Top three tips for starting university

I graduated this summer and I have to admit that I am really missing university. My friends who are doing masters are all back at university and getting back into the swing of it. I miss my friends, I miss learning, I miss pushing myself academically and I miss the structure of my days. Yes, there are plenty of things I don't miss, the 104 mile daily commute, juggling school plays/children's illnesses with seminars and lectures and so on. But fundamentally, I miss it and I would go back in an instant if I could afford to do a Masters.

If you haven't seen it before, you can have a gander at my mature student's guide to university which I wrote at the beginning of my second year. Here are my top tips for starting university.

1. Relax.
Everyone is petrified in Freshers week. Fact. I burst into tears on my first day because I was totally overwhelmed. It was just as scary for me as it was for an 18 year old leaving home for the first time. In fact, when I left home at 16 I wasn't even vaguely bothered. Starting university was way scarier. Make sure you talk to people. Whoever you sit next to in a lecture or seminar. Introduce yourself and ask what they are studying. You will be amazed at how many different courses people are studying even though you take many of the same modules. The person I sat next to on my first day at uni became the person I was friends with throughout my degree, and I imagine we will be friends for many years.

2. Plan
If I can manage to fit university work into a 9-5 scenario then you can too. It was fairly rare (apart from the final few months of my final year) that I ever had to do any work at weekends. When I wasn't in lectures or seminars I was in the library. Yes, it might sound dull, but it meant that my evenings and weekends were free. Admittedly not that free because there were my two children to look after, but it ensured that I got to spend time with them. For regular students, that leaves you time to go to societies, to have a social life and to have fun.

3. Budget
This is important whatever type of student you are. As a mature student I had childcare costs, travel costs as well as a mortgage to pay and a family of four to feed. As a regular student, you have bills to pay for the first time, rent, electricity, gas, phone. The list goes on. You will be paid in three instalments of your student loan. One in October, one in January and one in April. The instalments in January and April will be the biggest (it was in my experience anyway). The only exception to this is the final year, when the April payment will be lower.

What I have found worked best for me was to have one account and a separate pre-paid debit card. The account is where your loan goes into, kind of like a holding account, and the debit card, I used to put a monthly amount into, kind of like paying yourself a salary. This really helps to budget each month. It means that you know exactly how much you have to spend each month. It also means that you don't spend your entire loan straight off, you have a reserve of money to see you through until the next instalment.

I hope you find these tips useful, they certainly saw me through university and I am proud to say I graduated this summer with a 2:1 in Philosophy, Politics and Economics. 

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Disclosure: I am entering this post into the #CurrysStudentHacks competition. This has no impact on my post, or the advice in my post.