You’re caught out in the wilderness. A completely new environment, with no-one to do your laundry. Your life flashes before your eyes and you suddenly appreciate all the little things, those people you called ‘parents’ who woke you up in the morning, your dear pets and most importantly, free food. You’re confused – Where did your childhood go? Why are people calling you an ‘adult’? Why is cheese so expensive?
Then it hits you. No matter how difficult this new life is, you must survive. Luckily for you, a first-year veteran (me), has provided you with a survival handbook (this blog). You might just make it…
RULE 1 OF UNIVERSITY SURVIVAL: LOOKING AFTER YOURSELF
The most difficult challenge to overcome – maintaining your own body, so that you can function effectively in those 9am lectures.
If you’re going to remember anything from this guide, remember this – 8,8,8. That’s 8 hours of study, 8 hours of socialising and 8 hours of sleep a day. I live by this rule, and so far it works pretty well – the 8 hours of study means I get my work done, 8 hours of socialising means I don’t drive myself too crazy with study and get that all important ‘down time’ and 8 hours of sleep means that I can do it all again the next day!
Food is the life blood of a university student. It’s tempting, particularly now that parents can’t disapprove, to eat loads of junk food because it’s just so damn tasty! Yes, I order the odd pizza now and again (usually to treat myself after handing in that nightmare of an essay), but it’s important to eat well, and veggies are much cheaper than junk food! Plus, university is a great time to try out your cooking skills – look up a recipe online, by the ingredients and have a go at it!
Socials and nights out are a great way to bond with people in a society, or just to let your hair down after a busy week. If you don’t want to die of a hangover the next day, make sure you drink lots of water! Tap water is free on a night out, and drinking water throughout the night will save you pennies, allow you to pace yourself with your drinks and will make sure you’re fresh(ish) faced the next day!
RULE 2 OF UNIVERSITY SURVIVAL: ORGANISATION.
University is a big step up from school, and it’s easy with your new found freedom from a rigorous school timetable and overbearing teachers, to forget that you need to keep on top of your work. The most important thing to do is keep organised! Note down all those important deadlines, and manage your time so that you can get those essays done (and not the night before – an all nighter in the library is not pretty). To do lists and diaries are a great way to make sure you stay on track too!
It is important to still balance your social life and work. This goes both ways – don’t get so overworked that you don’t have time to socialise, nor should
you prioritise socialising over work! Try to keep focused on your studies, while still maintaining time to relax and do whatever it is you enjoy. If you think it’s impossible for any human to achieve such a task (and you’re sure you manage your time well), let your lecturers know! In my experience, they’ll always be supportive of feedback from students.
RULE 3 OF UNIVERSITY SURVIVAL: BUDGETING
Student finance kicks in and suddenly you feel like the richest person on the planet! What should
you do with all of this wealth? Go out? Treat yourself to that expensive new gadget? It’s tempting, but it may leave you living off 20p noodles toward the end of the term.
Budget effectively! Remember, the bulk of your student finance will go on paying your rent. Work out how much you’ll have left once your rent has been taken out, then see how much you can afford to spend per week, and prioritise the essentials! The university has an estimate for how much you should budget for per week, but in my opinion, that’s an overestimate. Food will cost around £25-£30 a week and if you really budget effectively you shouldn’t need to spend more than around £50-£60 a week.
A great way to cut down on what you spend is to buy budget alternatives (Aldi is the student’s version of heaven for this!). Make sure you think ahead too, an overdraft is always handy for your piece of mind – however this should only be for those unforeseen circumstances! Keep track of all your pennies, and you should be just fine.