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Three things you need to know before you start university!

By Lisette Johnston

10 September 2019

Here are three things that you need to know before starting university: finance, wellbeing, and packing.


  • Banking: if you don’t already have a bank account – once you have registered and got a student card you can open a new student account, or convert your existing account. Lots of student accounts come with benefits such as free student railcards or cheap house or mobile phone or travel insurance. Investigate the options before you choose.
  • Overdraft: some student accounts also come with overdrafts, and if you aren’t used to dealing with your own money, it’s easy to go ‘over daft’. Try to keep an overdraft for emergencies, it is not free money, it’s not even really yours.
  • Budget: do not blow your student loan all at once. Set a realistic budget for yourself for each week. It’s very easy to think you need all the new sports kit, a new haircut, new clothes and to eat and drink out every night, but pretty soon you might not have enough money for next month’s rent or a pint of milk. So try and be sensible as being too poor to eat properly and look after yourself will make you stressed and that’s not great when you are first starting out.


  • Make friends: this means leaving your room and saying hello to people; If you are in halls, most people will be in the very same boat and living away from home for the first time. 20 years later I am still in touch with people I met in fresher’s week, one was even a bridesmaid at my wedding. So open your door and be open-minded at fresher’s events and when you come to class for the first time.
  • But don’t try too hard: you don’t need to be everyone’s friend, you don’t need to go to every night out, and you shouldn’t join every society (do you really need to enrol in the fencing club when you have already joined videography, canoeing, chess and photography?). Don’t have FOMO when you have an essay due. There will be other events and other nights out.
  • Watch your mood: moving to uni is a daunting thing, don’t forget about the support available from your uni and families and friends if it all seems a bit overwhelming. There are lots of support networks out there. And while student life does mean freedom, going all out drinking every night in the short term sounds fun, long term it can lead to problems and won’t help your mood as much as a walk or run in the park and a nice chat over a coffee will.
  • Register with a GP: you might have a dentist in Dundee, but if you have moved to Dorset that’s not much help.


  • Remember important documents: depending on the course, you might need your qualifications, certificates, proof of family income and ID. A lot is done digitally these days but it never hurts to have scans or paper copies if you need to file something with finance or student services.
  • Do a checklist: depending on where you move to, or if you move at all, you might not need to bring everything you own. If you are in catered accommodation, you should be good, if you are in shared flats or halls, perhaps wait till you have seen the kitchen before you go out and buy a full set of pots and pans. A kitchen doesn’t need 10 tin openers, and you might not cook a lot in the first few weeks anyway while you are getting to know your uni and your city.
  • Remember to check-in: you might be ‘finding yourself; and get drawn into the throes of student life in the union most nights, but there will be people back home who will want to know how you are doing. Gone are the days of queuing for a payphone to ring home, just check in now and again so your parents or guardians know you are alive and in one piece.

Above all, be yourself. Enjoy the experience, don’t be scared to ask questions (there is no such thing as a stupid question) and know that the people at the university, whether it be wardens, counsellors, lecturers or student ambassadors are there to help!