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!

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Student Food: There’s more to life than Pot Noodle

August 1st, 2011 → 2:55 pm @

Steaming Pot

We all know the stereotypes regarding students and their dietary intake. The beans on toast and the Pot Noodle…bla, bla, blahh. I think it’s a little unfair. While students will tighten their belts in the harder times, most students I know enjoy a good meal. The majority of them can certainly cook.

After all, it’s not hard to whip-up a decent meal and if you use the old economies of scale and group together or plan your meals for the next week or more, you can eat very well for very little money.

It’s best to get a few standard meals learnt before you head off to University to fend for yourself. Especially if you’re not confident in the kitchen. Offer to cook the family meal one night a week and get you mum (or another watchful eye) to give you a little guidance. Soon enough you’ll be creating your own compositions.

It was eye-opening moving into halls for the first time and seeing the complete range of kitchen skills from one flatmate to another. Some would effortlessly put together the most amazing meals when others couldn’t even cook pasta. Some even had the budget to eat steak twice a week. I know I certainly didn’t, even with two part-time jobs.

To make sure you’re not one of the fools asking for help to make water boil, there’s a handful of meals you might want to master before you leave the nest.

Spaghetti Bolognase. This is an absolute classic that’ll go a long way and uses cheap, basic ingredients. It doesn’t take much here to get some amazing taste going on.

Sticking with the minced meat, and If you like a bit of spice, Chilli Con Carne is another meal that is hearty and will keep you going cheaply. You can also go veggie, just throw in a few more varieties of bean if you like.

The all-important Sunday Roast is the real challenge for any cook. Get this right and you’re a true master. It’s perfect for a hangover and the leftovers can keep you going for days. This is best done in a group. Suggest it to your housemates and get all the ingredients between you. You’ll be glad you did.

One of my favourites is Corned Beef Hash. It’s so simple an idiot could make it (you know, the ones who can’t cook pasta). It’s incredibly filling and works well in the winter. Comfort food that, done to your taste, will go down a treat.

If corned beef isn’t your thing, make a giant pot of Stew. Get some cheap cuts of meat (or not, if you’re veggie), plenty of root veg, onions, leeks etc, throw in some stock and seasoning with plenty of water and simmer until everything is tender…Done. It’s a great winter-warmer which will keep up the nutrition when trying to avoid colds an the flu.

A simple Stir Fry is a great way of getting a whole load of veg into an exciting dish. You don’t have to be a genius to make a great stir fry. All you need to do is throw your meat and veg into a pan, add some seasoning and spice, some water and stock for a sauce and serve with rice or noodles. Once you’ve got it you can tweak it to your liking.

Being a poor student doesn’t mean you have to go without proper food. You just have to be more resourceful, inventive and thrifty. Use the power of numbers and buy in bulk, cook for the next week or two. Freeze your meals, reuse leftovers, and cut back on waste. Use your brain, that’s why you’re at University!

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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.

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10 Things Students Should Know Before Renting

July 29th, 2011 → 12:37 pm @

living room, looking out
These great tips come from our friends at Accommodation for Students. We thought they were so great we wanted to share them with you. Get the info before you move.

  1. Landlords have a legal obligation to provide their tenants with a copy of the Gas Safety certificate before they move into a property.
  2. Landlords now also have a legal obligation to protect their tenants’ deposits under the terms of theTenancy Deposit Scheme. They must inform their tenants of the scheme that they are using within 14 days of accepting a deposit or face a fine.
  3. If a Landlord changes their mind before the Tenancy Agreement is signed all they are obliged to do is return the holding deposit to the tenant (even if it is the day that the tenancy is due to commence). Tenants should get the Tenancy Agreement signed by The Landlord as soon as the terms are agreed.
  4. Tenants will be in a much stronger position to argue against spurious claims on their deposit if there is an inventory in place. If a Landlord does not provide an inventory the tenant should think about producing their own. This may just be a set of digital photographs that are sent by recorded delivery to the Landlord, or their agent, on the first day of the Tenancy.
  5. The rent per sharer tends to fall as the number of people sharing increases, up to a maximum of 4. Most student houses capable of sleeping 5 or more people are classed as Houses in Multiple Occupation and become more expensive for the Landlord to run.
  6. If a property is rented on a shared basis then only oneTV Licence will be required. If sharers have individual tenancy agreements a licence will be required for each person that has a TV in their room.
  7. Full time students are exempt from paying council tax but part time students aren’t. Full time students should avoid sharing with part time students in case the household decides that it is unfair for the part-time student to pay the entire Council Tax bill on their own.
  8. If you are going through a letting agent they will charge a referencing fee of between £20 and £100 per person. Tenants should try to negotiate this fee down as the cost to the agent of a basic reference is about £20 per person. An agent won’t want to lose out on the higher fee from the Landlord for the sake of a few extra pounds from the tenant. Agents are not allowed to charge for showing you properties.
  9. Most Tenancy Agreements run for 12 months. Students renting in non-student areas may be able to get a break clause inserted in to the agreement. This allows the tenant to give notice and leave at any time during the second half of the agreement.
  10. Burglars tend to target student areas as they are aware that security may be lax and electrical goods plenty. Students should ask their Landlord to fit key operating locks on the windows and 5 lever deadlocks on the external doors. Before taking a property it is advisable to go back in the evening to get a feel for how safe the area is.
Head over to the Accommodation for Students info page to read the original post.


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Use a Blog As a Notebook

July 22nd, 2011 → 4:15 pm @

I don’t know about you, but I find I don’t write the old fashioned way very much any more. I’ve even found that my handwriting, which was bad to begin with, has slowly deteriorated. (See below)

The majority of us are so much more used to typing on computer’s now. I find I can work so much faster when typing. Going digital has it’s other benefits too: You can resuse the same content over and over, rearrranging things is so much easier and if you’ve made a mistake it’s pretty easy to ammend  without making a mess.

Something I tried when I started my postgrad course was to ditch the pen and paper completely and commit to typing all my notes. After all, I’d got through most of my degree by scribbling on bits of paper and occasionally losing track of them…or even spilling something over them!

The thing is with paper is, you only get one chance and one copy. That’s not good for redundancy. What if the dog eats it?

It was time to try a new method and bring myself up-to-date with the rest of the world. If it’s on your computer you can back it up to an external drive or in the cloud. Safer, right?

Keeping things digital from the start is best because you’re ultimately likely to transfer the notes to computer anyway, and it’s easier for bringing things together when working on assignments.

To take things even further you could consider turning a blog into a notebook. Just go to any of the blogging sites to get a free blog.

You don’t even have to make it public. If you like, make it so that only you see your blog or certain people you choose. You could even run a blog as a group if you’re working on a collaborative project.

The attraction of a blog is that is really easy to keep track of things. It works like a diary but you can tag and categorise things which are relevant to each other. This way, when your new ‘notebook’ starts to get a huge wordcount you can easily find what you need.

I’ve seen this being used to keep track of a Master’s dissertation and the student himself said it was really easy, not only to keep track of exactly where he was up to, but in bringing everything together in his final writeup. The big bonus here is most of his dissertation had already been written in nugget-from as blog posts. So that daunting feeling when you’ve finished your project and need to start the writeup dissapears.

If you have any similar tips or have used a system like this, we’d love to know :)

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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.

 

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