Thursday, 13 September 2012

Top 10 Tips for Making Uni Life Easier

When I was younger, going to Uni was supposed to be this big and wild adventure, but in reality, that isn't always the case. Things go wrong, and they don't always go to plan. You discover that not everyone is nice, or even worth knowing. At times, Uni can seem like one huge pain in the behind, but I wanted to share a few tips for making your time at Uni that little bit easier, because these are the things that most Universities don't always tell you about:

1. Back Everything Up - Regularly.


In my final year at Uni, my PC decided to do an almost literal dive bomb. It went cuckoo and every five minutes or so, it would reboot itself and I would lose work. Another time, my PC crashed and I lost an entire essay that I had to completely re-write, from scratch. You're probably thinking, that's okay, I have auto-save, but what if the auto-save, on this one occasion, decides that it doesn't want to play ball? You'll save it onto a USB drive? Great, and what are you going to do if that USB drive becomes corrupt? Email it to yourself? Well, say hello to that lovely person in India who has decided to hack your account and steal everything from it.

In reality, it's unlikely that all of these will happen, but do you really want to take the chance?

Backing everything up is boring, and I will admit that I didn't do it often enough, and it ended up biting me very firmly on the behind. Save often, and have several copies of everything just to play it safe. You won't regret it.

2. Don't Buy Every Book on the Reading List

You might not need them. Most books are given as a general guide, but when it comes to actually writing essays, you'll quickly learn that the most helpful books aren't even on the reading list.

Initially, only buy the books that cover the basics of what you are going to be studying. Then, as you progress through your course, use your own judgement to decide which books you will find useful to own, rather than borrow from the library.

3. Borrow Books Early

It's fairly easy to figure out that most students will leave the writing of all essays to the last few weeks before they need handing in. The problem being that since everyone will be in the same frame of mind, recommended books are likely to be difficult to get hold of. Instead, search out recommended books, essays and periodicals as soon as you are given the reading list and/or essay questions (generally, we were given the essay question right at the beginning of the module) and have had enough time to figure out what you might need.

You don't have to focus your attention on the essay. Instead, photocopy the pages you think you're going to need and go back to them when you do write the essay.

4. Prepare for the Worst

One of the worst things about living in Halls, was definitely fire alarms at 2 o'clock in the morning. There is nothing worse than scrambling to put things on and finding yourself stood in the freezing cold wearing nothing put your skimpiest vest and shorts with no shoes.

When I first moved into Halls, I went into super paranoid mode and every night made sure that I put my dressing gown on the back of my desk chair with my keys in one of the pockets. I then made sure that I knew exactly where my shoes were.

Boy am I glad that I did!!

5. Fresher's Fair

Fresher's Fairs are a sweet haven for freebies and money-off coupons. At my first year Fresher's Fair, I picked up some awesome stuff, including:
  • A "Protect Your Property" Pint Glass
  • A UV Pen (to mark you belongings in case they get pinched!)
  • A Flares Bottle Opener (actually, I think I somehow picked up two!!)
  • A Shot Glass 
  • Money-off vouchers for the local supermarket

6. Always keep an eye on your washing

This is something that I am incredibly thankful that I didn't experience myself, but I've seen it happen. Laundry rooms in Halls get incredibly busy (unless you do your washing early on a Sunday morning when everyone is soothing their hangovers!!), so whatever you do always make sure that you are in the Laundry room when your washing finishes.

Why, you might ask?

Because students are an impatient bunch, and if the washer has finished, they will take it out and replace the stuff with their own! If you left a basket on top, you might be lucky and find you clothing in it, but I've seen stuff just thrown on the floor.

I'm not sure which bit is the worst: the idea of your stuff being thrown aside, or the idea of someone touching your smalls (eew!)

7. Leave your Bedroom door open

This is actually something that I read just before I went to Uni myself, however if you are looking to make friends with your flatmates, leave your door open. The idea being that an open door is welcoming, and it tells people that it's okay for them to come in.

Then, when you don't feel like socialising so much, it should be pretty clear to people that a closed door means they should stay away, or at least be cautious!

8. Don't expect to learn much in Lectures

Unlike School, Uni learning is what you make of it. You have to take control and as a rule, lectures are designed purely to plant the initial seeds. It is then your job to plant those seeds, open up your books and pretty much teach yourself.

Of course tutors may offer guidance, but it really is up to you to study, research and help yourself to fully understand the relevant areas of your course and modules. It is up to you to organise yourself and your time.

9. Don't expect Uni to be like what you read in magazines, books or the prospectus

The University experience is different for absolutely everyone. Some people make lots of lifelong friends, whilst others don't make many. Some people love their course, whilst others just kind of plod along and get on with it. 

I guess what I'm trying to say is: don't go to Uni with high expectations, because the chances are that you won't fulfil any of them.

Just go with the flow, and see where Uni life takes you.

10. Keep a close eye on your Finances


It's easy to want to spend all of your loan money over the first few weeks of the semester, especially when you know that you have an overdraft to fall back on, but I really do recommend trying to at least gain a little control over your spending.

When I started Uni, I opened up a Student Account with HSBC that came with an overdraft. However, I didn't put my student loan into that account. Instead, I had the money go into an existing account, that didn't have an overdraft, and each week I would drip feed my loan into my student account to prevent me from spending it all too quickly. I did this by dividing my loan into the number of weeks I needed to cover and then set up a Direct Debit to move the money over each Monday.

Of course I still had the overdraft, and yes I will confess that I went heavily into it, but at least I wasn't spending the loan too quickly. 


Yesterday, the lovely Robyn also pointed out the need to keep a supply of loo roll for yourself, which is definitely another way of making life easier for yourself. 

But what other tips would you give new students, to make their lives easier? 

What do you wish you'd known about, before you went?

Did you make any mistakes? Have any regrets?


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