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TOP TIPS: Going to University for the first time


It’s that time of year when students are starting to make plans for University life. Going to University for the first time can be daunting but it can be made so much easier by planning ahead.  

This guide is designed to give you some pointers to help prepare for this leap into an independent adult life.

There are sure to be other things to add, but it will give you some starting points.


It’s all about lists! I love a list and find it the best way to be organised. Get a notebook and make separate lists for different elements of your preparation.

  • Things to do before you go
  • Things to do once you get there
  • Things to pack
  • Things to buy
  • Things to remember
  • Important information

(This list can be the first one to get you started!)

The Essential Stuff

  • Organise accommodation – there may be various options for halls of residence within different price brackets. Not all University/college campuses have halls accommodation so you may need to think about shared houses. Be cautious and read the contracts carefully to ensure you are only responsible for paying YOUR portion of the rent.
  • What are you planning to take with you? – you can’t take it all, pick and choose carefully as you may have limited space. Don't forget power cables and chargers!
  • What do you need to buy? – make a list of the books you need to buy, household bits and bobs you may need, gadgets or technology.
  • Cooking – learn a handful of simple, cheap recipes.
  • Contact details – your Uni email account should be checked at least once a day but remember that friends and family may be contacting you on a personal account so don’t forget them!
  • Planner – you may feel like you are already living an independent life but being away from home for the first time brings new challenges. Keep a planner on your desk or wall and use it every day. There’s a lot to remember!
  • Make sure you have some photo ID and take a few extra passport sized photos with you – very useful if you sign up for things that need a membership photo.

The Money Stuff

  • Budgeting – this is the most essential thing to get your head around. You will have a limited amount of money available to you and sometimes it can seem like other students are spending recklessly. Don’t believe everything you see and don’t be distracted by other people’s spending. Know YOUR limits, work out how to make your money last to the end of the term and have some emergency funds set aside in case something crops up. My top tip is to buy some supermarket vouchers and put them away for a rainy day. That way if the money dries up, you can still buy food. 
  • Student Bank Account - get this set up before you go making sure there is a free overdraft facility as you may need this. Some banks offer a free 16-25 Railcard or National Express Coachcard as incentives.
  • Books – you will get a reading list as long as your arm and although many books will be marked as ‘recommended reading’ you may be able to get them second hand, from 2nd or 3rd year students or from the library. Books are one of the biggest expenses at Uni depending on the course you are taking but there are ways to be a savvy shopper and save £s.
  • Travel Cards – make sure you have student discount travel cards organised before you leave. National Express Coachcard, 16-25 Railcard and TfL 18+ Student Oyster Photocard are the most popular. 
  • NUS Card – discount, discount, discount! More information about NUS here.
  • Discount – speaking of discount, ask wherever you go, do some research and use all the offers available. Just a few % off the price might not seem like much but every little helps!

The Fun Stuff

  • Fresher’s Week – research what’s going on and get out there and meet some new people. This for me (a very long time ago) was daunting but it’s a great way to meet people outside of your halls and your course. Don’t worry if you aren’t interested in drinking lots or big parties, there’s more to Fresher’s Week than that. It's a good idea to take a fancy dress costume with you as there are often events that call for dressing up IF that's something you enjoy! 
  • Make friends outside of your halls/flat – join clubs & societies, go to Student's Union events, get to know the people on your course. It’s also a good idea to try and make connections with 2nd or 3rd year students on your course – they’ve been there and done it, they will have advice about lectures, notes that can help you, tips about various elements of your course. Don’t worry about feeling nervous about meeting new people, everyone is feeling the same, the introverts and the extroverts!
  • Join the University social media pages and check if there are groups or pages for your course. It’s a good way to meet people and engage with your new ‘family’ before you move. 

The Boring Stuff

  • TV Licence – you must have a TV licence even if you are only watching TV via your phone or tablet.  In some instances you may be covered by your parents TV Licence and there is an option to only pay for term time. For all the information, click here
  • Contents Insurance – whether in halls or shared accommodation you must make sure you’re covered in case of an accident or burglary.
  • Medical – register with the local Doctors and go for the initial health check. You won’t be planning to need the Doctor, but you never know.
  • Personal belongings and gadgets – take photos of laptops, cameras, phones and other expensive items. Also note the serial numbers and descriptions somewhere. Tag your expensive gadgets and technology with an ultra voilet marker.
  • Make a list of important phone numbers – your parents, best friend, flatmate etc in case you lose your phone.
  • Find out how to cancel bank cards in case they are stolen and how to lock or wipe your phone if it is stolen. These are items that can give people access to a lot of personal information about you.
  • Back it up! Back up your phone data, your laptop contents and all your work. That way if your laptop is stolen or has a meltdown you have a backup.

The Safety Stuff

  • Get to know the area on foot, routes to and from key points and make sure you are staying in well lit, busy streets.
  • Make sure someone always knows where you are and if you are out at night, never leave anyone behind. Make sure everyone gets back safely. There is safety in numbers.
  • Know the number of a reputable local cab firm recommended by the University. Never use an unlicensed cab even if it is cheaper.
  • Keep all keys, phones, laptops, tablets out of view of windows and doors.
  • Make sure your doors and windows are always locked securely.
  • Social Media - think about your online presence and how much information is seen outside of your friendship group. Remember that privacy settings on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and all the others can change or be updated so it's important to do a little check every now and again to ensure you aren't over sharing! Check your privacy settings and visit www.getsafeonline.org for more guidance.



There is no shame in being scared, worried or anxious. Remember everyone else is in the same boat and some people are masking their worries with a smile. There are lots of people around who will be happy to help you – your new friends, student services, your personal tutors, student union reps. 

University is an amazing experience and should be fun. Go to lectures, expand your mind, challenge yourself and enjoy the adventure

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