Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Things you should do before going to uni.

booksSee the full sized image by *ian*@flickr here. 

Three months.
While it may feel like going to university, or returning, is still quite a long time away the truth is it’s not. Two and a half months can drag or it can fly by – two and a half months is all the time left before university terms start again and there’s a lot to do. I thought of this at a small get together the other night, and while discussing with friends who were returning to university and friends who were going for the first time, I realised that there was real confusion with what had to be done before time ran out.

First time.
If you’re going to university for the first time, you’re probably going to be nervous. Leaving home will do that to anyone, even if you are quite independent. When I left home last year and met my flatmates I quickly realised that most of them had never really been on their own for more than a weekend and that everyone was a little but uncertain with how to look after themselves – one boy even asked me if you could put colours and whites into the same tumble dryer. While a bit of dependency is a good thing, it’s important that you learn how to look after yourself. This is the first thing you should probably do before you leave home. But what else?:

  • Learn to look after yourself. This means ask your parents how to cook, how to wash clothes, how to clean things if you don’t know. Take over the house hold chores for the week, including meals, so you have a firmer grasp on everything.
  • Get a student account and take the overdraft and the credit card you will no doubt be offered – but be sensible with them. The overdraft is ideal to have for “just in case situations” where you may hit the end of the month before loan/payday and need an extra tenner. It’s better to have the tenner waiting in your already approved interest free overdraft that go into a unapproved overdraft and get charged an extra £35. The credit card is not for anything but buying your weekly shopping – it’s an ideal way to build your credit up. You buy your shopping and pay it off and help yourself in the future through it.
  • If you haven’t done so already, apply to your local loan authority now as it’s likely that the date where you’re ensured your first payment on time has already passed. The sooner you apply, the more likely you are to get the money on time, though don’t panic if the cut off date has already passed for your authority – you can still apply. I know for SAAS in Scotland that you can still apply up until something silly like March or April and still get the full years loan.
  • Sort out your accommodation for the year if you haven’t already whether you’re going private (which I would advise against for first time university-goers!) or through the university’s housing scheme.
  • Start buying and packing now. This means your bedding, your towels, kitchen appliances. Buy what you can now and then it won’t be such a big dent in the bank balance later.
  • If you need to pre-register for modules or anything, do it as soon as possible – that way you can get into the modules you want.

While the list I have there is certainly not definitive, it’s a good base model and one or two of them are things which I wish I had done last year.

Returning to.
While some people may have not returned home for the summer, there will be some who have. This is aimed mostly at them since this is the situation I am in.

  • Reapply for your loan. Now. My friend genuinely didn’t realise that you had to reapply to get money again after first year and is now panicking. I’m not sure how it’ll work in each authority, but in Scotland you need to remember your log in details and you should have a reference number, but I think it’s saved on the system.
  • Sort out accommodation/sign leases/make sure you have somewhere to live. Ideally this should be done by now. Also, from this you can start to create a monthly budget based on your rent prices – add an extra £30 or £40 on for bills (depending where you live) and that’ll be a good rough figure to work with.
  • Start repacking everything you can – my linen is already packed in the bags I brought it home in. It was washed, dried, ironed and folded then put out of sight. It speeds up the process later.
  • Clean out your stuff – I did this already and it’s helped me massively get an idea of what I’ll be repacking in the few months that come. I also have a rough idea of what I won’t need after learning my lesson from first year.
  • Register for any modules you need to take, if you can, and see if there’s a reading list up yet – you can get a head start on buying the books through scouring out the best copies on Amazon Marketplace before the hoards descend.
  • Make a budget. I mentioned this already, but only briefly and I will be doing a future post on how I budget. With a budget already in place before you arrive back at university you can have a rough idea of how much money you need to make to meet ends meet.

Obviously, all of the above is really only a rough idea and there may be things I have missed out. If you think there is, leave a little comment or tell me how you’ll be getting ready for college and university for the Autumn.


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