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Preparing for university: 10 tips

From sorting out a student bank account to packing for uni, we run through the main things you need to think about before the big move...

Moving away from home for the first time can feel a little stressful. To help lighten the load, we've rounded up 10 things to sort out now so it's not all a mad rush...

If you're already ahead of the game, find out what you can expect in your freshers’ term and which quirky societies you might come across at a freshers' fair.

1. Decide what stuff to take to uni

When moving away from home for the first time, the temptation can be to buy absolutely everything you could possibly need. But think carefully about what you’re going to bring, particularly when it comes to kitchenware – for example, is a new microwave / toaster / kettle really necessary if your halls or private accommodation already provides this?
Alternatively, see what you DON'T need to pack for uni.

2. Sort out your student bank account

When it comes to student accounts, many banks offer:
  • a free overdraft facility of up to £3,000
  • a debit card
  • an optional credit card
  • an incentive for joining, such as a free student railcard or an Amazon voucher (we’d suggest looking into the overdraft facility on offer over and above any enticing freebies!).
Take a look at the best student bank accounts on the Which? Money site to see which bank was most highly rated by students.

We'd also recommend checking out our student banking tips, to quickly get your head around everything you need to know, from how to open a student bank account to overdrafts and tracking your spending.

3. Start adding up those extra costs 

A not-so-insignificant four in ten of the freshers we spoke to last year told us they found it harder than expected to manage their money.

To get set for student money management, it’s good to start early – here's a heads-up on 10 things you’ll need to remember to budget for.

Calculate your living costs
See how much you'll need to live on at your chosen university, with our student budget calculator.
See your living costs

4. Buy your student gadgets...

According to Endsleigh Insurance, 96% of students take a laptop to university with them, while almost one in four have their own iPad. You should be able to manage without your own laptop or other tech by using university computers and printers, but having your own can make life easier.

As well as a laptop, there are some other essentials you should be taking up to uni. Find out more by checking out 10 essentials to pack for uni.

5. ...and your student essentials

Taking a laptop and other valuables to uni with you? Going to be travelling by train or coach? Want to receive student discounts? You’ll need these, then:
  • A travel card: save on trips to and from home by a third with a Young Persons railcard (£30 a year) or coachcard (£10 a year).
  • Contents insurance: if your personal possessions aren’t covered under your parents’ household insurance, then it could be worth getting a separate policy. Learn more about student insurance in our Q&A.
  • NUS Extra card: loads of student deals on everything from entertainment and eating out to clothes and travel (£12 for up to three years).

Head in a spin as you get ready for uni? Take a look at six ways to get money-ready for uni.

6. Sort out a student job

Bagging yourself a part-time student job can be a great way of coping with student living costs (and looks pretty good on your CV, too!). For flexible work you can fit in around your studying, your students' union is a good starting point.

Otherwise, get ready to hit the town with your CV in hand during freshers' week.

7. Cook a meal

If university is going to be your first experience of cooking yourself, try out your culinary skills before you arrive studentcooking.tv even features videos of students at unis around the UK showing you how to make some of their student favourites. 

Also, check out our guest post from The Student Food Project on the eight biggest culinary mistakes to avoid.

8. Learn how to stretch your student loan

You might get excited by your bank balance the first time your student loan comes in, but trust us it often doesn't go as far as you might hope.

Our student blogger has lots of tips to help you stretch your student loan, plus you can see what students spend on average when it comes to common living costs at uni.


9. Familiarise yourself with bills

If you're heading to halls, then utility bills and internet access are likely to be included in your rent but if you're moving into private accommodation, then you and your housemates will need to get familiar with gas, electricity and water bills and sort out your own internet connection. 

You'll need to get yourself a TV licence if you watch or record programming live on television or an online TV streaming service (eg ITV Hub, Sky Go), or if you download and watch programming on BBC iPlayer.

Your university halls are normally covered by a licence to watch TV in communal areas, but you will need one to watch in your own room. 

You can read more about the rules for students, including whether you're already covered by your parents' licence, on the official TV Licensing website.

Our student budget calculator can also shed some light on those living costs you haven't thought about (and how to save on these).

10. Connect with your university on social media

If you're not already, follow your university's official Instagram, Twitter and other social media accounts to get in the mood for 'The Big Move'. Doing so can make you feel a part of the community before arriving a top tip if you're feeling nervous about it all. It's also a handy way to get important updates and news ahead of freshers' week, when so much is happening.

There may be separate accounts to follow for other aspects of your uni, from the housing office to individual societies you may want to join.

Plus, you can start chatting to other students (with any questions you have), and perhaps form a few 'virtual' friendships ahead of meeting in person.

Learn more about student life, including taking care of your mental health, first year words of wisdom and travel hacks. 

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