How can I prepare?

How you prepare to start a new course will depend on what, where and how you have chosen to study. Starting something new is a challenge for most people, but there are lots of things that you can plan for in advance to make the transition easier.

Preparing to study

Studying can be demanding so it is natural to feel anxious about this at first. To help you feel in control, it is useful to get as much information as possible about what is expected of you, and what is available to help you with the course. Try to find out:

  • How and when will your work be assessed?
  • How many lectures, seminars, lab sessions or other appointments will you be expected to attend?
  • How many written tasks will you be expected to complete?
  • Will you have to give presentations or explain your work?

Where can I find this information?

You might get this information from:

  • An information pack
  • An internal website, such as WebLearn or BlackBoard
  • A syllabus, which sets out what is required of students and how work is assessed, including mark schemes
  • Past exam papers, which may be accessed through the university or college library or an internal website
  • A course timetable, which may vary between weeks
  • Your academic tutor or course administrator

Getting used to a new environment

Taking time to get used to the new environment may help you feel more relaxed. Try to:

  • Find places where you will need to study, such as the library, laboratories, or venues for your lectures and classes
  • Find the Students’ Union and check out what they have to offer.
  • Find out how to get important books or other equipment that you will need for your classes
  • Learn how to access IT services and find the student network or intranet you should log into, if there is one

“What I found hard was having to make friends and get on with my flatmates, and adjust to communal life, which is often noisy and stressful. Also overcoming shyness in order to talk to classmates.”

Where will I live?

If you are moving away from home, you will need to arrange accommodation. You may be able to stay in halls of residence, or you may prefer to find your own housing. Think about what kind of accommodation you would like.

  • Catered accommodation. You might prefer this so you do not have to worry about food and cooking, and you may have more opportunities to get to know other students
  • Self-catered accommodation. This may give you more personal space and independence, and might be cheaper as you can budget for your food yourself
  • Off-campus accommodation. Some universities may offer smaller self-catering properties, which provide a more independent lifestyle. If you do not want to live in halls, you can also choose to find your own accommodation

Building a new social life

Finding new friends and building a social life is a big part of starting your course, and can be a challenge for everyone in the first few weeks. Try to take things at a pace you are comfortable with, and make time to look after yourself too. You could:

  • Leave your door open while you are in your room, as this will invite people to pop in and say hello
  • Be on hand in the kitchen to boil a kettle and share a cup of tea
  • Ask your hall/flat mates if they would like to explore the campus or town centre together
  • Introduce yourself to the stranger you are sat next to in lectures
  • Join a society at your Students’ Union; many student societies have taster sessions at the start of the year for you to find one that suits you

If you are studying online or doing a distance learning course, try to make contact with fellow students. This may be through an online community that your course has set up, or through informal groups on social media.

Coping with homesickness

Many students feel homesick in the first few weeks at university. It is natural to feel unsettled and it might take time before you feel at home in your new environment. Here are some things you can try:

  • Make your new room your own by personalising your room, you could do so by putting up posters or adding a blanket to your bed
  • Keep busy with new opportunities by giving events or student societies a try
  • Offer to make your new flat mates a hot drink; they might be feeling homesick too

Planning your health care

If you are currently receiving treatment for a mental health problem and you register with a new family doctor, the support you get may change. You may have new assessments and your new family doctor may advise on a new treatment plan. To minimise the disruption, it can help to plan early, even as soon as you have chosen a course or accepted a place.

Talk to your current family doctor about:

  • The move and the implications for your treatment
  • How your medical notes will be transferred and what they can do to ensure that your new family doctor understands your medical needs
  • Reviewing any medication you are taking that may affect your studies
  • Writing a summary letter about your medical history for your new family doctor

Speak to the admissions office at your university about:

  • The medical services or practice that students in your university or college tend to use; this may be an on-campus practice
  • Contacting a Mental Health Advisor and your university or college who can support your transition to university

Managing your finances

Studying is likely to affect your personal finances. The money you receive and the way you get it may change. It is important to think about how you will pay for essentials like food, housing, and tuition fees, and course costs such as textbooks and other equipment.

“[I try to] be sensible with my spending where possible – I always ensure I can afford to eat well but do leave enough to treat myself from time to time.”

Some things to consider:

  • Will you have a reduced income from work? For example, will you be working fewer hours?
  • Will you still be entitled to any benefits that you have previously received? Speak to your benefits office or job center
  • Will you have to pay council tax? Check with your local council to find out about any discounts
  • Are you eligible for a tuition fee or maintenance loan?
  • Does the college or university you are studying at have hardship funds, scholarships or other funding you can access? Your Students’ Union Advice Service may have further information about specific support at your college or university
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