10 things to do before starting university

With so much to think about as you’re gearing up to start your degree course, it’s easy to feel daunted by it all – here are ten things to consider as you look to finalise your university checklist

1. Arrange your accommodation

When it comes to finding a place to live while at university, most first-year students choose to stay in halls of residence, as they’re managed by the university and present an easy way to meet other new people.

Privately rented housing or off-campus university accommodation are viable alternatives, although they are more popular with mature or postgraduate students.

If you’re attending a local university, you may prefer to save on your costs and live at home.

If you do decide to go with university-owned housing, you’ll usually be faced with a choice between catered and self-catered, sociable and quiet, and single and mixed-gender halls.

It’s important to know that it’s never too early to start thinking about your preferences, as many hall places are allocated on a first come, first served basis.

Contact your university’s accommodation office to enquire about accommodation open days and to explore your options.

To get started, read our guide on what you need to know about student accommodation.

2. Sort out your finances

While this may not seem like the most exciting task when preparing for university, it’s important to get your finances in order before fresher’s week so you can budget for the coming academic year.

The first thing you need to do is set up a student bank account. Many of the major banks offer these with added incentives – such discounted travel (for example, a free, four-year National Express coachcard), Amazon Prime membership or a subscription to an online reading library – but what you should really be looking for is the bank with the best 0% interest overdraft facilities. Banks will typically make daily charges if you exceed your arranged overdraft, so always read the small print.

Explore other ways to save money as a student.

If you’re planning to receive government-funded student finance, you next need to get in touch with the relevant Student Finance body to get the ball rolling:

Securing student finance is a lengthy process, so be sure to make this a priority.

Once these measures are in place and you know how much funding you’re entitled to on top of any family allowances and part-time job earnings, you can budget your day-to-day life accordingly.

This should include allowances for amenities (food, utility bills, course materials), as well as luxuries (clothes, socialising, visits back home), to avoid landing yourself in financial trouble later in the term.

3. Decide what to take

Find out what will be provided at your accommodation to avoid making unnecessary purchases and check how much storage space you’ll have – there’s no point taking things you don’t have the room to keep.

If you’re taking a laptop, tablet or any other gadgets, look into insuring them – whether that’s through your bank, family home insurance or cover provided by the company you bought the gadget from. You can also search price comparison sites for the cheapest cover.

With the bigger items to consider, you might forget to pick up the little things. Items such as stationery, pain relief and cleaning products are easily forgotten, so by keeping organised you won’t be left short of any essentials.

Take a look at our guide to what to take to university.

4. Benefit from discounted travel

16-25 Railcard, taking a third off the price of all train fares, could save you some serious cash if you’re planning on visiting home or friends at other universities throughout the term. The card costs just £30 per year, or £70 for three years.

Taking a car to university isn’t always necessary. If you have one, parking is likely to be limited, and you’ll typically have to pay for a permit to leave it on campus.

Public transport will keep you connected, especially in bigger cities. So look into the savings you can make on using trains, buses and coaches instead.

If you expect to live near campus, you might want to consider investing in a bike as this can work out effective in the long run. Some universities and students’ unions run bicycle loan schemes so discover if you stand to benefit from one at your chosen institution. Be sure to factor in the cost of any accessories, such as a helmet, lock and maintenance equipment.

5. Get reading

Many universities put their reading lists online weeks before their courses begin or will send you the details via email. This will give you an idea of what to expect from your workload, and getting a head start on reading will build your confidence for lectures.

You don’t need to own every book on the list – identify the core texts and buy these. Any others you need will be available to borrow from your university library or you can buy them online from former students for a fraction of their original retail price.

6. Arrange a health check

Arrange a health check with your GP before you leave home to ensure that you’re starting university in the best health possible. This is especially important in post-COVID times.

Sorting out any ailments before you make the move will mean you’re less likely to suffer from freshers’ flu – which most first-year students experience due to a lack of sleep and exercise, a drastic change in diet and coming into contact with hundreds of new people, all in a short space of time.

7. Get to know the area

If you can, visit the city or town your university is in to familiarise yourself with your new surroundings.

To save money and time on making multiple trips, especially if your chosen university is far from home, it’s a good idea to have a look around while you’re visiting for an open day. Even a virtual tour experience can give you some sense of what to expect.

Once you’ve moved, use your spare time before the start of term to locate your nearest train station, local shops and GP surgery, as well as your campus library, students’ union and lecture buildings.

This is a great opportunity to get to know your housemates by arranging to make these trips together, as they’ll need to know where these things are too. The task will feel less daunting if you’re not going alone.

8. Learn to cook

Ask for help with making your favourite meals while you’re still at home – you’ll be glad you did once you’re fending for yourself. Student cookbooks, available in bookshops and online, focus on using simple ingredients and cooking on a budget.

Shopping cheaply is easier than you think. For example, Morrisons has its Students Club, providing discounts as part of its My Morrisons scheme, while Co-op offers a 10% discount to those with a TOTUM card.

When shopping, you’ll find that own-brand supermarket food is often of the same quality as the more expensive branded alternatives.

9. Spend time with family and friends

Spend quality time with your loved ones in the summer before university. Depending on how far away you’re moving to study, you may not be able to see them for a few months. While you’ll be doing lots of exciting things and meeting new people in your first term, homesickness is normal and might kick in once you’ve settled.

Recent memories of good times, and photos or mementos to keep in your bedroom, are a good way to combat these feelings. For more help on getting out of a slump, consider what to do when you feel homesick. You can also read about the importance of looking after your mental health at university.

10. Get involved in freshers’ week

The welcome period is full of events designed to help you settle into university life, so find out how to make the most of freshers’ week. Your students’ union will host fairs to join societies and sports teams, and your course department might hold an icebreaker session during this time to introduce you to your peers and lecturers.

While you don’t have any course commitments you can immerse yourself in these activities and make sure you’re prepared to start your degree. Organisation is key – make sure you know in advance when you have to be somewhere, as this will help with planning your time in the long run.

Find out more



Prospects · July 2021