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.


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.


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!


5 Tips For Freshers

September 16th, 2011 → 2:38 pm @

The start of a new academic year means one thing at Univertsity; Freshers Week! This is the one week of the year where normal rules don’t apply. Be sure to make the most of it :-) Here’s five tips to keep in mind.

Make Friends

Be prepared for anything and try to be as friendly and approactable as you can. It’s a scary time for every fresher and that’s a prime example to use that common ground and make new friends. Some of my best friends I met at University.

Join a Club

There’s bound to be a club, team or society for something you’re interested in. Make an effort to establish some friends outside of your house mates and course mates. The more, the better and it’s a great break from the stress of coursework later in the year.

Save Some Money

Make the most out of every deal you can. This is something I kind of regret. Virtually everywhere does student deals now so get out there and save some money! I’d recommend getting the NUS Extra card. It’s cheap and opens you up to even more deals.

Have Fun

This is so important. Freshers is the huge party before all the hard work begins!

Be Yourself

There’s no point spending the first two weeks of the year pretending you’re somebody else just to make friends. You won’t be able to keep the game up for long. Be yourself, there’s no need to be anything else.


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!


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+


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


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


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.


“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:





Bathroom & Housekeeping


For Fun



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 :)


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.