Starting University – advice and tips

Many students have confirmed their place at university following the receipt of their results. A common challenge most of these face students is the short turnaround time to prepare for university which is typically at most 2 months for BTEC and just over a month for A-level and SQA students – for courses starting in September.

This often leads to many rushed decisions concerning accommodation, financial preparation and course materials as well as other aspects. This post will share some vital information to have students prepared to start university this year.


It’s likely that students would have arranged for their accommodation before receiving their results. However, upon receival of results not all students may be going to the same university or some may be doing a different course in a different location at the same university. Many students will be making their accommodation plans now. A key thing to note is that it’s hardly ever too late to change your accommodation.

  •  Choose somewhere close to your course. University is expensive enough and you don’t want to bear the burden of having the additional cost of travel to and from lectures. Staying somewhere close to where most of your lectures are will give you more financial freedom and will make university less exhaustive. 
  •  It’s never too late to change. If you don’t enjoy where you’re staying you can always move. Universities typically take accommodation payments in instalments, so changing before the next payment instalment is due will allow you to smoothly transition into a new accommodation area.
  •  Avoid staying alone in first year. Private studio apartments can be appealing as they boast nice facilities such as your own bathroom and kitchen. However, staying by yourself can be very lonely and make it difficult for you to make friends and experience different social events. Furthermore, a lot of university halls or private halls have these studio apartments which are not always advertised well so find out if they’re available.
  •  Try to find out as much about where you’re staying as possible. A good way to do this is through social media and looking for a Facebook group of that accommodation place.
  •  If you’re staying in catered accommodation find out about the quality of the food.

Financial Preparation

Being financially prepared before you start university is essential to avoid any monetary mishaps.

  • Be as informed as possible about your income. If you are receiving student loan, then information about your income from the loan can be found on the student finance website. If you plan to work during university find out or realistically forecast how much you would be earning monthly.
  • Similarly, know as much as possible about your costs. Costs can include, travel, food, accommodation payments, course materials, printing and photocopying, society subscriptions, gym memberships, sports membership, clothes and toiletries and personal. 
  • Stay up to date with your costs. Be aware of your cash outflows. A lot of money can be spent on night outs (entrance fees, cabs, drinks and food) so make sure that your factor these costs in when doing your financial planning to avoid running out of money.

Course Materials

Every course differs in its requirements and the importance of course materials consequently varies. Here are some general tips concerning course materials:

  • Not everything on your reading list needs to be read. Reading lists often contain a range of textbooks varying in importance between essential, supplementary and optional reading materials. Find out which ones are crucial for your course by speaking to your module convenor and students in the years above or those who have studied the same modules.
  • Many textbooks are available online and in the library. Before you fork out your monthly income on textbooks find out if you can access them via online educational portals or in your university library. It’s unlikely that you will need sustained possession of these textbooks so if you can access a preview or trial online or borrow the book from the library for a fixed period of time – this will save you a lot of money.

Extra-Curricular activities

One of the major selling points of university is that there is often a society or sport for everyone. 

  • Don’t wait too long to join a society or sports team. Waiting too long to join a team will often lead to you not joining at all. It’s best to find out as much information as possible about the sports teams and societies that your university has to offer during the fresher’s fair and first couple of weeks and sign up to a couple straight away.
  • Go with another person (friend, housemate, someone you’ve meet at the fresher’s fair). It can be daunting going to a sports team/society by yourself for the first-time, especially for those who aren’t used to partaking in extra-curricular activities. Finding someone to go with will motivate you more to join the team/society.
  • Stay committed. There is a lot of spare time in university and its easy to spend your time binge watching Netflix series at night and going out every night. These things can make it difficult for you to commit to the societies and sports teams that you’ve joined. 

Study Plan

Managing your time effectively is one of the keys to success at university. Developing a robust weekly study plan will help you to achieve this.

  • Become informed of your timetable as soon as possible and use this to develop your study plan. Be sure to note any additional seminars/practical workshops/term-time assessments which may happen during each term.
  • Once you have a comprehensive timetable listing all of your course requirements you can begin to make your weekly study plan. 
  • Use Microsoft word or Excel to create a table listing out the lectures, seminars, assessments etc that you have to attend for that week. 
  • In the time you have outside of these course requirements, set aside at least two hours per day for private study.
  • Ensure your private study covers all of your course content for that week and detail what you would be doing in each private study session per day.
  • Its important that you adapt your weekly study plan each week to meet any changes in your course requirements.

Importance of social media

A lot of what happens during university is on social media and you can find an abundance of current information concerning a range of topics on social platforms.

  • Join groups relating to your experience at university which share up-to-date information that will be useful to you. For example, if your university halls or sports team have a Facebook group or Instagram page for your year then join/follow them to keep yourself updated.
  • Check these groups regularly for information that could affect you.
  • Find general groups that share important information regarding your university and the town/city that your university is in. These groups can provide some useful information about the local area and key events happening at your university that may be important to you.

Other important tips

  • Research any academic, sports, financial scholarships or bursaries you may be eligible to apply for. This will help to alleviate some of the costs you face and can increase your income.
  • Stay safe when travelling alone after a night out. It’s best to make your way home in groups.
  • Try to maintain a healthy diet at university. It’s easy to order takeaways every night especially when that student loan drops. Try to avoid eating fast-food on a regular basis for health and financial reasons.
  • Research about career opportunities available at your university. Attend careers fairs to get an insight into the different career options related to your course and interests and search online for internships and work experience opportunities.

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