How to survive in a student household

May 11th, 2012 → 10:43 am @

Surviving In Student Accommodation

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/6959179643/

So you’re ready to move out of home to go to university, and you’ve found yourself out of your comfort zone sharing a flat or house with a bunch of students. It could be a difficult transition period… or it could be best time of your life! Here are our top tips on how to survive in a student household for an awesome university digs experience!

Choose the right shared student accommodation for you

Find out more about the area you’re moving to and see what students there do. If you’re moving to London, you’re going to be on the lookout for a nice flat that you can share with mates. However, it’s common for students to share a house in Newcastle rather than a flat. Think carefully about what your living budget is going to be and choose your new home somewhere close to university and also close to shops. You can save a lot by cutting out transport fees!

Find housemates with similar interests

Choosing a house or flatshare is more about your new housemates than it is about the house. Find housemates with similar interests and you’ll have an awesome time. Find people who are working in similar faculties to you, choose flatmates with similar social interests like music lovers or movie makers, and make sure that there’s a good balance between work and play. Avoid party animals and budding bass guitarists if you value your study time.

Compromise with your housemates and share spaces accordingly

The one big thing you will need to get used to in a flatshare is that shared spaces belong to everyone. That means that you’ll need to share the living room, dining room and kitchen spaces and you’ll need to compromise with your flatmates. If your flatmate has a late studying schedule, get up early to take advantage of the shower and kitchen facilities before they do. If your flatmate tends to be a bit of a night owl in the library, don’t get up early to play loud music in the living room.

Share cooking and cleaning

Devising a cooking schedule can help you to save a bit of money as you split the cost of food with your house mates. Cooking one big meal for everyone can often be a lot cheaper than cooking for one, and taking turns making dinner ends up saving you a bit of extra money. Share the cleaning too, and you’ll only have to do dishes or the vacuuming once a week.

Make small changes to save on energy

We’re not all eco-warriors but saving on energy means there’s more money in your pocket. Making small changes like showering after peak electricity hours, or only boiling as much water as you need for your coffee will make a big difference to the bills. Keep energy usage down to a minimum and you could reduce your electricity and gas usage to around £10 a week.

Author: Mark Ledden

Blog

Things I’d wish I’d Know in My First Year of University

March 2nd, 2012 → 1:41 pm @

who thinks i have a book problem? (274/365)
Hindsight is a great tool for giving advice, it’s just a shame when the advice you give can’t help you go back to change your own experiences. Only a time machine can do that! Here are a few tips to get the most out of life at university from the perspective of those who have already been through it all. So before you pack up your life and move into halls, have a read through these tips.

Meet Your Lecturers

A lecturer will receive an endless stream of emails in a week. It’s important to make personal connections by visiting them during office hours or by asking them questions after a lecture that particularly grabbed your interest. Make the effort as knowing your lecturers personally is important. They can provide career advice, write reference letters and will be more willing to supervise or help guide you with a special project.

Change Courses (If you want to)

Sometimes you realise after a month or two doing your course that it’s really not right for you and you feel you would be much happier doing something a little different. It can be fairly easy to switch courses, depending on the circumstances and availability of what you want to do. Don’t do this on a whim though; think carefully as it will impact your future heavily. Get advice from lecturers on what your options are.

Learn to use the Library Right Away

Clearly this isn’t the coolest thing to do but it’s pretty important. You need to know how the facilities work from the very beginning. You’re going to need to know how to conduct your research and find what you need for reading. Getting familiar with the library system and services will help immensely and take away any hassle, leaving you free to focus on your studies. There is usually an orientation during fresher’s or registration week, be sure to attend!

Don’t Try To Read Everything

Let’s say you’re supposed to do two hours of reading to prepare for each class, you could end up doing a full working week of reading before even getting started on assignments. This just isn’t feasible; you need to prioritise your time. You need to think about what needs your focus at which point and dedicate your time accordingly. A looming assignment deadline will take priority over reading for a seminar. But you still need to make an effort with the reading, just take a more ‘skimmed’ approach and do what you can.

Get a Part-Time Job

Working during university can not only reduce your debt upon graduation, it could also just give you a little extra cash to enjoy your time a bit more. A part-time job can also help to take your mind away from the stress of studying, there are plenty of fun student jobs! On the other hand, you can use this as an opportunity to work your way up in the industry you’d like to get into. Start low in the food chain and get your foot in the door.

Travel

University presents the best excuse you’ll ever get to travel overseas through exchanges, semesters abroad and volunteer programs. Once you start working, you can forget about extensive travel as you’ll probably only get a few weeks of vacation per year from whichever company that hires you. While you’re young and have the chance you should go and explore the world. This can be done cheaply through student-targeted schemes.

Don’t Take On Too Much

It’s a good idea to try and fully immerse yourself in student life; joining clubs and going to events, but make sure you’re not spreading yourself too thinly. It’s great to make the most of your first few weeks. Fresher’s week is ideal for having a go at everything; if there’s a club for a sport you’re good at or have always fancied trying then by all means sign up! After time though, your study will really start to eat up all of your time and you’ll find you have little time for everything you signed up for.

Blog

Dealing with Homesickness

October 3rd, 2011 → 12:22 pm @

By now some of you will have been away from home for a week or two, maybe longer. The thrill and excitement of Freshers may have worn of and things are beginning to sink in. If you do begin to feel homesick, it’s completely natural and there are a number of things you can do to tackle it.


Make a Home from Home
If you feel comfortable in your room, it will feel more like home. Decorate and personalise to reflect your personality. Get plenty of home comforts and make the place as cozy as possible. This will help you relax and make things feel more like home.

Make Friends
Most people aren’t going to know anyone when they first move to Uni. It will take a while for you to meet people you will make good friends with, but make the effort to make as many new acquaintances as you can. In a place with so many like-minded people with many similar interests, you’re likely to make some good life-long friends at University.

Keep Busy
The busier you are, the less time you’ll have to feel homesick. Finding things to keep you busy is easy at University. Join a club or take up some activities. Make good start with your classes and find out what sorts of student activities are available and attend some meetings.

Stay In Touch
Homesickness could be more about the people than the place. You miss you friends and family. They’re all still there though and communication has never been more readily available or instant. Keeping in regular contact and making the odd trip home will help. Don’t over do it or visit home too often as this won’t deal with the problem or allow you to get settled in your new life.

If Things Get Too Much
Always let friends and family know how you’re feeling, don’t hide things and feel you have to deal with it alone. You might know people who have been through this before, who may have some good advice. There’s always professional advice at the University, they are there to help and will understand that it may be hindering your work. Homesickness is a very common problem, and the counselors at the University will know how to help.


Be sure to give yourself time. It may take an entire semester to get over feeling homesick. It takes time to adjust to major life changes like this one. Hang in there!

Blog

The Natwest Student Account Goes Out Of Favour

August 8th, 2011 → 12:12 pm @

No railcard for the Natwest student account

The Natwest Student Account was for a long time one of the most attractive options for students looking for a dedicated student bank account. A big selling point was the free 5 year railcard which came with it.

They’ve now dropped the railcard and in the new terms and conditions students must use the account as their main banking account and deposit at least £750 every three months. Students must also make at least 9 debits from the account every three months.

For students this requirement will be difficult to meet and now without the railcard I’d be amazed if anyone still decided to open one. Natwest either don’t know their customers or don’t want the business from students.

As you can imagine, there’s been plenty of outrage from student groups: Save The Student has a thread on their Facebook page regarding the changes. They are also advising students to steer clear of Natwest this year.

There is a brief post from Money Saving Forum on the changes. It states if students fail to meet the new requirements they reserve the right to terminate any interest-free overdraft on the account.

You can read the official terms and conditions on the Natwest site.

Today there has been some talk of Natwest bowing to the pressure from students and making amendments to their terms and conditions. But the details and confirmation of this are yet to come. We’ll let you know if we hear anything.

Blog

You’ve Graduated. Now what?

August 5th, 2011 → 1:55 pm @

Graduating

This is the time of the year where many students who’ve spent the past three or more years grafting get rewarded for all their work. It’s an incredible occasion and one you’ll never forget. It also signifies a turning point in your life. You’ve gained qualification and recognition in your chosen area of study and are now ready to venture out into the real world.

University isn’t just about academic the achievement, it’s also an education in life itself. Most people will find they’ve grown up so much by the time the pass out the other end of it. You have to. After all, you’re left to fend for yourself, make new friends and manage yourself and your time independently. Some of you will have thrived in this environment, others will have found it hard but there’s no doubt it all helps build character and develop your personality.

In a way, being at University is a bit like being in a bubble, it’s a comforting place to be. You get to have plenty of fun and you have few responsibilities other than looking after yourself. Not to say that being a student is easy, it’s just a great way to live. You get to push your mind and learn some incredible things and work with some fascinating people.

I’m guessing some of you aren’t sure or haven’t decided what your plan is after graduation. I hadn’t a clue when I graduated. Others will have everything planned out to tha last detail. So what are you options after you finish University?

Get a Job

This is the obvious one. You’ve got a certificate to say you’re awesome but you’re now in a lot of debt. The best thing to do is go get a decent job doing what you want to do which pay for all the education and fun you’ve been having.

This isn’t going to be easy though. With the current economic climate and unemployment growing, you’re going to have to be a superb candidate. Speaking as someone who’s just been through all this in the past year and had so much stress finding work, you’re going to have your work cut out getting anywhere. Don’t give up though, there are still opportunities out there. You just need to get creative and be unstoppable!

Further Study

Another popular choice is to continue your education further. Go for a Masters or PHD or train to become a teacher. Before you go and dive into this, think hard about the value of the extra qualification with relation to the job or industry you’re aiming for. Will it benefit you? Is it a requirement to get the job you want? There’s little point in spending all that time and money if it doesn’t improve your career prospects.

You also need to think about the extra financial burden it’ll carry. Funding for postgraduate study works very differently. You’ll have to pay for it yourself (you can take out a Career Development Loan) or get funding or sponsorship from a company who will likely ask you to work for them as part of the agreement once you finish the course (which isn’t a bad thing at all!) Further study is a great way to specialise or get ahead of the competition, provided it carries weight in your chosen industry.

Start a Business or go Freelance

The more entrepreneurial of you out there may want to start up a business using your newly acquired skills and education. This isn’t something to be taken lightly. There will be a huge amount of work and responsibility involved but if you’re the type of person who thrives on that or are willing to put in the effort. The rewards in terms of freedom, achievement and potentially financially, will be worth it.

If that’s sounds a bit much but you’d like the same freedom and flexibility, consider freelancing. If your industry lends itself to that type of work there’s no reason not to. You’re likely to find more project-based, temporary and contract work as opposed to full-time work at the moment and despite what people say about stability, no job is ‘secure’. Freelancing will allow you to build up your experience quickly as you move from project to project and you’ll always be learning. As it grows you can build it into a business and reap even more rewards.

Volunteer / Work for Free

After getting out the other end of the University system and jumping into the job market one thing will become apparent: You can’t get a job without experience and you can’t get that experience if you don’t have a job. What the hell are you supposed to do?

You could set your sights a little lower and aim for the company you want to work for then work your way up. Or you could just work for free in order to get that valuable experience you need to get the paid work. Try not to think of it as working for free though. Instead, it’s a free education, an opportunity to get your foot in the door, to make an impact. If you’re that good, you will find what you’re looking for or someone will find you.

I’ve seen friends work minimum wage full-time jobs not related in anyway to what they want to do just so they can volunteer a day or two a week at the place they’d love to work more than ever. Just so they can get that experience and make themselves known. With time and when job opportunities open up they stand a great chance as they’ve put in the hard work and proved it’s what they really want to do.

Even just volunteering for the sake of human kindness and to genuinely giving something back and helping people less fortunate will not only look great on you CV (as many will probably tell you) but it is incredibly rewarding. This type of experience will appear more beneficial for some jobs more than others but in any industry it will help show good character.

Take a Year Out

If you’re really undecided or you’ve got your sights set on travelling then you can always take a gap year. Some of you might have done this before you started University and will probably recommend it. This could involve getting away to get your head together and figure out what you want to do with you life (a big question, I know!) or travelling the world and getting some great life experience.

If you’re going to do it, get out there and make the most of it. Don’t just use it as a stopgap for indecisiveness and more importantly don’t waste the time. If you do, you’ll be in exactly the same place, just a year older. Take a year out by all means but do something with it!

Finally:
What ever you do, be sure it’s actually what you want to do. Don’t head off in one direction just to backtrack a few years later. That doesn’t mean to say you shouldn’t try things out. If you’re unsure of a specific job you want volunteering is a great way to find out if you enjoy the work. Be sure to get advice from as many people as you can. Speak to people in the same position as you, people who are a year or two ahead of you, those looking to hire for the jobs you want, family members, lecturers, basically everyone will have some advice for you. Last but not least, good luck!

Blog

Saving Money on a Computer for University

August 1st, 2011 → 1:15 pm @

Old computers

If your about to head off to University for the first time you’re likely to already be thinking about what you’re going to take with you. We’ve even written a University checklist for you to make sure you don’t forget anything.

Probably one of the most important items you’ll have with you is your computer. Not only because it’s likely to be the most expensive but it’ll also become the centre of your universe. You’ll rely on it to do everything.

With the cost of going to University now spiraling out of control it’s important to save money where possible. You may already have a computer to take with you or you might have been using the family computer at home. If you are looking at getting something to take with you then there are plenty of cost-effective solutions.

Buying New

If you’re going to buy new then there is plenty to choose from. It’s a competitive market and at this time of year, the back to school deals are rife. The highstreet shops will have a lot of tempting deals, some of which are genuinely good value for money. If you’re not squared up on your computers, take a friend who does along with you for some advice. Be sure to shop around.

Estimated Budget:  £300-£1000+

Refurbished

There are a number of sites and even shops who specialise in refurbished computer hardware. Some of them will have b-stock which are usually display models and returned items which work fine but aren’t packaged as new. This is a good opportunity to save a bit of money for the sake of it not coming in the original box or a few marks & scratches from being used in the shop. There are a number of dedicated wesites which offer computers for students. Many of these are refurbished units but have the bonus of coming with a warranty so you’re guaranteed it’ll work for however long.

Estimated Budget:  £200-£500

Ebay

This is a great place to go if you are much more technically-minded. You can get some great deals. Some people list laptops as faulty, which they are. But I’f you look at the details of the fault it could be as simple as a cracked screen or a hard drive failure. Most users can’t or won’t fix these issues. You can take advantage and get a decent spec’d laptop with a fixable fault. If the hard drive has failed, just replace it. A laptop with a broken screen can more than likely run perfectly well with an external monitor. Just be aware of more serious issues that either can’t be fixed or will cost a considerable amount of money ex: a fried motherboard.

Estimated Budget:  £0.01-£300

Freecycle

This is the best of option in terms of saving your budget, but it’s also the toughest to get what you’re looking for. Basically, the idea behind Freecycle is to connect those people who want to get rid of stuff to those looking for stuff. It’s pretty simple really. It keeps things from getting thrown away and benefits those who might not be able to obtain these items for their new cost. All you do is look for a group near you and see if there’s anything currently on offer that you want. You never know you might get lucky!

Estimated Budget:  FREE!

Another option is to take donations from friends and family members. My first computer, which I took to University was donated by my uncle. It wasn’t a fancy machine but let me work on assignments, stay in touch with people online and watch movies and listen to music.

As long as you aren’t planning to use any software which requires a machine with plenty of horsepower behind it (video editing, CAD etc) then you can manage just fine with a fairly under-powered machine. Don’t think you have to go out and buy the best laptop money can buy just for word-processing and Facebook.

Blog

“What do I take to University?”

July 26th, 2011 → 1:36 pm @

Around this time of the year, while you wait for your results in agony, it’s a good time to prepare for leaving for university. If you’re moving any distance away from home it’s important to make sure you take everything you need. The majority of things are obvious such as clothes. Other things may not seem so obvious such as a clothes horse and some could go either way. There is important paperwork which will be needed on arrival at your accommodation and for registration during freshers week. A good idea would be to print this list out and check everything of before you load up the car. Here it goes:

Paperwork

Kitchen

Studying

Healthcare

Bathroom & Housekeeping

Electrical

For Fun

Bedding

Miscellaneous

That’s pretty much everything you’re going to need. The only obvious thing that isn’t mentioned is your clothes, but I thought that would be pretty obvious. Unless you want to walk around naked! On the subject of clothes, take a good range. Make sure you have some smart clothes with you just in case you need to go for an important job interview :)

Blog

A Guide To UCAS Clearing

July 22nd, 2011 → 1:58 pm @

Exam Results

For those of you who are waiting on your A-Level results, the summer can be a stressful time of year. Especially if you’re relying on them to get to your chosen University. It can even make you as anxious as the exams themselves! The important thing to remember is that you can’t ‘do’ anything until you get your results and even if they’re not what you had hoped for, you always have options.

What is Clearing?

The process of clearing is a case of matching students who haven’t managed to secure a place at university with those Universities which still have places on their courses available.

To be eligible for clearing you need to meet any of the following requirements.

This means you’re still in with a chance of getting to the university you want to go to or the course you wanted to do. You just might be at the same course in a different uni of at your chosen uni on a slightly different course. If you expand your outlook a bit you can still ultimately end up doing what you want.

Clearing might even introduce you to something which you’d never considered that might just be your calling. If you are set on a specific course at your dream university you can think about holding back a year and resitting your exams to boost your chances. Just remember, the competition gets harder every year and you’ll be a year older (and wiser!) when you do get there.

The clearing process isn’t just a second chance for those unfortunate students, it can also be used an opportunity for students who got much better grades than they expected to explore courses with a higher entry level, or those which are more in demand.

The best thing you can so it to keep yourself informed of what your options are. If you haven’t already, start working on a plan-b and what to do in the worse case scenario. Like I said, you can’t ‘do’ anything but you can prepare. And the more prepared you are the quicker you can react and get yourself the next best place.

The UCAS website and The Telegraph publish clearing listing but it’s always best to speak direct to the universities. Some of them will even hold clearing days where you can visit to check out the university.

Best of luck, and remember you always have options!

Course vacancies will be published from mid-August to September and you need to have you application in by September 20th.

Follow the #ucasclearing hashtag on Twitter or visit the UCAS site for up-to-date information.

 

Blog

Have you got your accommodation in order for September?

July 22nd, 2011 → 10:57 am @

Empty Room

Don't be left with an empty room.

Whether you’re going to university for the first time of you’re going into you’re second or third year. Now is the time to be thinking about and preparing for moving in so you can get back to studying.

Perhaps you’ve grouped together with a few mates or you’re bravely going it alone in a shared house to make some new friends. You’ll still need to think about the things you’re going to need when you get there.

I remember my time at university and wish I’d have planned things out a little better or at least been more prepared. And that’s why I’m here to help.

So, you’re new digs. Do you know what’s provided and what will be there when you arrive? If you’ve never lived on your own and had to look after yourself, you might be surprised at what you take for granted. I certainly did! Imagine not having any toilet paper at the worst possible time. Or franticly looking for a corkscrew to open the two bottles of wine you got on the cheap.

So what exactly will you need?

Well, for first-timers and those moving out of university accommodation, you’ll almost definitely need some bed linen and bathroom towels. Everyone needs to sleep and you’ll want to feel fresh for lectures.

Not all accommodation will give you everything you need. The next thing you should be thinking about is how you’re going to be eating, and more importantly, with what? Make sure you equip your kitchen with everything you need to make a decent meal. Don’t fall into the stereotype of eating beans on toast three times a day. University was where I really learnt how to cook. Stock up with a kitchen pack so you can eat well and keep that brain ticking!

Electrical items are something else that doesn’t generally come included with accommodation. A hoover, toaster, kettle, microwave and vacuum cleaner are all things you are going to need. Luckily, this can all be bought in a very student-friendly package.

For those of you who are in need of a little more help, something like the emergency survival kit might be useful. It gives you everything you need to kick-start life in your new pad. After all, the first thing you’re going to want to do when you settle in is have a brew!

The whole thing boils down to three things; Eat, Sleep & Clean. As long as you’ve got that covered, you’ll be fine!

To make sure you are equipped, just take a look at our Student Survival Kits where you’ll find everything you need at prices that are fit for students.

 

Blog