How to prepare for university

Preparing for university can seem like a daunting process, but don’t stress – we’ve broken it all down into just a few easy steps.

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Are you heading to university soon? When you’re not experiencing the mood swings between excitement, anxiety and anticipation, it’s important to take a moment to prepare for uni.

Being ready to start uni helps to make sure you set off on the right foot and give yourself the best chance of surviving your time as a student. So, from picking the right student bank account to learning some essential life skills, it’s time to get ready for university.

  • Open a student bank account

    lloyds and tsb banks

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    Possibly the most important thing to do before starting uni is open a student bank account, and there are two good reasons for this.

    For starters, you’ll need a bank account to get your Maintenance Loan – without it, you won’t be able to receive the crucial funding that most students rely upon as their primary source of income.

    Secondly, unlike regular bank accounts, student bank accounts come with fee- and interest-free overdrafts. This means that during your time at uni (and for a short while afterwards, when it becomes a graduate bank account), you can use your overdraft without having to pay for the privilege.

    Head to our comparison of the best student bank accounts and see what other benefits you could land (hint: free cash, Railcards and gift cards).

  • Apply for funding

    We mentioned the Maintenance Loan a moment ago, which is undoubtedly the most widely used source of cash for students alongside parental contributions.

    While we’d definitely recommend applying for a Student Loan, you shouldn’t stop there – especially as our research consistently finds that the Maintenance Loan isn’t enough to live on. There are so many extra types of funding out there and, in most cases, it’s down to you to apply for it.

    In many cases, bursaries, grants and scholarships are awarded to students who satisfy certain criteria, like coming from a low-income background or excelling at a certain subject. Then there are government-funded pots of cash, like the NHS Bursary and Disabled Students’ Allowance.

    But, as these weird bursaries prove, almost everyone is eligible for something, so it’s definitely worth taking the time to check – starting with our list of bursary and scholarship sources.

  • Create a budget

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    We’re all about saving money here at Save the Student, and there was no way that we’d do this list without advising you to create a budget. And, given how busy you’ll be during freshers’ week, you should get your budget sorted before you start uni.

    Don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be a drag – we’ve got a guide to budgeting as a student that should make it as easy as pie and leave you with a little more money to spend on all the uni essentials.

  • Decide what to pack for university

    No matter how well prepared you are for university, all of your plans could unravel if you don’t pack correctly.

    We’re not just talking about forgetting to pack things, either – so many students are guilty of overpacking, eventually cluttering up their uni rooms with stuff they won’t look twice at after unpacking.

    Fortunately, we’re here to help. Our tried-and-tested checklist of what to take to uni features everything you need to pack and, perhaps more importantly, leaves out everything you don’t.

  • Find out where you’ll be living

    two female students sat on bed

    By this stage, you’ve hopefully already applied for accommodation (if not, get on it quickly!).

    If you’ve been given a place, or you’ve found a home to privately rent, look into the area around your university accommodation and do some research. This way, you’ll be familiar with your surroundings when you arrive.

    And if you’re driving, it’s also a wise move to scout out the route and where you can leave your car – you don’t want to pick up a parking fine!

  • Join student Facebook groups

    There will almost certainly be Facebook groups for freshers at your uni to get to know each other, typically with specific ones for different courses and uni halls.

    In fact, even if there aren’t, you’re always welcome to join our Facebook deals group.

    Get involved with as many as you feel apply to you, and you’ll soon feel part of the community before you’ve even arrived.

  • Get a student laptop

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    A laptop is right up there with the most important things to pack for uni, and in the weeks and months before you start, retailers will be running all kinds of offers.

    We know that they can be expensive purchases (not to mention confusing, if you don’t really understand all the jargon), which is why we’ve put together our guide to the best student laptops. As well as our selection of the top-buys, we’ve also outlined what all the technical terms mean, and the level of spec you should be looking for.

    So, take advantage of the back-to-uni sales and don’t forget to check out our deals section to see if there are any special offers on laptops.

  • Get a Railcard or Coachcard

    Unless you’re lucky enough to own a car, and reckon you’ll have enough money to keep using it as a student (in which case, you should still use our tips for saving money on driving), then the chances are you’ll be relying on buses and trains to get around at uni. But even this comes at a price.

    On a local level, it’s worth looking into a student bus pass, which should save you money on your day-to-day bus journeys.

    When it comes to travelling a little further, you should consider buying a National Express Coachcard or a 16–25 Railcard (which, unlike the Coachcard, can be used across all operators).

    And as if all that wasn’t enough, we’ve also got guides to saving money on coach travel and getting cheap train tickets.

  • Learn some cooking skills

    row of herbs spices seasoning kitchen cooking

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    We’ve all heard the stereotype that students live off pot noodles and baked beans. Now, there are some incredible – and, dare we say, gourmet – baked beans recipes, but that’s no reason for you not to stretch yourself to some slightly more adventurous dishes.

    The key to becoming a talented chef is to nail the easy parts, and making sure you’re always fully stocked with these kitchen cupboard essentials is a big part of that.

    Take some time to master some basic cooking skills too. Learning how to season properly, for example, can be the difference between a 6/10 dish and a fully-fledged 10/10 masterpiece.

    Once you’re more comfortable in the kitchen, you’ll be able to try your hand at more recipes. Our student meal plan should see you through 28 days, covering breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, all the while treating you to delicious and nutritious meals.

    Arming yourself with some of the best kitchen gadgets will be a massive help in mastering a few new dishes.
  • Learn how to do laundry

    Alongside the whole ‘only eating baked beans’ stereotype, the other big student trope is that they don’t know how to do their own washing and just take their laundry home to their parents.

    This might be true for some students, but don’t let it be you. Doing this kind of thing is fundamental to gaining your independence, so learning how to do laundry should be a big part of your preparations for university.

    Our guide to how to use a washing machine has everything you need to know, including which compartments you need to use in the drawer, and what the symbols on clothes labels mean.

  • Get an STI test and some contraception

    hand holding a condom

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    The idea that everyone is having sex all the time is definitely one of the big myths about university, but that’s not to say it doesn’t happen – especially during times like freshers’ week, when people are going out most nights.

    While getting an STI test isn’t exactly the sexiest thing in the world, it’s a hundred times better than contracting something or passing it onto someone else. So, get a free STI test before you go to uni and keep you and your future partners safe – both from infections and the awkward conversations that come with them.

    If you get tested by your doctor or at a clinic, you should also take them up on their offer of free condoms. Or, depending on where you live in the UK, you could even get some free condoms delivered to your home.

    Don’t have a chance to get tested before freshers’ week? Make sure it’s one of the first things you do when you start university.
  • Learn some drinking games

    If you’re reading this and thinking, “I don’t like drinking alcohol, uni is going to be a nightmare” – don’t panic. Despite what you may have heard, there are plenty of students who don’t drink.

    In fact, if you don’t enjoy drinking (or just don’t want to), you shouldn’t feel pressured into it. Anyone who forces you to do something you’re not comfortable with isn’t worth your time.

    Pep talk out of the way – if you do like alcohol, you’ll probably end up playing some drinking games at uni. Never Have I Ever and Ring of Fire are two of the most common, so we’d definitely recommend learning how to play them.

    But if people are getting a bit sick (possibly literally) of playing the same games over and over, you can save the party by teaching them some more of the best drinking games. You’ll be making new friends in no time.

  • Download your free money cheat sheet

    student money resource
    A bit of shameless self-promotion here but, in our completely unbiased opinion, our Student Money Takeaway is the best way to get ahead of your money worries at uni.

    We’ve crammed 55 of our top student money hacks, plus a budget sheet and quiz, all onto two sides of A4. You can always check out our site to get more details on each tip, but this is the perfect starting point when you’re preparing to start university.

    Best of all, just like everything we do, it’s completely free – and you can download your PDF copy here.

  • Try to stay calm

    Preparing to go to university can be stressful. It could be that you’re worried about making friends at uni, having to deal with homesickness, the danger of running out of money, or any number of things.

    First and foremost, it’s important to remember that you are not alone. The vast majority of students are in the same boat as you: going to a new place where they don’t know anybody, to live away from their parents for the first time, all on a limited budget.

    The good news is that simply talking about these concerns with your friends and family, and coming up with solutions, is probably the best way to cope when you’re preparing for uni.

    For instance, when it comes to making friends during freshers’ week, the other people in your halls or on your course will probably worship the ground you walk on if you say hello and make the first move for them. After all, they’re probably just as nervous about meeting new people, so you’re doing them a massive favour!

    Of course, sometimes stress and anxiety don’t go away, despite your efforts to rationalise your concerns and resolve them. If you find this is the case for you, try not to beat yourself up – take some time out, give yourself a break and indulge in a few of these self-care ideas.

  • Now you’re all set to start uni, make sure you don’t end up being guilty of these classic freshers’ mistakes.

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