Starting University – The Cost Cutting Fresher’s Guide

The funding needed when beginning university in the United Kingdom is rising annually. With the latest hike in tuition fees students could be left with nearly £26,000 of debts. There will be a rise of two per cent to the annual tuition fees for students starting in 2014, resulting in average fees of £8,647. This figure is getting closer and closer to the maximum fee of £9,000.

Students can apply for a student finance loan to cover tuition fees. You can also apply for a student maintenance grant to help with costs of living and other expenses like rent. Figures suggest that the full cost of a standard three-year degree course is likely to stand at an average of £25,941 under the new system. Loan repayments will then commence once your income is above £21,000. For more information visit


Many students are going to be living away from home for the first time whether their university is located in London, Manchester or Newcastle. Living in the family house is, of course, the economical option but university halls are perhaps the best place for students starting uni where this is not conceivable. Halls can be quite expensive but then again there are a lot of savings to be made when transport is taken into account. Students can save on bus and train fairs since they will most likely be located within walking distance of lectures. This is probably also where students can make friends the easiest as it will be where the pre-drinking before nights out will take place and where people will regularly meet for social activities.

Privately run halls can be another decent option for student accommodation. These may even be a little cheaper than university halls depending on where you are studying but they are another great place for students to make friends easily. Moving into a private house or apartment with people this can perhaps work out not the most frugal option. Students are susceptible to high rent prices in some cases and not having any of the supervision or boundaries associated with official university accommodation. This can affect students in a number of negative ways including academically in terms of study and eventual GPA, or financially if they do not take care of the house and lose their security deposit. It is important to evaluate the people you are moving in with to make sure there is a good balance within the house and that you will become friends.

Moving into a completely new environment can be difficult for some students, so it is important that you adapt quickly and become comfortable with their surroundings. This can be easier for some people than others, taking into account possible nerves and homesickness. There are a number of things that can be done with general rules of etiquette applied in order to get along well with a new roommate or housemate. It is very simple really. Treat others as you would like to be treated yourself, i.e. with dignity and respect. Ensure to respect the other person’s personal space, property and possessions. Outlining these ground rules initially can save a lot of trouble further down the line. Try not to have large gatherings of friends or classmates in the accommodation too often as it may interfere with the person’s personal routine. Open communication is usually the way forward. Remember that the person you are living with does not immediately have to become your best mate.

Now we can address fresher’s week and the actual registration process of university. Fresher’s week of university is likely to be one of the highlights of your lifetime, as it combines all the fun of social activities, freedom and meeting new interesting people without any pressure in terms of academic study. It is important, however, to ensure that your student loan has gone through, that you are registered to a college email and that (boring as it may sound) you take the tours of the library and university. These kinds of things may seem like nothing in the first week of uni but there will be a whole lot less stress involved if you get them out of the way early, as opposed to when exams are three weeks away and you are trying to find a book in the completely wrong section of the library. Fresher’s week is also the time when students should join groups, sports and societies, so take a little time off the boozing for this. It is a great opportunity to step outside your comfort zone, make new friends and try new things, as university is about educational as well as life growth. Making friends in your course is crucial, and can also help with study groups, exams and when taking class trips away to make the whole higher education experience a lot more comfortable.

Always keep in mind that the purpose of uni is to further your education however much fun you might be having. Choose classes that appeal to you as a person and to your strengths. Even if your strengths are not clear then they will become apparent one way or the other over the years. Classes which you are not particularly interested in are the ones which will require the most attention and work, so make sure never to skip lectures or tutorials even if it means missing your daily episode of Jeremy Kyle. As you identify your strengths and weaknesses, picking a major will be a lot easier than you think. If you pick a random class, something outside your perspective field it also helps maintain interest in study so if you are a business student you could potentially also take a philosophy module. There are a few things that can be done to minimise stress and effort around exam times. The first of these is having notes prepared throughout the semester that cover the main topics in each subject. The next is to have a study timetable made out and stick to it throughout the semester, so that you do not become overwhelmed during the weeks that matter. If you can have dinners prepared during exam time, this can also be a great time saving technique. Things like lasagne or shepherd’s pie tend to keep very well in the freezer in my experience.

Students are going to have to come to terms with budgeting when going to university for the first time. Picking up second-hand books can be a great money saver but if you cannot then the lecturer or professor will often encourage students to pick up older copies of the course textbook unless they or their colleague are the author which is a very real possibility! If you have to buy new course books, then make sure to laminate them and keep them in good condition, so they can be sold on at the end of the year. If you manage to pick up a copy of the textbook from the library it can usually be photocopied and bound for a lot cheaper than buying the actual book.

Try to keep your diet somewhat healthy as there is, of course, the urge to eat pork pies, kebabs and chips five times a week, which is particularly inviting if people have had a few beers the night before. The best way to remain healthy is to do actual grocery shopping, and look for healthy food and savings. Avail of weekly deals that the supermarkets may have to offer. Savings can be made on shopping with discounts for top brands and retailers with deals or voucher codes for online shopping. The largest selection of promotional code in the United Kingdom can be found on

With Wi-Fi freely available in most student venues and on campus, try not to use your mobile phone credit on data with the likes of Facebook, Whatsapp and Viber. The important thing is to keep your phone safe and secure by making sure you always know where it is, and do not leave it in common areas as they are worth so much these days. Plus a phone call to the family is the best way to cure home sickness!

Students must remember to relax and enjoy themselves throughout university, as it is where a person’s personal growth and independence can be realised. Be aware of the dangers that lie within the walls of university such as drink and drugs. If you are drinking, it is important to drink in moderation. Try to avoid drugs altogether and any peer pressure that may be associated with drug taking; it will be for the best in the long term. Find some information covering this are on the NHS website,,alcoholanddrugs.aspx.

Sexual activity is also going to play a part of uni life (with some more so than others), as it is a time when many young adults come into contact with the opposite or same sex and develop relationships. With such a rise in sexually transmitted diseases throughout the UK, it is important to always protect yourself and practise safe sex. Many do not have any symptoms but can cause serious long-term complications, so be educated on the risks. If you are sexually active, STI testing, advice and health checks are available at a reduced rate or even free in many universities.

Many students will use one of their summers to travel abroad with many opting to go to party destinations like Ibiza or Ayia Napa. The prospect of a drink fuelled summer working somewhere sunny is a very attractive prospect to young Brits. These types of destinations often pose real dangers to students who go over, drink to excess and are not aware of the consequences of their actions abroad. Alcohol is available at very cheap prices and there are very high rates of sexually transmitted diseases which can be a dangerous combination. These experiences usually come highly recommended and you may not get the chance to travel again for a long time, so it is important to save money during the year or work a part-time job if you are planning a similar excursion.

It is important not to pick a career path based solely on preconceptions or ideas about future lifestyle or income. What is a high earning money position today might change future when you finish university, so try to enjoy what you do. Realise your skills and pick a career path based on your personal strengths and interests. A work placement can be a great way to get practical work experience and give you a head start on competition. Although this may involve giving up a summer it can be an invaluable experience and looks great on the CV. This will undoubtedly lead to better career opportunities.

Be aware of what you post on social media. This can carry risks for a future career and cause social problems. This information is readily available to anybody with access to the internet, which is any Joe soap. Do not say or post anything that may result in future embarrassment. Use the positive side to social media. Twitter and Instagram can be used to promote groups or societies that you may have joined in university and can help build your network of friends. Facebook is an invaluable tool to university students nowadays. College project groups can be made and word documents, PowerPoints and much more can be shared. Group members can then contact each other outside of semester times, which is particularly useful coming up to project deadlines. Needless to say this is also useful for social purposes and contacting friends when you have no phone credit.

Hopefully these tips will help you in starting life in third level education and remember to enjoy university. Download our free money saving guide, Spend Time Spending Less, at

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