13 Skills to Help You Survive University
University is a daunting experience for many. Your first year is mainly concerned with making new friends, balancing your social and academic life and ensuring you spend your loan
on drinks and going out properly.
We have put together 13 skills that will help you make it through the first year of university.
If you can think of any yourself then leave a comment at the bottom. Let’s help future first years to have the best uni experience.
Our Top 13 Tips
Controlling your finances (budgeting)
Obviously, with Save the Student! being a student money site, we thought that this was 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 an incredible amount. We would 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.
Check out our guide to student budgeting here.
Spending as little as possible on nights out
Want to go out but have hardly any money? Use this old gem: “I’d love to, but I’ve got hardly any money. *inset name of nightclub* is expensive tonight… But I’d love to come.” Obviously you can play around with it, but I find it works every time. Of course, it should ideally be done mid-way through pre-drinks, when people are sozzled enough to part with their money.
Alternatively, you could budget properly and only go out if you really have the money to do so, but who wants to do that? A great tip is to only take as much money as you need.
See how to pre-drink on a budget.
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 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 valid point is not to go shopping when you’re hungry; you’ll buy things you don’t need and probably end up spending a lot more than you need to.
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…)
Avoiding seminar questions
If 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 just try and blag your way out of it.
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/club or whilst travelling to your night time destination.
Whilst we wish we could tell you there’s a magical solution for this, there isn’t. You’ve either got to man up and take the bladder pain, or try to wee right before you leave the house. Or, you know, not drink as much (but let’s not be ridiculous).
It all comes down to mind over bladder!
This 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).
We 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.
Lying to your parents/guardians
We 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 place 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 we wanted to grab your attention. It may seem wrong but according to the government your parents should be helping you through university to supplement your loan.
How to make simple food
Get 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 five 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.
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.
Drinking a lot
Now, we are 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). We 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.
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 we 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.
Dealing with chores
You have to clean your own house now, it sucks, because you can’t be bothered (unless you’re a weirdo who likes cleaning). It has to be done otherwise your house will be completely rank.
We would suggest a rota, but we hate them and they can cause arguments, so our 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.
Learning to deal with house issues
Unfortunately, this can happen. 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.
You can find them online, in the paper, magazines, when you buy things from shops – every where. Search for websites in the UK that can get you money off, but also look on product websites for anything they could offer you. 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; Boots and Tesco regularly send out money saving vouchers to their members.
There you have it! A concise list of skills that will most definitely improve your university living (hopefully). We know that we have missed out a lot of the “studying skills” but that could be another list soon to come. Just think of these tips as more life tips to help you through.
Good luck!Last updated 27th May, 2013