13 skills to help you survive university

Bear Grylls

The Survival King

When the day finally came around and I set off for university (with nagging parents in tow) I remember how daunting it was to think about what was around the corner. The next 3 years of my life.

How was I going to survive this big unknown? All I could go off was ‘legendary’ stories of poor, drunk young people fighting against daytime sleep to get into lectures. You know, the typical student stereotypes. Was uni really like this? How on earth will I balance my new social life with academic studies?

Well, it’s not all that bad! Really, it’s not. But I have put together a list of tips I want to share with anyone about to embark on their uni adventure.

If you can think of any yourself, please leave a comment at the bottom. Let’s help future first years to have the best uni experience!

My top 13 tips

  1. Controlling your finances (budgeting)

    Well, with Save the Student being a student money site, this is probably a good place to start. You’re going to be skint at certain points in your university life (usually a few weeks before loan day), but being permanently penniless is something you can avoid if you control what you spend.

    Don’t waste money on expensive food, the supermarket value brands are exactly the same (you’re usually only paying for the packaging), and you’ll save a huge amount.

    I’d also suggest taking a good look at your financial situation before you spend any money, working out what’s got to go out (rent, phone bill etc.), which will then give you a better idea of what you have to spend on food, clothes and nights out.

    Download our free book “The Essential Student Guide to Finance“.

  2. Spending as little as possible on nights out

    Student nightclubIt’s so easy to get carried away by a night, a few drinks out quickly evolves into something out of The Hangover trilogy.

    A great tip I use is to only take as much money as you are happy to part with. That means withdrawing a certain amount of cash and leaving your debit/credit/cash cards at home.

    Once you burn through it and all your mates are all proclaiming the night is ‘still young’, then if they really don’t want you to leave then maybe they’ll end up putting their money where their mouth is… or maybe it’s a reality check letting you know you’ve had too much anyway!

  3. Controlling food consumption

    Controlling how much you eat and when you eat not only keeps you from demolishing a week’s shopping in a few days, but also saves you quite a bit of money.

    A good tip is to make a list of every meal you’re going to eat that week and then only buy the items you’ll need for those. That way you don’t need to worry about what to have for dinner and won’t be stuck with the nightly trip to Tesco because once again, you have no food in.

    Another really useful pointer is not to go shopping when you’re hungry. Do not do it. you’ll buy things you don’t need and so end up spending a lot more than you can or should.

    If you love to shop online then try MySupermarket. They actually compare all the large supermarkets and tell you the best price (for no extra charge…).

  4. Avoiding seminar questions

    hidingIf you haven’t done the reading (which begs the question, why are you going to the seminar?!), then this is a skill that is desperately needed.

    First rule: no eye contact. Pretend to be completely engrossed in your notes, perhaps even adding to them as you become more involved in the discussion going on around you (but not really).

    Another way to avoid questions is to become actively involved in any group work beforehand. Talk a lot, even if it may not be completely correct, and your tutor will usually leave you alone.

    If you’re put on the spot and have no clue, all you’ve got left is blagging skill.

  5. Bladder control

    We all know what it’s like to break the seal; the painful wait for a toilet, the cries of  “no, I’m ACTUALLY going to wet myself”.

    These usually all occur either in the wait for entry to a pub/clue or whilst travelling to your night-time destination or home.

    Whilst I wish I could tell you there’s a magical solution for this, there isn’t. You’ve either got to (wo)man up and take the bladder pain, or try to wee right before you leave the house.

    Or, you know, not drink as much. And guys, don’t ever be tempted by the sight of any empty bottles. They are never big enough.

    It all comes down to mind over bladder!

  6. Speed reading

    readingThis skill perhaps works in conjunction with avoiding seminar questions. If you have the balls to show up to your class without having done the reading, a quick ‘speed read’ can help bring you up to date with what’s going on (not to mention the help for revision).

    I wouldn’t suggest speed reading an entire novel, Wikipedia is your friend, but for articles and small chapters it’s perfect.

    Use a highlighter to make any ‘important’ parts or quotes stand out to you. This means when you’re in your seminar or exam, it won’t look like you haven’t done anything, and if your tutor puts you on the spot, you can divert their question and mention one of the interesting metaphors you noticed when you read the article ‘thoroughly’ the night before.

  7. Lying to your parents/guardians

    I can’t say we condone this one, but doesn’t everyone tell their parents the occasional white lie? If you’ve reached the age of 18+ and you’re still not managing to effectively lie to your parents/guardians, you’ve been doing something wrong.

    Let’s put forward a scenario: you’re short of cash and you want to buy food/booze/clothes. You phone up the bank of Mum and Dad in the hopes of borrowing what you need.

    Now, simply telling them outright what you want the money for isn’t going to work, but there is this tactic:
    My phone/gas & electric/internet bill is a lot higher than I thought, I don’t have the money for it and I’ll be cut off if I don’t pay it.

    Hey presto, they don’t want you going without, so you’re likely to get a bit of cash from them to tide  you over. This won’t always work, but if you play the guilt-trip card when lying to your parents/guardians, you’re more than likely to come out smiling.

    This could have probably been renamed to “asking for money from your parents” but I wanted to grab your attention. It may seem wrong but according to our own government your parents should be helping you through university to supplement your loan…

  8. How to make simple food

    Cooking organic foodGet the essentials: bread, butter, cheese, pasta, frozen vegetables/fish/chicken/pizza, cans of beans, tuna, pasta sauces. It’s not difficult to eat properly at university.

    Throwing some mayonnaise and tuna together with some pasta can make a meal that tides you over for dinner and lunch the next day; you don’t have to rely on ready meals (because they usually taste like crap), and it’s relatively healthy, too!

    Chicken, vegetables and potatoes, if you fancy them, is also a favourite. Throw the chicken in the oven, microwave the vegetables and boil/roast the potatoes. Not exactly 5-star dining, but it tastes delicious.

    For more student recipe ideas you just need to take a look at the food section on the site.

  9. Avoid washing clothes

    Throwing your clothes into the washing machine probably doesn’t cross your mind very often. It can be such a hassle having to find somewhere for them to dry (which can be even more difficult when other housemates have had the same idea) and not having a tumble dryer means they take time before you can wear them.

    The basic rule is: when you’re wearing clothes you don’t normally wear because they have holes in, it’s time to do some washing.

  10. Drinking a lot

    Pre-DrinkingNow, I am in no way condoning binge drinking (it’s bad for you, you could die, it might make you think you can climb scaffolding like a suburban Batman etc.), but the reality is that none of us really drink just to enjoy the flavour, or to savour the hops. We do it because we want to go out and have fun.

    However, sometimes it gets out of hand and we end up in bed at midnight wishing we’d never had that seventh shot of sambuca (devil’s drink).

    I suggest making sure you stick to one or two types of alcohol throughout the night, preferably one. If you’re knocking back the vodka and mixers, don’t decide to switch it up with several shots of whatever, before moving onto beer. It won’t do you any good, and your head won’t thank you for it in the morning (see hangover cures).

    Similarly, if you start to feel ill, or feel like you may have had too much; STOP and have some water. Don’t carry on drinking because you don’t want to look boring, because I can assure you that feeling like you’re going to be sick and your brain is about to vacate your skull is a lot more boring than dancing without a VK in your hand.

  11. Dealing with chores

    Student CleaningYou have to clean your own place now. It sucks. You can’t be bothered (unless you’re a cleaning freak). But it has to be done otherwise your house will be completely rank.

    I would suggest to you a rota, but we all hate them, they never work and can cause arguments. So my advice is to clean together with your housemates, put some music on, have a laugh – it’s more fun that way and gets done in half the time.

  12. Learning to deal with house issues

    Unfortunately, it’s never all hunky dory. If you find yourself living with someone who’s making things tricky, talk it out with them. Leaving things will never result in it ‘sorting itself out’, and could turn nasty.

    Understandably, it can be harder to deal with problematic housemates if they’re your friends. You don’t want to nag them or lose their friendship, but not addressing the issue could also lead to this.

    If things get really out of hand or you feel you can’t deal with it yourself, talk to your landlord. You don’t deserve to be unhappy in your own home.

    Read our very popular guide on dealing with tricky housemates by clicking here.

  13. Vouchers scavenging

    You can find them online, in the paper, magazines, when you buy things from shops – everywhere. It might take some time to locate the vouchers, but it’s definitely worth it.

    Signing up for loyalty cards can also help you save money. For example, Boots and Tesco regularly send out money saving vouchers to their members.

    Save the Student keeps you in the loop on hundreds of student deals and also has a full directory of student discounts that’s worth bookmarking.

There you have it! A concise list of skills that will most definitely improve your university living (hopefully). I know that I’ve missed out a lot of the “studying skills” but that could be another list soon to come.

In the meantime, checkout these 57 awesome life hacks!

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