I know a lot of readers are around the 18 age mark and I hope you are all happy with your results today!! A few of my friends got theirs and I was praying with them! Some didn't get into their first choices but after ringing round they've come out better in the end, fate seals itself it seems. Last year a few weeks before the bitter sweet move I was googling freshers advice and what to take down so here are some tips if you're about to start Uni, and if I've missed anything out or if you've done the Uni thing please comment and I'll add them on!
The main thing you seem to associate university with is a huge lack of money and adopting thrifty habits for the sake of beer. I guess this really depends on circumstances. If like me you live in a single parent household you will most likely get a grant, which means you wont fall on hard times. But most have to live off the little loan they have left once accommodation is paid. I'd definitely recommend doing your accom. payments in three instalments, one each term as your loan comes in or else you will spend it. If you're in the position where you have to keep asking your parents to top up your account like most of my friends had to, it's pretty different. I guess it depends how generous your parents are!
My one friend's parents put £1000 in her account at the start of term and said tell us when it runs out, we'll see how it goes. One friend had her parents write out checks for certain dates for her accommodation payments, but if you're parents are giving you living funds, I think that's a good idea. It's almost like when you wait for payday. Most friends just got their parents to put in £100 or so at a time. A good idea is to use a debit card for all payments, that way you can show your bill to your 'rents and say 'look, I've spent money in Sainsbury's, Superdrug, Subway, The Student Union, and took out £20 for nights out.' That way they can't say 'omg what are you spending my money on!'.
In terms of how much you will spend, I spent quite lavishly. For the first time I had lots of money and got a big bursary too. Personally I spent around £10 on weekend food and lunch (I was in catered halls remember?), around £5 on eating out for 'take out sunday', £10-20 on general stuff like washing machines, books, paper, phone credit, etc, around £20-30 on going out, and most weeks I had extras. These would be train fare home, any clothes, presents for people or maybe random stuff say like a toaster or clothes horse or new towels. I could easily spend up to £100 a week and feel I was thrifty. The thing was though, I really wasn't. If I went into H&M, say ,and liked a blouse I would think 'hmmmm, £25, that's like my whole week of going out, well I've got £583 in my bank, I'll be topped up by next months loan instalment, it's not like I don't have the money.' I never actually prevented myself from buying things ever. I had the illusion of being poor when I didn't think much about shelling out for a few 'one off needs' over the year, namely a new camera after mine broke, a sewing machine, a £55 jacket, Spice Girls tickets, just random stuff!
This year I am saving big time though. My one friend spent an average of £25 a week! Seriously! She wouldn't be like 'oo I'm going out I've got £7 in my purse, I'll get out another tenner if I need it'. If she can do it, maybe you and I can do it.
Some people took out their budget at the start of the week and didn't get out any more money, this could work for you.
It's quite exciting to go food shopping at first because you buy exactly what you fancy- chocolate croissants, cookies, cool cereal, bagels, etc. This makes you eat it faster. Buy the basics and one treat, when you get to the counter always choose one thing to put back.
It's normal to think 'right I'm a student, it's only Primark for me now!' At the start of the year I only bought cheap clothes which I didn't get much wear out of because they made me feel cheap. That's a good Primark tip, the dress might be nice but on you know it was cheap so you just don't get excited to wear it as much. Think twice about buying things you love and it will be worth it. As always, do the charity shops and thrift stores and eBay!
Open one of those savings account where you can't draw anything out until a certain date if you need to pay rent instalments/can't keep to a budget. It's so confusing to look at a bank screen with a three or four figure amount and say 'no I can't afford that this week'.
Student beans.com- fab deals and cheap hair cuts!
Shop in supermarkets like Lidl and Aldi. This isn't necessarily for the cheapness, it's mainly because they're the kind of place where you need a list to take, where as the main supermarkets lay everything out in front of your eyes, e.g.: 'here's the cereal isle... look at all this cereal, you totally need some... oo this is on offer!... and the milk is right next door!' So tempting!
Open the Natwest student account to get the free rail card but be warned, the £1250 overdraft is LETHAL (see below)
Stick to one account for overall spending. It may be good to set aside your rent in one, but for general use, use only one account. I used two and one would be empty but the other full, so I was always confused at my total balance and it felt like I wasn't spending as much until the full one dwindled!
At the start of the year, don't minus your rent and them divide the rest by 40 weeks. Remember stuff like a hefty bus pass, the costly train travel home, etc. Minus a few hundred and then work out a budget. I found a budget made me want to spend more but I never stuck strictly to a routine. It would have been different if I hadn't had...
I don't think I even needed an overdraft but I got one. A big mistake! Ok not totally. I got one at first as I'd used up my grant and loan on my rent in the first term and had ran out of money. My thinking was 'when I get the next instalments I will top up what I've spent.' But the overdrafts they give are SO high that you spend loads because it's like free money! Some of my friends only ever dipped in the odd £10-50 and freaked out a bit, but once you're into the hundreds there is no going back. Beware of huge limits like the Natwest one, you can ask for a smaller one! I would recommend getting one of around £500 as you may need it to cover the first term like I did, but if you see yourself abusing it, act right away.
Leaving Mom and Dad
I felt the up most guilt for moving away, especially when my Nan was crying on our doorstep and our car was driving away! But honestly you go home at least twice in one term usually. It's a strange miracle that my Mom and Dad were in the same car together for two hours! If you're unsure about directions, as soon at you get to your city on the day you are moving down, you will see loads of cars full of packing and suitcases, and you so know they're a fresher too! Just follow them! Although highly embarrassing Dads may think it is funny to wind down blacked out windows when you stop near one at traffic lights to 'make friends', causing the said new fresher and his whole family to look towards your car at you trying to hide! I was also quite embarrassed around my parents as I was a bit like 'OK you can go now, I'm trying to be cool and look friendly in front of my house mates!' but when they drove off it was pretty sad. If going to Manchester, you don't need to go down on the Thursday that they suggest (if they suggest Thursday this year that is), most people move in on the weekend so you won't be alone on the first few days like I was!
When moving away from Uni it's a bit like you have two lives. When you're at home it's almost as though you never even went away, so it's not as though you get totally homesick so that it's depressing or feel a huge hole, you adjust quickly.
The First Week
After results day especially, keep every single letter sent to you in a safe place, I just cleared out a random draw and labelled it the 'safe draw'- hey it was messy as usual but I knew where everything was! A most important letter is one Ucas will send you a few days after you've confirmed your place. This is used to register you at Uni and to take to the bank to open a student account. Take them all down to Uni in a folder. I thought the second I arrived my loan and grant would go into my bank account but you are given a set time to register at the Uni and get your library card etc, and so it takes around a week. Therefore, take money for freshers week!! £100-200 would be a good amount.
I'm not even going to stress about making friends because you 100% will! As soon as you move in it's like the law that the people on your corridor or in your flat are your new friends, so at first you all meet and hang out, then maybe you'll meet people in neighbouring halls or on your course and you start to drift towards the people you click with the most. I spent a lot of the first few days with my room door open (a BIG must for friendliness!) thinking 'I hope someone comes and says hello to me!' I don't know why I didn't go find others as it's what half the people are wishing and half the people are doing! Also in my first lecture I was sitting by myself like most and a girl sat next to me and said 'I didn't want to sit by myself! Hi, what's your name?' and I was thinking 'yay someone's talking to me!'. The thing is, I should have just done that to someone else on their own as no one knows anyone. Just keep talking to people through out the first months. If you spoke to them one lecture then speak to them the next and introduce them to your new friends. It's a bit sad to think of all the girls I spoke to in the first month but now they're not in my friendship circle so it would be weird to just go and talk to, almost like a stranger. All it would have took was a little hi every time I saw them! Also compliments are your best friends, you know how a girl loves to hear 'I love your shoes!' as a conversation starter!
Even though it's meant to be 'a blast dude!!!!!', freshers week is a bit weird. Going clubbing and getting drunk in front of and with people you've known for a few hours and don't even remember the names of is a bit weird. But a good kind of weird! Be sure to have a party one night and crank up the music- you'll be surprised at how many people come when they hear it and you'll meet people from all over your halls. Again I met people at those freshers parties who I either never saw or spoke to again! Not in a bad way, just in freshers week you meet so many people. Each campus does seem to have the player guy or girl that everyone knows and that's probably because they kept talking to everyone they met.
Make sure if you're going out you knock on everyone's door in your flat/corridor, invite everyone out! Hanging around the kitchen seems the best place to meet people. It will be funny as you will most likely talk to someone's parents before them as they try to make friends for their daughter/son. If you're going to Manchester, the freshers ball seriously isn't all that, especially not for £20, which is basically what your 'fresher's ticket' is paying for. But make sure you get a pink ticket, don't go to the 'live bands' blue ball unless you want to see a Robbie Williams tribute!! Go to the freshers fair at least once for the freebies and if you want to see around 500 students in a queue! It's worth the wait though. As always, register with the Uni ASAP for your loan and grant to come in fast, even if there are huge queues!
I spent freshers week so tired from partying all night and then going out the next night, etc. If you have meanie lecturers like mine who set a dumb project for the first week, know that you do have to get up or else it wont be such a nice experience!
Wanna know a secret? I didn't buy one single book for my course. Seriously! I was sent a list before I arrived of advised books to buy, and recommended books left, right and centre by every lecturer, but I didn't buy one. Now that's not saying that I didn't use them, for essays and assignments they made a huge difference, and during revision I was definitely down that library to confirm notes. So most are right in your library! When given a list go straight there after the lecture to check them out quickly. Despite what I say, it really might be a good idea to get some books, but do your research, check if you'll actually use them, and look on your course notice board for second years who are selling them. If the lecturer recommends one great book, then get it. But if they recommend five for one module, choose one. My course was pretty small, but for things like Politics or Medicine, I know that books were checked out the library very fast. Also look on eBay and Amazon before going straight to Blackwells.
Alcohol and Drugs
You'll probably take a drastic jump from your alcohol consumption now. I'm no government alcohol and you've probably experienced a night of one too many by now so all I would say is don't make a fool of yourself in the first week, reps stick! Also remember you're living with your mates now, especially guys, so it's not like you want to do something stupid that would be remembered. As for drugs, there are loads of stoners who usually progress onto stronger stuff. At freshers fairs there are actual drug dealers who go round advertising their services secretly even right next to pizza hut advertising their student deals! Personally I would never take anything stupid as who knows what's in the stuff you're offered, but if you are doing anything illegal, especially drugs, you can be chucked out of your halls or even Uni, is it really worth it? The old sock over the smoke detector doesn't work.
Extras to take down with you...
I'm sure you'll pack your entire bedroom but here are a few random thing you might forget/not think about....
A kettle/toaster or toasty maker- always good! Mind the heat though... and speaking of that...
NO CANDLES! I know someone was chucked out of my halls for lighting a tea light and setting off the fire alarm... while we're speaking about that...
DON'T SET OFF THE FIRE ALARM! Obviously I don't think you would, but people do, and it even confirms on Wikipedia that in my halls 3 guys were chucked out on the very first night for setting one off... just encase...
Dress Up Clothes- you will need every outfit you can lay your hands on! The very first night I went to was an army theme!
A clothes rack/clothes horse- there will most probably be no where for you to dry anything, especially towels or bed sheets.
Hangers!- How the hell did I forget hangers?! Que me in Primark too many times buying a £1 bangle and saying 'Could you chuck a few hangers in the bag too... say like 15?'
Food- Obvs on the first night you'll need something to eat, and maybe for the first few days when you don't have time to shop yet.
Alcohol- guaranteed to gather a few new friends but please drink in moderation- do you really want to get a rep on the first night?!!
Hang over cures- you will need these for freshers week! Think fruit or Red Bull or Pro Plus or whatever floats your boat!
New outfits!!!- when meeting new people and feeling a bit shy and self conscious, it's so much better in an outfit you love. During freshers week make sure you have lots of set outfits to go out in and wear during the day so you are not stuck and have to wear something you don't really like.
Getting a job
I did literally nothing on weekends so I wouldn't think a job interferes with your course too much. Send CVs down before you even move to your city so you have interviews straight away. I knew someone who worked at Dorothy Perkins and Tesco and didn't come to any lectures which really defeats the point of being there in the end? Working just weekends seems the best, or there is tonnes of work handing out flyers and bar work.
Living and lecturing
My friend once said the most obvious but wise thing to me when I marvelled at how she went to every single lecture, 'I'm paying for the lecture so why wouldn't I go to it'. For £3145 a year it probably works out that each lecture is money you wouldn't want to throw away, so try to get into the routine of always going to your lectures. And if you have a 9am lecture and you're out the night before, you really won't go! Don't do an all nighter because it's just not worth it. It's even worse when you don't attend and miss something you can't catch up on. Lecturers aren't teachers either, so whatever they tell you, you have to take further and practise or gather more information yourself. This year for example I did Introduction to Maths for Managers, which showed me how much they need to teach you and how little they do. I did Maths and Further Maths Alevel so I was sorted but half my class hadn't done Maths since GCSE and it showed how they expected to refresh their memory and teach them A level topics and well as a few Further Maths topics in three months?! I really proved to me how lecturers will give you the raw basics and all the extra work you have to do yourself, so in subjects I hadn't done before like Economics I got help from friends already doing the subject and worked even harder.
Special Manchester tips...
Students are like the love children of Manchester, it's a shock when I see a child or pensioner because sometimes it feels like the whole city is catered to students. Freshers will mean loooooads of flyers thrown in your direction and there's so many places to go! I would recommend then going on the major pub crawls that are on, such as VodBul. Definitely go on a pub crawl that ends up at the clubs M2 or TigerTiger which will mean tonnes of people will go.
Now when I started Uni I was a total indie cindy but this will most likely change as you start appreciating that Britney is way better to dance to! That statement would have possibly made me sick last August but I stick to my guns! Be open to new music and new clubs.
Throughout the week the best studenty nights out are-
M2- on Wednesdays it's the AU (athletics union) social, where one of the sports teams at Manchester will sell the tickets to gain profit and always pick a dressing up theme to do it in. Fifty rugby players dressed as silver surfers in just grey boxers- hello! Fifty hockey players in green body paint as Kermit the frog- not so much...! This is one of the main student nights and plays a pretty wide range of music, but mainly good chart/pop and some cheese. Get off the bus at the top of Oxford Road where the trams meet and follow everyone else!
TigerTiger- a lot of north campus people party here, it's similar to M2 but a bit classier and more rooms. it's past Primark, follow the tram tracks
Birdcage-Rehab's good on a Wednesday although you have a hard time getting to the bar!
Pout @ Revolution Deansgate- Small compared to others but nice drinks and good music.
Paradise Factory (or now called the club)- Electro/DnB music so don't go if you like to sing along, good for a different sort of night out.
5th Ave- biggest student indie club, very cheap drinks (think 80p a bottle) and good indie tunes, always packed in the end. Best on Wednesday but have something on almost every night
Zoo- possibly our favourite club on a Thursday for 'Cheap as Chips' as it's really small so always full, they play a great mix of chart/indie/90's pop, their drinks are definitely cheap, and everyone is up dancing.
There are of course other places, Opus on a Thursday is mainly the Asian (as in Indian, not Chinese)crowd and there's a new night called Aquapop or something that's meant to be big? Last but not least there is the BOP held in the Owens Park bar on a Friday which always has a dressing up theme. Drinks are cheap and if you don't live in OP it's £3 or £4- get there eeeearly at like 9 if you want guaranteed entry! And dress up! Also it's a bit like a school disco if you're not really really drunk.
Most of the clubs in Manchester require you to buy tickets for entry. You get them from the newsagents or off licences near your halls or people sell them in the street. In freshers people will come up and sell you tickets so don't worry, but after that get your tickets early!
Also a point to note would be that in freshers it was a bit weird when deciding what to wear as you feel like you can't get too dressed up as you're going out with people you don't know too well and it's quite casual. When you get to the club people will be all dressed up though and you might, like me, feel a bit underdressed if you just decided to go in what you were wearing that day to try out the club, but everyone is glammed up.
OK that's all I can think of right now! I hope it helped!