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Student life-before you start

Getting ready for uni

Getting ready for university life can be tricky. Knowing all the things to get ready before you go will help make the transition a lot easier.

Father and Son unpacking car in front of university

CONTENTS

  1. After results day

  2. Student finance

  3. Accommodation

  4. Things to be aware of at university

After results day

Once your place at university is confirmed, you'll begin receiving messages about everything from registration and module choice to accommodation and freshers' week.

This will probably be from your academic department, the university registry (central administration) or the student body (e.g. NUS and students’ union).

Most universities will have a dedicated website and moderated Facebook group for new students to help you get to know your new university and fellow students before you arrive.

Be sure you understand what you need to do and what documents you'll need by carefully reading your enrolment forms before arrival.

Student finance

If you get a university place or change your course through Clearing, you must inform your student finance company immediately. Make sure they have your up-to-date contact and bank account details.

Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS): Contact the SAAS and let them know your details have changed.

Student Finance England (SFE): Apply online, or if you’ve already applied for financial support and your course/university details have changed, log in to your online account. Remember you need to sign and print out your final declaration (go to My Account/View Correspondence).

Student Finance Northern Ireland (SFNI): Inform the people who deal with your student finance application of any changes (usually your local authority). If you haven’t yet applied, do it now.

Student Finance Wales (SFW)You don’t need a confirmed place on a specific course or at a particular university to apply for student funding. Choose the course you're most likely to attend and if this changes, amend the details online.

Accommodation

By confirming your offer of study, much of the admin work will have been completed already. You'll probably have made your choices about accommodation and simply need to confirm your decision at this stage.

Nevertheless, your confirmation may still be needed, so remember to read the small print before agreeing to any contract – this is important. Ensure you understand the payment methods, as you may be given options. Taking note of the date you’re required to arrive is also very important, along with ensuring your email account supplied to UCAS is up-to-date so it can receive bulk emails. Making sure your university’s email address is in your 'trusted sender' lists is also key.

If your university place has been confirmed after A Level results and/or via Clearing, you may be starting the accommodation process for the first time (or with a new university). 

Most universities will guarantee accommodation in your first year. Maximise your chances by responding promptly to all correspondence via email or online. Choices at this late stage are likely to be limited and you may have to settle for what’s offered, unless you wish to find your own accommodation.

University accommodation brings you into contact with other new students and is always regarded as a good choice for new students as it helps you settle in quickly.

Check all the small print of any contract before you sign up. You can also check out the National Code if you have any doubts. 

All this takes place quickly during August/September. It may feel a little stressful, but is a case of systematically working through the process. Your parents may wish to share this with you and if they’re your guarantor in any contracts, it’s reasonable and right they get involved. Another pair of eyes is always a good idea when navigating the complicated wording on the contracts. 

All universities do things differently but aim to help you settle in quickly and ensure your new environment is not only safe and secure, but fun.

Things to be aware of at university

Pastoral care

You may have a residential advisor or residence tutor who's there to give pastoral support. They are worth seeking out, as they may be good contacts for part-time work, events, news, key tips and advice. 

Keys

Keys, or access cards to property (whether university or private sector), are always treated seriously. You'll be expected to take care of your keys, with replacements often being deliberately expensive. 

Insurance

You may want to take out room contents insurance or insure a bike, tablet or laptop separately. Although this has to be done independently, you should check your possessions aren't already covered by your parents’ insurance before you take out a separate policy. 

Bank account

If you haven’t already opened a bank account, you can as soon as you receive your UCAS confirmation letter. Banks will ask to see this. Find out if there’s a branch on or close to campus. To save some time in queues, set your account up before you arrive.

Budgeting and managing your money

Dull though it may sound, it's really worth working out a budget. You'll know your minimum income for the year and how much you have to spend. Although difficult at times, sticking to a budget stops you overspending, reduces financial worries and gives you a good idea of how much the following years at university will cost. 

Student rail/coach cards

Student rail/coach cards are good value for money, even if you don’t think you need one. A three-year deal may also save you money, and cards are replaceable if lost. Your university town or city may also offer a cheap discounted public transport card.

Bringing your own car

At university, running a car is very expensive. Whether it’s insurance, parking or petrol, costs may come as a shock. Most universities don’t offer guaranteed free parking on or close to campus, and you may not be able to park a car (apart from unloading your stuff) next to university accommodation. If you do bring a car, be prepared to be a taxi service for your new friends.

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