Fresher's weeks has landed, meaning hundreds of thousands of undergraduates are starting their journeys as university students at higher education establishments across the country.
There will also be plenty of students returning for second, third or even fourth years, who are maybe still looking for top tips on how to manage student life.
With this in mind, we've come up with some advice on how to prepare for uni – whether you're a first-time student or a returning one.
Learn how to cook cheap and healthy food
Long gone are the days where students survive on cold beans and Pot Noodles. Times have changed and spag bol, curries, omelettes, pasta and stir-fries are good one-pot staples that don't require a huge amount of skill or money – and you save on the washing up, too!
It’s also good to get an understanding of how far basic, cheap ingredients can go. Rice, pasta and other grains are cheap and can be bought in bulk, while herbs, spices, salad, fruit and veg can be purchased on the cheap from all major supermarkets.
With students now more aware of their health and the environment, cooking sustainably and ethically will be more important – you may want to consider following a vegan or vegetarian diet, which is affordable and very on-trend, or simply reduce the amount of meat and dairy you consume. There are stacks of helpful apps, recipe books, YouTube tutorials and websites to help you cook well on a budget.
Remember, though, to be socially aware when it comes to food. Don’t, for example, label your goods in the fridge – this will only serve to annoy your housemates and give off the wrong vibes. If possible, cooking (and shopping) on a communal basis can help you to form tight bonds with your housemates and reduce the chances of any disputes over ingredients.
The scourge of many a student down the years – it's all too easy to find other things to do that aren't work. To avoid distraction and an unhelpful binge on the latest must-watch Netflix series, there are techniques you can use – such as working in bursts (25 minutes of work followed by a five-minute break, for example).
Apps such as Evernote can help you to stay organised and focused – and also enable you keep on top of tasks and deadlines – while there are a vast range of other productivity apps that can help to keep you in the zone.
It’s also a wise idea to regularly store and save work on a reliable cloud-based system. One, so you can access it anywhere. Two, so you don’t lose hours of vital work if you accidentally forget to save the essay you’re writing or if your laptop/tablet crashes suddenly. There are a wide array of free cloud storage services on offer, including Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive and iCloud.
To make the most of your student experience, you’ll want to remain safe at all times. While the risk of anything bad happening to you is low, there are certain precautions that you may want to take.
Unfortunately, burglaries of student homes can be quite common, so using UV pens and SmartWater to mark your property will help in the case of a burglary. It can also be beneficial to take out some contents insurance, which will have you covered in the event your possessions are stolen or accidentally damaged (our contents insurance also provides up to £300 per claim for mobile phones as standard).
You also need to be aware of staying safe while out drinking. To prevent your drinks from being spiked make sure that you never leave them unattended (and keep a close eye on your friends’ drinks too), stick to bottled drinks rather than punchbowls or jugs of cocktails and don’t accept a drink from someone you don’t know. If you think your drink has been spiked, don’t drink it and tell a trusted friend or relative straightaway.
If you start to feel odd, strange or more drunk than the number of drinks you’ve consumed would suggest you should be, seek assistance immediately.
Most universities provide a safe taxi scheme, to ensure students in a vulnerable state or with no money left on them can get home safely after a night out, while Sheffield Students’ Union has set up a Women’s Minibus – taking female students from outside the student union directly to their door – which may be embraced by other student unions in the future.
Enjoy the perks of being a student
Student union cards and the NUS’ TOTUM card provide discounts at a range of shops, restaurants, supermarkets and coffee chains, while students can often get in cheaper at museums, sports events, cinemas, theme parks and leisure venues.
Play the student card as much as you can. More often than not, you'll get some sort of discount.
Websites such as Groupon, Wowcher and VoucherCodes can also allow you to live well on a budget, while Compare the Market offers various 2 for 1 deals on meals and cinema tickets.
Discounts can also be secured on coach, train and bus travel, while a host of student-based apps offer everything from cheap ways to get gig tickets (DICE) to cashback at local supermarkets (Shopmium).
It’s also a good idea to keep up to date with social media feeds – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc – for the chance of free food, free events and fun activities in your uni town or city.
Look after yourself
Mental health and well-being are an increasing concern among the student population, so it may be worth your while taking up yoga or meditation to keep your stress levels low.
Some might argue 'what do students have to worry about?', but all the pressures of exams, making friends, settling in, managing money and living away from parents for the first time can take their toll.
It's important not to neglect your mental health, particularly at a time when your brain needs to be functioning at its best level. Eating well (most of the time) and doing regular exercise will also help.
What’s more, be on the lookout for support networks at your uni for mental health well-being (nearly all unis will provide this) and create your own support networks – looking out for friends and making sure you’re there to support them, and vice versa.
Keep an eye out for signals that one of your friends might be struggling. Men typically find it much more difficult to talk about their anxieties, so be aware of this even if they seem fine on the outside.
Ride like a pro
Across the country cycling has become an increasingly popular pursuit – no doubt helped by the recent exploits of Britain’s top cyclists. And it’s no different for fitness-conscious students.
If you’re a keen cyclist, there are certain precautions you need to take. Familiarise yourself with local cycling paths and routes, which will help to swerve the nightmare scenario of accidentally ending up on a motorway when you should be in lectures.
Safety is also paramount. It goes without saying, but don’t cycle home from the pub while drunk. It’s a recipe for disaster. Equally, make sure you have all the necessary safety equipment, particularly if you plan to join the traffic on the roads while heading to uni.
Additionally, bike safety is a key consideration. To keep your bike safe from thieves, make sure you use a strong metal D-lock (about £12) rather than a cable lock, with the latter being an open invitation to those with the means and knowhow to steal bikes. Bicycle insurance may also be worth your while.
Make the most of all aspects of uni life and take advantage of the support system provided by your university to get the most out of your experience.