Preparing to start uni

Here’s the information you need, together with tips from students, so you know what to expect and to help you prepare to start your uni course.

Check your uni website and course pages regularly for details and read updates from your university or college so you stay informed.

Universities and colleges work hard to provide a positive student experience and high-quality teaching.  They are expected to follow government guidelines, particularly to communicate clearly to their students about what they can expect from planned teaching and learning, including how teaching and learning is working now, and what changes would be made if elements of teaching might be affected if COVID-19 restrictions are re-introduced.   Although providers cannot predict what might happen, they can set out what arrangements are planned based on their experience to date.

Your university or college is the best place to go for information about your course, accommodation and access to facilities. We encourage you to make use of their support services. If your uni or college has a students’ union, guild or association, this can also be a good place to seek advice and support. See our student life and settling into uni content below for more information.

Individual universities and colleges have to make their own decisions about the teaching of their courses, including making changes such as from face-to-face to online teaching of courses as happened during the pandemic.  However, they should follow government guidelines, and the expectation is for universities to deliver face to face teaching.

On campus or online learning: during the pandemic most universities and colleges moved to a mixture of face-face and online learning, providing online-live teaching, recordings and resources to make sure students can access the teaching they need. With the pandemic restrictions lifted, more on campus, face-to-face learning is being used.   Students should receive a good quality experience of higher education however teaching is delivered.

Universities are very aware of the experiences of new students over the past two years. Many are actively building in catch-up classes into their first-year modules, so that new students can fill any gaps in their learning or subject knowledge.

Your university or college will offer a range of different support services. These are in place to make sure you have the best student experience possible. This can include mental health services, wellbeing teams and academic support teams to ensure you are supported to develop your study skills.

Many unis are offering health and wellbeing classes and counselling services to students. You should find information on the university's website or social media pages. Student Minds has created a guide to help you prepare for uni or college.  There will also be careers advice support in place, either through your institution or other providers, to develop skills for your future. Joining student societies and clubs are a positive way of building your confidence and working with them will enhance your employability skills.

Academic support: Academic support is different at every institution, but nearly all universities and colleges have something available. You may be sent emails with direct links to support, pre-arrival quizzes to see where your strengths lie, online resources to engage with and details of how to access academic support. Look out for names like Academic Development, Learning Support, Study Skills, My Skills, Learning Hub; anything that suggests that it’s about how to study effectively.

Some courses may offer pre-arrival events or resources, so make sure you engage with them. What is on offer will vary depending on where you go and what you study. Some institutions may offer skills units as part of your course, some will also have specialist centres (often as part of the library, or students’ union) and they may also deal with things like wellbeing, disability support and language skills. In some cases you may be directed to resources on your Virtual Learning Environment (VLE).

Often an academic skills service will run online support, self-help resources, in-person or online tutorials that you can book or might be referred to which teach study skills You may also get chance to have some peer support, where somebody from your course in the year above acts as a buddy or mentor for a while. If you get a personal tutor allocated to you by your course, they may also offer academic support.

To find out what’s available, look on the uni or college website, particularly any “new students” or “welcome” pages. They’ll often have a section dedicated to academic support. If you can’t find it there, look at the course web page and make sure you read any emails your uni sends you when you’ve been accepted. If you can’t find what you need, try contacting your departmental or faculty office by email.

Once you have decided what and where you will study, you need to look at your accommodation options.

  • There are usually different types of accommodation available, which can include university or college owned accommodation, student accommodation owned by private companies and private accommodation. You may prefer to live on campus, it may be important for you to have a short commute to uni or college, or to be in an area with lots on your doorstep.
  • Check your uni or college website and social media for advice and information about accommodation in the area. If you decide on halls of residence, you may be able to secure a room online.
  • If you’re a disabled student or have particular learning needs, there may be some particular arrangements you need in place. Every university should have accessible accommodation, though it may not be available at this late stage. Your uni student disability services can support you in finding the right place. They should also be able to advise you on any funding which you can access. Get in touch with them to find out about your accommodation options.
  • Before you move in you need to find out what furniture and facilities are provided: from beds, bedding, desks, chairs, and kitchen equipment through to what rent and bills you will be expected to pay.
  • Look at the details: most accommodation providers (including halls of residence) have rules. Find out all you can so you can plan and take what you need with you and find out where you will pick up your keys.
  • Check travel arrangements.  How will you get there, and how you will travel around once you arrive.
  • Check out social arrangements. You can make contact with your roommates through social media beforehand. Institutions have social media pages, and it may be useful to make contact through these. You may also want to research societies and clubs beforehand through the students’ union, as well as looking at blogs from current students, as they may offer some handy tips.
  • All students, have the right to a house or flat that’s safe and fit to live in whether you’re in university-owned or private accommodation. This includes having good ventilation, being insulated and providing a heating system. You can find more information about your rights and get support from Citizens Advice.

If you’re a UK student: there are different organisations to apply to for student finance depending on which UK nation you’re applying from. Find out more details for England, Wales , Scotland and Northern Ireland.

If you are an international student, you can find more information from the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA’s) guide to student finance and the British Council’s Study UK scholarships and funding guide.

Full-time undergraduate student finance applications are open for the academic year 2022/23. You can find lots of information about student finance and loans on our 'how will I pay for it' pages.

If you’re interested in studying abroad, make sure to check with the uni or college you’ve chosen for details of fees and costs. You can also find information about the Turing scheme. This is the UK government’s scheme to provide funding for international opportunities in education and training across the world.

Budgeting and cost of living: 

Students studying at university or college can have different living costs depending on where and what they will be studying, their lifestyle and any financial commitments they might have.

Student Space offer advice and support to all, including information on where to find extra funding to help with your living costs and budgeting tools. Why not check out their guidance on how to create a budget to find out what your living costs at university or college might add up to?

If you’re unsure about what additional costs may be involved as a result of your studies, you should ask your university or college for more information. Examples could include:

  • accommodation costs – such as rent
  • travel
  • course materials
  • food and drink
  • utilities – such as gas and electricity bills

You may be receiving larger amounts of money than you are used to managing. It’s important to budget so that you can make it last.

You can find advice on budgeting at:

MoneySavingExpert

Save The Student

You will receive an email or letter from your uni or college with details of how and when to register for your course. You should also find details on the institution’s website.

  • Many unis and colleges have online registration: you should receive details of how to login and register. You usually need to register in the first week of term.
  • It is important you register for your course so that you can attend the course, but also to access your student loan and funding, obtain your university ID card, access to your university email account, print an enrolment certificate and ensure that you are exempt from paying Council tax.

  • Revise your subjects before you arrive and also do any reading sent to you about the course you are starting. Many universities and colleges provide suggested reading lists and links to online resources. Make sure you put some time aside to study them. You could look at the outlines or details of course modules you will be doing during the first term or year of your course. This can give you some ideas of any subject knowledge or learning you might want to revisit and revise. This can help you ‘hit the ground running’.

There’s usually quite a gap before starting a university course, so you may have forgotten some content. Go back over your notes and your subject books. You can also look things up online, watch online videos on the subject and re-familiarise yourself with what you know.

  • Get up to speed with study skills: There are many resources and useful guides to help you build up your skills for writing essays and preparing for more independent study, time management and keeping motivated.

If you want to refresh your skills and get ready for university, here are some things that can help you:

  • Future Learn has free online courses by universities to help you prepare for higher education.
  • Coursera brings together a number of open online courses from a number of leading international Universities in a wide range of subjects.
  • UCAS, in collaboration with the National Extension College, has published study skills guides
  • The Khan Academy offers practice exercises, instructional videos, and some free resources across a range of subjects.
  • University Ready provides a collection of free resources from universities across Wales.

Some universities also provide useful resources, and you don’t need to be a member of that university to access them, they are usually free and open to everyone. Here are some examples:

  • The Open University has modules in different subjects to help you prepare for your course.
  • The University of Bristol as a range of information and study skills resources you can access.
  • The University of Manchester library offers a range of online resources.
  • The University of Leeds has an academic skills library with online information and resources.
  • You can also visit an academic skills centre at your uni or college for further support. Make sure to check their website for how they can support your study skills.

Freshers week is a ‘welcome’ for new students starting out at UK universities. It’s a chance to make friends and learn more about your course, campus and clubs. Freshers week typically begins towards the end of September.

Universities and colleges offer a wide range of social societies to join, and students' unions will run indoor and outdoor events. You will find details on your university or college website.

It is natural to feel nervous about starting uni. Don’t worry if you feel like this, you’re not alone and there’s plenty of support. Here’s some tips and suggestions to help you prepare.

  • Before you arrive, make sure you’ve read the emails sent to you by your university or college. There may be things you have to do for your accommodation, so make sure you send any requested information back on time. For vocational courses you may need to fill in forms and have documents ready for things like DBS checks.
  • You may receive a login for your ‘Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). Make sure you test it and have a good look around. You may have instructions on what to do before you arrive, or in the first few days.
  • It’s also useful to follow your institution or course on social media. There may be helpful announcements or links posted that will help you become part of the university community. Look at what the students’ union offers, and also look at things like local transport, places to get food, sports and social facilities and personal interests like local faith groups. Some places may organise socials and helpful events like cooking lessons.
  • You could also look at campus maps, download any useful information about getting around. If you have your timetable before you arrive, check when you’ll need to be on campus. Think about how long the journey times will be from your accommodation and if you have gaps in your timetable. Is it worth going home, or should you maybe use one of the study spaces and use the time to get some studying done? Planning your time is going to be a key skill at uni, so look at how you’ll fit in your own interests, time to study, teaching time and also things like food shopping and cooking into your day.

Here’s advice from students who started uni last year:

  • Get involved in as many opportunities as you can. There will be lots of student societies you can join and events to go to, whether online or in person.
  • Get to know your classmates. You can set up a group chat on WhatsApp - uni students we’ve spoken to said this really helped them to feel at home, support and get to know each other.
  • Stay motivated. Make sure you give yourself time to plan and do any assignment exams and also to take regular breaks.

Here is some advice from a student support professional:

  • Be kind to yourself. Being a student is a lifestyle and takes a lot of adapting to. If you find it hard and that it takes a while, that’s normal. Tell yourself you are doing OK. Talk to students in the year above about what they did to feel at home.
  • Always ask. It’s OK not to know things. That’s what university is for; finding out what you didn’t already know. There are people at university who will help you find out everything from where to buy food to how to critique research articles, so make sure you ask for help when you need it.
  • Organise your time. Whether you have a full timetable, or one with less contact time, you’ll be expected to organise your time. Timetable your own life; plan time to study, time to socialise, time to relax, time to do jobs like cooking and cleaning. Leave some gaps in your timetable for unexpected things. Think about planning on a daily, weekly and term basis and use lists, diaries, and planners to get organised.
  • Little and often. Breaking your study time or doing course work into short burst will help you get it all done. If a task seems big (maybe writing a report or essay) then break it down into smaller jobs. To engage with your lecture notes, spend a bit of time each week just going through them and checking you understand them, fill any gaps and maybe add some useful examples to them.
  • Get involved. Whether it’s voluntary work, joining a society, or making sure you contribute in class, do your best to connect with others. The more you interact with people the quicker you’ll feel part of the community, at university and in the town or city where you’re living.

As a prospective student, you need to be made aware of the complaints process by your university or college and your terms and conditions. If you don’t feel your university or college has given you the information you need to make an informed choice, you can:

  • Raise it with your university or college through their complaint’s procedure.
  • If you are in England, you can also notify the Office for Students. They cannot take action on your individual case, but this information will be used to identify patterns of behaviour in universities.
  • If you are in England or Wales, you may be able to complain to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator.
  • If you are in Northern Ireland, you may be able to complain to the NI Ombudsman.
  • If you are in Scotland, you may be able to complain to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman.

If you change your mind after you have started university or college, whatever the reason, there are some things you need to do.

  • Talk to your course tutor at the university or college, they will be able to look at the options with you.
  • They will be able to offer you support, including advice or wellbeing services, depending on your needs, plus you may be able to access additional help at Student Space or Student Minds. If you are struggling with finances, they may be able to provide hardship funding
  • Speak to the Careers team at your university or college if you have had a change of heart about your career options and you now feel your course is not relevant. You can also find information from Prospects.
  • If you are finding your course difficult to manage, you may want to consider a different mode of study. Talk to your tutors about part-time or distance learning.

It may be possible to transfer onto a different course at your current uni or apply to join a course at a different university or college.

  • If you want to transfer course at your current university or college, talk to the course tutors to see if this is possible. It will depend on a range of factors such as whether there are places and whether you meet the entry requirements.
  • If you wish to transfer to another university, you will need to talk to them to see if there are spaces and you will still need to apply in the usual manner. You may be able to transfer some of your credits across, if you have done the first year of your learning for example, but you may need to start over.

You may want to consider taking a break and continuing your studies in a year’s time. You will need to talk to your university or college to see if this is possible, and you will need to let student finance know so they can pause your payments.

If you do change your university or college, or withdraw altogether, you will need to let your university know as well as letting the student finance know. You can find out more information from UCAS.

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