Today is an important day for many 18-year-olds in the UK, because it’s A-Level results day! Firstly, I want to say congratulations to all of you who have worked your asses off all year to achieve the grades you wanted to get into university. And a special shout out to my little sister who found out this morning that she got into her first choice uni! I can’t believe it was four years ago now that I was in the exact same position, anxiously waiting for my exam results. I remember just how over the moon I felt receiving the email telling me that I’d been accepted into my first-choice university.
For those of you who know that you’ve got into university, you might be wondering what the next steps are before you fly the nest for the next few years (that’s if you’re planning on living away from home). Understandably, you might be feeling a bit nervous or unsure of how exactly to prepare yourself for your next stage of education, so I thought I’d compose a helpful list of ten things I’d recommend you do to prepare yourself for starting university.
1. Make a checklist. Write a checklist of all the items you want to take to uni with you. Personally, I found that making a checklist of clothes, kitchen items, cosmetics etc, helped me to ensure I wasn’t going to forget anything important, and on an already nerve-wracking day, it makes packing and trying to fit everything into your parents’ car a little less stressful. You don’t want to be running around the house at the last minute, panicking that you haven’t packed everything you want.
2. Buy all the basic essentials you need in advance. I knew that I was moving into self-catered accommodation, and so I went out to buy myself all of the kitchen items I needed. I would say that the basic kitchen essentials to get would be: plates, bowls, cutlery, cutting knives, pans, and a baking tray. You can worry about all the other little items later on. I bought all my things from Wilko, who have a great range of cheap essentials for students. Alternative places which are also fairly cheap include Ikea, B&M, Home Bargains. You could even ask your family members if they have any old plates or pans they could donate to you for free.
3. Learn the skills you need to look after yourself. Living away from home usually means having to do things for yourself, including cooking and washing your clothes. You could get yourself a cookbook (there will be loads of cheap ones knocking about in charity shops), or ask members of your family to teach you a simple recipe. I will say, as an ex- student, that pasta will become your best friend. It is so easy to make a variety of different pasta-based dishes, plus it’s extremely cheap to buy in bulk. You should definitely learn how to use a washing machine too, trust me, I didn’t have a clue when I got to uni, and I wish I’d had a bit more of a heads up! You can’t get very far in life on a bad diet and dirty clothes.
4. Set up a student bank account. It’s very simple to do, and I would highly recommend doing it, as having a student bank account can give you some great perks. For example, I signed up with Santander because they were offering free railcards with their student accounts, which gave you a third off rail tickets. A railcard is exceptionally useful if you’re wanting to travel home for the weekend every so often.
5. Check how much money you will receive from Student Finance. It’s important to see how much money you’ll be getting for the academic year so you can start planning how to budget. For example, the first thing that will come out of your bank will be your accommodation costs, so it’s handy to work out how much you’ll have left over for the term for other expenses such as food and nights out. It’s normal to worry about money as a student, but knowing your spending limits beforehand and being organised with your money certainly helped to put me at ease with it all.
6. Join university Facebook groups. Your university will almost certainly have a Facebook page for your particular course, and also your housing block or college. Joining these groups will help you interact with and get to know the people you will be living with or having lectures with. It’s a scary concept starting again in an unfamiliar place with thousands of people and not knowing anyone, so getting to know people online is a great way to make the process feel less daunting if you already know the names of those you are going to be around.
7. Research what societies are going on at your university and follow their social media pages. I can’t recommend joining a society enough. It’s a great way to meet people with similar interests, and to make friends. Figure out what hobbies and interests you are most passionate about, and then find and like those societies’ social pages to ensure you’re in the know about what events are coming up and where so that you can get involved.
8. Why not reinvent yourself? University is an exciting opportunity to start afresh, in a place with no pre-judgments from anyone about who you are, so why not do something different with yourself? Before university I decided I wanted to cut my hair short, because I never liked it long and so I made no effort with it. To be honest, it was one of the best decisions I’ve made! It made me feel more confident in my appearance, and just a little more myself. I did also dye my hair a questionable shade of ginger which wasn’t such a brilliant decision (see photo below). So just go for it, buy yourself some new clothes, get a piercing, just do something you’ve thought about doing previously but you might have been too afraid that people would judge you for it in the past.
9. Buy things to decorate your new room with. University accommodation can sometimes be a little cold and bare, so it’s nice to give it a bit more of a cosy feel. For example, I bought lots of fairy lights to put around my room which gave it a nice warm glow. I also used a photo printing app (FreePrints and Snapfish are good ones) to get physical snaps of family and friends to hang up by my bed. These photos can be nice and comforting to see if you’re feeling a bit homesick.
10. Ask others around you who have done the university experience for tips and advice. I have two older sisters who had been to university before me, so it was nice to be able to go to them if I had any questions or just needed a bit of reassurance that I was going to enjoy it! It’s always nice to chat to family or friends you might know who have already gone through the university experience, so they can assure you if you’re feeling a bit nervous and can give you some good pointers.
I hope I’ve been able to give some of you the knowledge you needed on how to prepare yourself for your next steps, but if you’re unsure of anything or just want to have a chat about what uni life is like then my inbox is always open!
If you are off to university in the next couple of months, I wish you the best of luck. You’re going to have an amazing time, make friends for life, and you will absolutely love the freedom and independence.