Written by Isabel Whiteley
We’ve all seen those student-inspired TV shows where no-one ever seems to do any work, and all problems between flatmates are solved to humourous effect. Unfortunately, that one time I accidentally set a tea towel on fire did not end with a canned laugh track… instead, everyone stared at me with scorn as the entire block was evacuated. The realities of student life are often way different to how they’re portrayed in the media and there are so many things it would have been useful to know before becoming a student. Here are our top 10 things students wish they knew before they became students!
1. You don’t have to buy every textbook
Even if it says on your recommended reading you should buy them all, don’t do it – trust me on this. Textbooks cost a ridiculous amount of money for what they are. Truth is, they’re all available in your library and they’re free to borrow. Look ahead at what’s planned for your modules and start getting the books out before your lecturer recommends using them to avoid the mad rush to get them. There are upsides to owning the ones you’ll be using the majority of the time of course, like highlighting and taking notes on the pages; but there’s always EBay and Amazon for pre-owned copies, making them a lot cheaper.
2. Always ask for student discounts
If you’re going shopping, shove that student card in all the cashiers’ faces even if there are no advertised discounts! Local shops often do special offers for students and the worst that can happen is that they say no. Lots of big stores do awesome student discounts like Topshop, New Look and Rymans, so you can start putting that student loan to good use immediately! My personal favourite is Mcdonalds- show them your student card while ordering your meal and you can get a free cheeseburger or a free McFlurry!
3. Don’t bring an entire kitchen with you
You may think it’s a good idea to bring everything but the kitchen sink with you to your shared accommodation but chances are all of your flatmates had the same idea. Ending up with five kettles, five toastie makers and five griddle pans is not ideal for conserving space in your cramped flat! See if your accommodation has a Facebook page where you can try and get in contact with your future flatmates – then you can arrange what’s needed and save money and space! When you’re buying kitchen stuff make sure it’s good quality stuff too- it’s may seem pricier but it pays for itself in the end!
4. Get a railcard
Costing just £30 (and free if you have a Natwest student bank account), a railcard pretty much pays for itself even if you’re only planning on taking two trips in a year. If you hang off paying for it until August – October, you can often get it for cheaper on the official site! Getting one will net you a cool 1/3 saving on all rail journeys, making it even cheaper for you to visit home when you’re homesick, or just to visit friends at other unis! Don’t forget to buy your tickets though – I’ve seen a couple students on the train who were shocked to realise their railcard didn’t actually cover their fare!
5. Don’t eat out too much
All students on TV seem to eat is takeaway and I am so, so jealous of them! Takeaway may seem like a good idea but if you eat out every meal it quickly drains all your money. Set a weekly food budget of around £15-25 depending on your financial situation and stick to it. Sure, you can eat out every once in a while – especially when it’s 2 for 1 at Dominos – but really try and save your money.
6. Don’t try and do everything
At Freshers’ fairs you will be assaulted by too many societies to count. They’ll all try and sell you their group and you’ll soon start signing up left, right and centre. Many societies require money from all members and, although it’s only around £5 to pay for running the society, you’ll soon realise you signed up for 10 societies and are down £50. Sure, Quidditch Soc seems fun, but will you actually attend? The Drama Players sounds like a blast but are you nervous speaking in front of large crowds? Although all these societies sound fun you should think about which ones will look good on your CV and which ones you’ll actually attend and enjoy.
7. Don’t be afraid to talk to your tutors
University isn’t the same dynamic as school. If you went to a college, it should seem more familiar but if, like me, you went to sixth form, it’ll be a complete change. One of the biggest changes is that you aren’t really a pupil anymore – you’re a paying customer (£9k a year no less!). You’re literally paying your tutors’ wages so make them work for it. Ask questions in lecture, ask for advice outside of lecture and email them about your coursework. Get your money’s worth out of your tuition and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you don’t understand something.
I know Kingdom Hearts 3 looks amazing and the new Zelda game is making you want to cry from the beauty but please don’t go out and buy a PS4 and Wii-U as soon as your loan comes through. It may seem like a brilliant idea at the time but you’ll soon realise you needed that money for little things like… I don’t know, rent? Food? Travel? It may sound like a lame thing to do but open up Excel and make yourself a budget. Decide how much you’re going to spend on food, nights out and clothes. Then next time you’re tempted by those cute new shoes you can restrain yourself. Just remember that if you buy one thing you’ll have to go without something else.
9.Start coursework early
Okay, this one sounds obvious but no. No it is not. You will move in to your accommodation, make new friends and go out all the time. You will glance at your coursework when it’s released and think “nah I have months to hand it in". You will continue doing fun things like going to the cinema and shopping and going out. By the time you look at the date it will be too late – the deadline will be in two weeks and you’ll have missed at least two of the essential lectures for completing it. "How did this happen?" you will weep to yourself as you pull an all-nighter the night before it’s due. Please, please, pleaaaase don’t let this be you. Please at least make a plan of what you need to do for the coursework when it’s released. Please.
10. Meet the locals and see the sights
Chances are you just moved to a new city to go to Uni; and all you know are your halls and the campus. Personally, I didn’t live in the middle of nowhere but it was still enough for me to be called a country girl when I moved up to Liverpool for Uni. It was such a vast difference to the town I came from and there was so much to do and see. Don’t let your life at Uni be a worn path between your flat and your lectures. Your city will have a rich history and lots of touristy things to do, and you know what? Don’t be afraid to go all touristy and visit all the hot spots. It’ll seriously enrich your experiences at Uni and you’ll become more of a local in no time. Unfortunately (or should that be fortunately?) I’ve yet to master the Scouse accent.
Above all else remember to be happy! Try and find things that will make you happy and, experience new things. Your University life is meant to be the highlight for a reason but if you don’t live your life you won’t have any great Uni memories later in life. Have fun!