4 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting University
It's September again. Whilst my fresher's week fun may have ended 4 years and 11 months ago (who's counting?), others are just about to embark on the rollercoaster ride that is University. Let me tell you, University is a mad trip. It's a trip that I'm sure you are not prepared for. Whether it's living away from home, a different style of learning or the freedom to really manage your own time - there will be a lot of things to get used to. As someone who picked up and moved to the other side of the country and then across the channel (well more like over the Bay of Biscay) during my University career, I thought I'd offer some advice for those of you who are about to begin the best, and possibly most challenging, three or four years of your life to date.
1) Don't get the Student Overdraft.
Just say NO. If there is only one thing you take away from this whole list let it be this: you do not need a student overdraft. Student overdrafts are very very tempting. It's a huge sum of money that you can spend for free, for up to four years. It's very easy to forget you've got no money when your bank account is saying "Bank Balance: £5, Available Balance: £1,505".
Let me tell you, once you're in it, you're in it. First year will roll into second year and you will still be in your overdraft; second year will roll into final year and you will still be in that overdraft. You then graduate, shit gets real and you will still be in your overdraft. Interest rates will then hike up or you will get the bank putting you on a payment plan, squeezing even more out of your graduate salary. You do not need an overdraft, the Boohoo "back to school" sale can wait and Thursday club will be popping for many Thursdays to come. Just say NO folks.
2) Save your student loan.
On that same note, save your student loan. I'm not saying save all of it but save as much of it as you can. Adult life is tough and, trust me, you'll never have enough money. So give yourself a head start and put some of that student loan away. When I look back on my four years at Uni, my student loan worked out to be about £500 per month. If I had saved just £50 for every month that I was in Uni, I would have had £1800 saved up by Graduation.
When you break that down that's:
2 months worth of Rent & Bills (Not in London ha!, but elsewhere in the country)
18 months worth of Groceries
2 Weeks All Inclusive To Cape Verde or 2 weeks backpacking around Colombia.
If you push that up to £100 a month that's about £4000 from a four year course.
Granted saving a student loan isn’t exactly exciting and may not always be possible as accommodation, textbooks (although you shouldn’t buy them unless you really have to), groceries etc are expensive. But if you can get a part time job or are fortunate enough to have help from parents, definitely try to save some of that loan.
3) Hit the Ground Running
Okay, not Day 1, enjoy Freshers, hell enjoy first Semester but don't fucking slack for 3 years. I don’t just mean face your books either. Of course, work hard and be prepared for your seminars ( I’ll leave lecture attendance at your discretion) but take every opportunity you can at uni. Whether it’s getting a student rep campus job for a company you might like to work for in the future or becoming involved in student union committees or even volunteering through your university, take advantage of the network building opportunities. You're paying £9K a year so get your moneys worth.
Although major bonus points if you can party all through Uni and still get your work done - that, my friend, makes you the MVP.
4) Use the resources available when things get too tough.
The last but by no means the least important tip on this list. University can be really hard at times. Whether you're struggling to adjust to your new surroundings, with your course or with the prospect of graduate life there will always be challenges. You don't have to struggle alone. There are so many resources on campus that are designed to help you through it all and best of all they are free. For example, at Newcastle we had a fabulous Student Services team who were readily available to assist you with everything from housing issues to mental health concerns and lecturers were always more than willing to answer any course related questions.
Make sure you familiarise yourself with the various services offered and find out your lecturers' office hours ASAP - you don't want to be scrambling to find help when you're already at breaking point! Utilise all the services and the help offered to you and don't ever feel embarrassed to reach out for the help you need.
I want to finish by pointing out that everyone's University experience is different. Regardless of where you go and what degree you study, make the most of your time at University. Push through the challenges (within reason of course) and take advantage of the unique opportunities offered to you as a University student.
This post is dedicated to my (not so) baby brother who is off to University this month. How time flies, eh?! Good Luck Jake, I'm so proud of you! I know you'll smash it and have a great time doing it!