Starting university this year? Take a tip from students who've been there, done that and sold the t-shirt for extra cash: here are the most common mistakes Save the Student hears every year - and how to give them a miss!
1. Being BFFs with the first person you meet
Everyone has that moment when they first get to uni, where they feel friendless, foolish, and, frankly, a little desperate - but that doesn't mean Simon from the bar has to be godfather to your future kids!
Join societies, join the gym, start a study group, start a book group, volunteer... do stuff that interests you and you're more likely to meet interesting people you can relate to. Fact.
2. Packing pointless kitchen gadgets
You might reckon you'll be a charming version of Gordon Ramsay as soon as you move into halls or a shared flat. You won't be.
So, forget packing niche items when the basics will get you further. Pizza wheel? Scissors. Lemon zester / juicer? Fork, hands and willpower. Sandwich toaster? Obviously - but wait until you get to uni, because you'll probably be greeted with one for each of your new flatmates. For things you do actually need, see this checklist of what to take to university.
3. Clinging to your old life
Starting university is a clean slate: from new clothes and political causes to going full hipster for a year, you can actually and literally be whoever you want.
On the other hand, you'll have friends, family and hangouts from home to keep up with - but it's all about balance. The best cure for homesickness is throwing yourself into your new life and opportunities: home will always be where you left it!
4. Going ostrich on your emotions
As if carving out a new identity and working out how photocopying cards work wasn't enough, student life can be stressful - but getting things into the open really does help. While there's no one-size remedy, you've got plenty of options:
- Samaritans or your uni's listening line
- NHS or university counselling service, or your GP or health worker
- Your university or SU will have a money adviser to help you cope with cash problems. Charities like StepChange can also give expert advice about dealing with debt.
- Your tutor or (believe it or not) bank manager - ask how they can support you.
5. Only budgeting when you're skint
Students and skint go together like travel bans and Donald Trump: ludicrous, but somehow accepted as the way of the world. When it comes to managing your cash, a plan will leave you better off - and it doesn't even have to be complicated.
Know how much money you have coming in, allocate what it has to pay for, and track where it goes to stay on target. If you want to be wealthier, increase your income or spend less (ideally, do both).
6. Ignoring extra cash
Finding extra income isn't easy - if it was, everyone would be loaded. But there is cash out there, plenty of which you may be eligible for:
- Student Finance plus uni grants, scholarships and hardship funds
- Charity, corporate or council grants or sponsorship
- Bank interest and bonuses for opening accounts (free cash!)
- Jobs you can start and run for yourself: from teaching your hobbies to upselling on eBay, there's a way to make money and get a head-start on work experience.
7. Buying all the books
Few students need all the books on their reading lists - and, if you buy them new, you'll pay through the nose for your tutors' latest releases (funny, that).
Best bet is being selective once you hit campus: look for students offloading last year's titles and ask which ones they actually used. Local charity shops and libraries on- and off-campus are worth a look - as are freebie downloads and public domain books online.
8. Drinking everything
Whether you drink like a fish or a Buddhist monk is your call - but making every night legendary means less chance of savouring the good times, and more chance of sinking your loan instalment within a fortnight.
Plus hangovers and decent grades are like beer and wine: they don't mix...
9. Not time-tabling
After working a job or two to make ends meet, socialising or (more likely) sleeping, it's easy for studies to slip, but here's where your phone can help you get organised.
An alarm, timetable, note-taker or recorder, flashcards and a bibliographic app are your basic gear. If procrastination's your problem try Habitica, which turns even dull tasks into a game. Trello can help house sharers stay on track, too - think dealing out chores and brainstorming nights out.
10. Treating your folks like an ATM
While you've got new experiences coming out of your ears, your folks are probably huddled in your old room weeping bitter tears. Possibly.
Whatever they're doing, give 'em a call every now and then - and not just when you're hard-up! Invite them round for a cuppa soup and mug cake.
Uni is for a few years; families are for life: make the most of both of them!