Starting university: a guide for students

White curve
Living independently

Managing your finances, shopping, meal planning and cooking. Depending on your point of view, this is either hugely dull or really exciting. Either way, welcome to adulting!

Setting a weekly budget can help, especially if you’re having to make your loan last or learning to cope financially on your own for the first time. If you’re worried about your finances, you are definitely not alone: but try to ask for help before it becomes overwhelming. Your uni should have a team that can support or advise you on money matters.

You’re now fully responsible for getting yourself to and from uni on time, as well as keeping yourself, your clothes and your room clean and looking after your health. Use the alarm clock on your phone and get into good sleep patterns if you can. Register with a GP in your university town in case you need treatment during the months ahead.

In general, students tend to fall into one of two categories:

Optimist or worrier diagram

The Optimist

It can be very exciting to make your own decisions - to live off takeaways, leave your room in a mess, and to do what you feel like doing rather than what you should be doing.

Yet if you don’t look after your physical wellbeing, you may struggle with your academic demands and your mental health may suffer too.

Also, it’s worth remembering that you’re paying a lot for your course, so missing university classes or lectures makes little sense: it’ll only be you who loses out in the long run. While first year doesn’t always count towards your final result, it’s here that you build a foundation and you also need to pass at the very least. Some employers may later ask you about your first year experience and learnings, and it can also knock your confidence if you don’t do well.

Someone servering up dinner

The Worrier

It can be hard to trust your judgement and make good decisions when you’re frightened of getting everything wrong. It’s tricky to strike a healthy balance between sleep, food and finances.

In order to learn to make decisions, you have to practice making decisions. Getting things wrong is not the end of the world and you’ll know what to do right next time.

Constantly eating ready meals is not ideal for your health (not every day, at least), so think about learning some simple recipes - there are plenty of free YouTube tutorials. Cooking can be a great ice breaker in shared accommodation and a way to get to know others, and if it ends up in a culinary disaster, that’s just part of the fun of student life.

Washing machines aren’t complicated, and the internet is great for finding things out - you don’t always have to phone home every time you need to know how to do something. It can also be helpful to get advice from others if you need to make a big financial outlay such as buying some new technology; asking for the opinions of others is sensible and something we should continue to do throughout our lives.

Girl with headphones in on train



Starting University

A resource for young people about to start university

View resource

Wellbeing Action Plan (child)

A simple, resource to help young people keep themselves well and get them through difficult times

View resource

Warning signs poster

A bold A3 poster showing the warning signs that tell you when someone may be depressed. This poster could save a life.

View resource

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