As some of you may know, I’ll be going into my second year of university next month, and I adored my first year. From the friends I made to my lectures to the work I did and all the adult-ing, it was the best. But it’s definitely a slight system shock when you first move there, even though I’d been quite independent for a while. I was discussing some key survival tips for a friend when I realised just how many random things I’d noticed about my uni life, so I thought I’d compile them into a helpful list of handy hints direct from a real student. These are applicable to any age, but probably most-aimed at freshers – also, disclaimer: these worked for me, they might not for you. Take ’em with a pinch of salt.
- Invest in a coat you like wearing. You’ll have to walk to uni whatever the weather, and lectures are not fun if you’re soggy and cold. So get one you don’t mind wearing, that way you’ll actually wear it.
- Back everything up. Twice. Have a USB you take everywhere with your immediate work, have an external hard drive you back everything up to, and get something like iCloud to back it all up to again. Trust me.
- Take a torch and a battery-operated alarm clock. If the power goes out, you’ll still be up in time for uni, and you’ll be able to see.
- Make sure you know the number of a local taxi company (there’s probably a uni-reccomend one nearby). Make sure to keep spare change and a physical copy of the number in case you’re out and your phone dies.
- Freeze everything. Pretty much all food can be frozen, and that stops your hungry drunk flatmates stealing it, and means you’ll always have something for dinner in case you haven’t been shopping.
- Have a decent bag for uni. I’m talking a bag that’s comfortable, waterproof, and can fit heavy books, lever-arch folders and a wet coat in. Also, comfy shoes – break them in before lectures start.
- Drink water. It’s good for you, and it’s free. If you don’t like water, just drink sugar-free squash instead.
- Don’t be afraid to email your lecturers. They honestly don’t mind, and they appreciate you asking.
- Add new people on Facebook – if you’ve been talking to someone, just add them on Facebook. They’ll probably accept, and it’s an easy, comfortable step towards making new friends.
- Have an extra phone/laptop charger. That way you don’t have to wait ’til you can afford one or it arrives.
- Buy a £5 toaster from Argos. They last a minimum of year, and you can get cheap, easy meals out of them.
- Also, get toaster bags. You can cook quick meals really easily without having to leave your room.
- And ice cube bags. It’s unlikely you’ll have freezer space for a bag of ice, so get ice cube bags and you can make your own – they fit into any space and it means you can keep drinks in your room.
- Keep in touch with your parents. They’ll be worried, and really appreciate you talking to them. And it’s nice to have a familiar face around sometimes.
- Take a water bottle with you to lectures – it’s nice buying coffee or red bull for lectures, but it’s a lot cheaper if you have a water bottle you can bring from home. (I normally buy a fresh one at the start of every week then re-use it)
- You can probably leave an essay ’til a few days before the deadline and still get good grades. But I wouldn’t recommend it.
- Tissues and kitchen roll are interchangeable. And one of them is always on offer.
- Remember to stay mentally healthy. There are always people at university to talk to if you’re feeling sad, homesick, anxious or anything else not-good. Exercise self-love, relaxation and look after yourself.
- Know where your nearest supermarket and 24/7 place is – chances are at some point you’ll realise it’s 10pm and you haven’t eaten all day and the supermarket’s closed tomorrow.
- Essay-planning – reference first or as you go along. Plan your points, research as many quotes as possible that you could possibly use and make sure you have all the references, then begin writing the full essay and just slot the quotes in as you go.
- Don’t bother using tumble dryers. They’ll unnecessarily cost you money – just hang up your clothes to dry.
- Note down nearby takeaways. That way, when you’ve got friends round, you can get some quick food – also, choosing to collect rather than get it delivered will normally save money.
- Pasta is hella cheap and easy. Buy in bulk.
- Say hello to your flatmates/halls neighbours. It’s awkward if you don’t at least know their name, so introduce yourself at the first opportunity. And don’t stress out if you don’t get on with them – it’s not the end of the world.
- Use aluminium foil for everything. It’s a bit pricey sometimes, but lasts ages and is reusable, you can put it on baking trays to save washing up or if someone’s used your tray right before you want it…
- …Yeah, people are gonna use your stuff. They’ll eat your food, steal your alcohol, use your crockery, and not wash any of it up. Accept that, or lock it away in your room.
- Have a penknife. This one might be a bit controversial, but they’re useful on many occasions.
- Get used to your surroundings before lectures start – you’ll be exhausted after that, so make sure you know how to get to uni, how to get to the shops, the train station etc. Print out a map and draw the route on it if that helps.
- Decorate your room. Honestly, putting all your stuff into your flat or room is the best part of uni. This is your home, so make it feel like that and you’ll be a lot happier and more comfortable.
- Alcohol is expensive. If you don’t drink much, or buy whatever’s on offer, you’ll save so much money. Plus, you’ll be sober enough to take pictures of your friends being dumb and take in your lecture the next day. Stay safe.
- Google Books is your friend – Google Books lets you look at excerpts of books or preview the opening of them, so before you buy one or drag it back from the library, see if you can view it online. Also, just search inside the book (on Google Books) to find relevant quotes. You’re welcome.
- Pretty much everything can be cooked in 30 minutes at 200ºc. I mean, not everything, and luckily I knew how to cook properly before I went away, but just in case, this is good.
- BUDGET. Budget budget budget. Make lists of how much money you’ll need on regular occasions (weekly food shop, monthly phone bill, new jeans etc.) and make sure you always have that much in your bank. Get mobile banking, too.
- Take notes in lectures and seminars – it makes it so much easier to write your essays or presentations, and you’ve often already done the research you need to plan work.
- Always ask if there’s a student discount. Most places do one, even if it’s just 10%, and that all adds up.
I hope at least some of these come in handy, and you have a great time university. It’s the best.