• Abbie Tibbott

Preparing for your First Year at University

I remember when the prospect of university began to feel real, and it's an exciting and stressful time, especially if you're combining packing with a job or spending time with friends. Beginning the process of getting ready to move out and start your course is the first step to feeling like a student, but there's a lot of advice out there which could get pretty confusing. In all honesty, there's not that much that you need to do academically, unless you have specific requirements from your department. Here are some ways to make the transition a little easier.


Pack up in plenty of time


Buy, borrow or steal (I'm joking) everything you need in plenty of time. There are lots of lists of what to pack online, and I've written a post about the most underrated items students often forget. Get everything packed up several days before you leave, as it will give you peace of mind that you've got everything. I'm sure your parents won't appreciate having to post the things you leave behind, so get yourself sorted!


Put everything together, preferably in some sort of organised system. Keep everything for your kitchen together, everything related to your bed, your room etc. Then when you get there you can simply unpack without having to figure out what you've got. If you're planning to attend university in a few years time, gradually buying the things that you need will cut the cost down dramatically. Also, don't be drawn in to all the unnecessary décor items that shops sell around this time of year, I promise you that all they'll do is collect dust and fall over.


If you forget something, university towns are full of shops and supermarkets, so don't worry too much if anything gets left behind!


Say your goodbyes


Not to be dramatic, but university might be the first time you've spent significant time away from your school friends. Transitioning a friendship to long distance always works best with a fun goodbye, especially if you're all heading off around to university. Plan a fun day out, a celebratory dinner or a beach BBQ to end things on a high. The first few weeks of university are often filled with meeting new people, but remember that your school friends are still out there.


If you're sad about moving on, just know that this isn't the end. Some of my best friends are from school, and we kept friendships alive through four years of university and placements combined. We now all work in different places, but distance doesn't matter. We see each other when we can, and I enjoyed visiting them at university and having them come to stay with me. This is great way to fit some travelling into your university experience, as you'll only need a train ticket and perhaps a sleeping bag. It's a great way to explore the country for cheap, and see your friends too.


It's true that not every friendship will last the distance, but part of becoming an independent adult is coming to terms with this. Friendships take work, so remember to keep in touch and stay involved in each other's lives. It's normal for the first few weeks of university to be dedicated to finding new friends, but don't forget to reconnect with friends from home when the initial excitement has died down. Sometimes friendships will become more distant, and this can happen in later years of university too. Even if you don't stay close, a farewell event will leave you with good memories that you can look back on.


Figure out the financials


Get your money in check before you go, including opening up a student bank account, getting an overdraft and making sure you have all your documentation with you. A student bank account usually comes with perks, so shop around high-street banks for a good deal, especially considering how easy it is to switch banks these days. Remember that your finances are yours! It's your responsibility to manage your money, so get yourself an account that works for you.


Find out how much your rent will be and make sure you have enough money to cover it, combined with your student finance. Print these documents off and keep them safe so you always have a record in case something goes wrong. Having a passport, ID, NHS number and NI number is also a must, so keep everything together in a folder you'll be able to access once you've moved in. When you sign up for any sort of accommodation, you'll be required to pay a deposit and sign a contract, so make sure that you'll be able to afford the rent before you sign anything. Get some help from your parents on this if you need to.


If you need any advice about money, now is the time to ask your parents or friends about the fundamentals. Budgeting is a trial and error process, but having a frank conversation about overdrafts, credit cards and debt is always worth it. Getting into a ridiculous amount of debt is nothing to laugh about, and I promise you that an overdraft isn't as fun as it sounds (you do have to pay it back) so get yourself money-smart now! I'd also suggest getting yourself a job for the summer if you haven't already, as you'll need cash for events in the first few weeks.


Don't study too much


Unless your department has asked you specifically for any preparation, don't waste time trying to get smart. The first semester is all about transitioning students towards university study, so don't go crazy trying to learn the course during the summer. If you need to brush up on your referencing or anything covered at A level that you've forgotten, there are lots of free resources online that will help fill in any gaps.


Whether you want to take notes that you made at school with you to university is a personal choice. I personally didn't bother, as the subjects I'd studied at A level weren't my favourite and I knew that I'd be staying away from them where possible. Lots of people I know found that their notes just took up space, and it made more sense to take along an old textbook to act as a quick guide during the first few months of university study.


Going digital is a great way to minimise the amount of notes clogging up your space, so it may be an idea to scan any work you think you might need and store it on a hard drive for the future. Alongside this, if your university has suggested new textbooks or reading material, now is a fantastic time to buy second-hand, as older students will be selling their copies. Never buy anything new! It's such a waste of money and students fall into that trap every year.


Meet flatmates ASAP


Lots of universities have Facebook groups dedicated to their housing, which allows students to connect with each other before they move in. You'll find out your room allocation before you arrive, so use it to find others living with you and introduce yourself. It makes the whole thing a bit easier because you've already broken the ice, and gives you an idea of the personalities that you'll be living alongside for the next year.


Following your university's social media platforms is a good idea, as well as accounts dedicated to the Student's Union or any societies that you're interested in joining. I found this got me excited about moving, and I was also able to tentatively budget for events and wristbands that I was interested in. I'd suggest waiting until you move in to your accommodation before purchasing anything though, as you'll want to find out what your flat is interested in doing first.


Look after your health


Now is a great time to get everything sorted regarding your health. Registering at a GP local to your university is a good idea if you were to fall ill, so find out if there's anywhere that is recommended and what you need to sign up. Lots of universities have visiting doctors at their own GP surgery a few times a month, and lots run sexual health clinics free of charge as well. I kept my dentist at home, and I will continue to do so, especially seeing as I now receive private treatment. The good news is that NHS dentists will often take emergency patients if anything goes wrong.


If you have a prescription it's a good idea to get it renewed before you go. Birth control can often be prescribed for six-month periods which can help you get sorted. Now might be a great time to access birth control if that's something you're interested in, but have a discussion with your doctor first. Make a note of your NHS number, as well as the address of your current GP.


Worrying about anything? Now is a great time to talk to a doctor or dentist, so you can get everything sorted in time for your departure.

 

I hope these tips were helpful, I definitely used them when I was preparing to leave for university. Remember that you're bound to make a few mistakes, and everything will get sorted out eventually so try not to worry if you forget something. Being proactive about your health and your financial situation will make life a bit easier once you arrive, and you can concentrate on getting settled in and enjoying your first semester.


Happy studying!