. This may seem like the least exciting task in preparing for university, but it's the most important.

You'll firstly need to set up a student bank account. Many of the major banks offer these with added attractive incentives such as free NUS Extra or 16-25 railcards, but what you're ideally looking for is who offers the best overdraft facilities. Some banks will make daily charges if you enter your overdraft, so be wary of these and always read the small print.

If you're planning on receiving government-funded student finance you next need to get in touch with Student Finance to get the ball rolling. Securing student finance is a lengthy process, so make this a priority.

Once these measures are in place and you know how much funding you're entitled to on top of any family allowances and part-time job earnings, you can budget your day-to-day life accordingly. This should include allowances for amenities (food, bills, course materials), as well as luxuries (clothes, socialising, visits home), to avoid landing yourself in financial trouble later in the term.

3. Decide what to take

'If you're moving away from home, make sure you've got all the living equipment you need,' says Clive Sheridan, third year Criminology student at the University of Bedfordshire. He suggests keeping an eye out for bargains. 'Go to shops like Wilko - they do good student discounts around September.'

Find out what's provided at your accommodation to avoid making unnecessary purchases, and check how much storage you'll have - there's no point taking things you don't have the space to keep.

If you're taking a laptop, tablet or any other gadgets, look into insurance - whether that's through your bank, family home insurance or cover provided by the company you bought the gadget from.

With the bigger items to consider, you might forget to pick up the little things. 'Make a list of everything you need to buy and take it with you,' says Clive. Items such as stationery, pain relief and cleaning products are easily forgotten, so by keeping organised you won't be left short of any essentials.

Take a look at our guide to packing when you're deciding what to take to university.

4. Organise a railcard

A 16-25 railcard, taking a third off the price of all train fares, could save you some serious cash if you're planning on visiting home or friends at other universities throughout the term. The card costs just £70 for three years.

It's not always necessary to take a car to university. If you have one, parking is limited, and you'll be subject to an expensive permit if you leave it on campus. Public transport will keep you well-linked, especially in bigger cities.

5. Get reading

Many universities put their reading lists online weeks before their courses begin, or will send you the details via email. This will give you an idea of what to expect from your workload, and getting a head start on reading will build your confidence for lectures.

You don't need to own every book on the list - identify the core texts and buy these. Any others you need will be available to borrow from your university library or to buy from former students for a fraction of their original retail price.

6. Arrange a health check

Arrange a health check with your GP before you leave home to ensure you're starting university in the best health possible.

Sorting out any ailments before you make the move will mean you're less likely to suffer from freshers' flu - the illness most first-year students experience as a result of a lack of sleep, exercise, poor diet and being around hundreds of new people.

7. Get to know the area

Use your spare time once you've moved in to locate your nearest train station, local shops and GP surgery, as well as your campus library, students' union and lecture buildings.

This is a great opportunity to get to know your housemates by arranging to make these trips together – as they'll need to know where these things are too. The task will feel less daunting if you're not going alone.

8. Learn to cook

Ask for help with making your favourite meals while you're still at home - you'll be glad you did once you're fending for yourself. Student cookbooks, available in bookshops and online, focus on using simple ingredients and cooking on a budget.

Shopping cheaply is easier than you think - the Co-Op offers a 10% discount to holders of a valid NUS card, and own-brand food from the supermarket is often of the same quality as more expensive branded alternatives.

9. Spend time with family and friends

Spend quality time with your loved ones in the summer before university. Depending on how far you're travelling for university, you may not be able to see them for a few months. While you'll be doing lots of exciting things and meeting new people in your first term, homesickness is normal and might kick in once you've settled.

Recent memories of good times, and photos or mementos to keep in your room, are a good way to combat these feelings. Visit what to do when you're feeling homesick for more help on getting out of a slump.

Just enjoy it. Get involved in as much as you can

10. Get involved in freshers' week

The welcome week is full of events designed to help you settle into university life, so find out how to make the most of freshers' week.

Your students' union will host fairs to join societies and sports teams, and your course department might hold an icebreaker session in this time to introduce you to your peers and lecturers.

While you don't have any course commitments you can immerse yourself in these activities and make sure you're well-prepared to start your degree. According to Clive, organisation is key. 'Check the line-up of freshers' events and what's going on so you don’t miss out on anything,' he recommends. Make sure you know in advance when you have to be somewhere. This will help with planning your time in the long run.

'Lastly, just enjoy it,' he says. 'University is where you'll make friends for life, so enjoy it and get involved in as much as you can.'