14 skills to help you survive university

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By in Freshers. Updated January 2016.

All uni students need a very particular set of skills, skills that you can acquire at any time during uni. Here are our favourites to get you started.
We’ve all heard ‘legendary’ stories of poor, drunk, young people fighting the never ending battle of sleep vs lectures. You know, the typical student stereotypes. Is uni really like this? How on earth are you supposed to balance social life with academic studies?

We’ve put together a list of tips we want to share with anyone about to embark on their uni adventure (we’re not jealous at all)!

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!

The skills you need

  1. Controlling your finances (budgeting)

    budgetdognocatWell, with Save the Student being a student money/deals 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.

    We’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 unforgettable nights out.

    Download our free book “The Essential Student Guide to Finance“, check out the supermarket downshift and our guide to budgeting.

  2. Spending as little as possible on nights out

    grouponIt’s so easy to get carried away on nights out. A few drinks can quickly evolve into something out of The Hangover trilogy (we’ve all been there).

    A great tip we’ve tried & tested is to only take as much money as you’re 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!

    We’ve got an entire article on becoming a nights-out money saving ninja.

  3. Controlling food consumption

    eat-less-uniControlling 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’re looking to save even more then check out our guide to saving money at supermarkets and ways to legally score free food.

  4. Avoiding tricky seminar questions

    hidinginhairIf 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.

    We get the feeling that if you’re the kind of person to avoid seminar questions then you might find our 3,000 word essay in a day guide or how to revise in one day guide useful. Not that we condone these tactics, of course. You could always try for a first instead?

  5. Bladder control

    peeingdogWe 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 queue for a pub/club or whilst travelling to your night-time destination or home.

    While we wish we 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 when you have the opportunity.

    Or, you know, don’t 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

    Speed-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).

    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.

  7. Lying to your parents/guardians

    lyinggirlWe 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 we 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…

    Seriously though, your ‘rents are expected to chip in. We’ve got all the facts and figures, as well as some tips and advice here.

  8. Making simple food

    cookingisamessKnow 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 doing it yourself is relatively healthy too!

    Chicken, vegetables and potatoes, if you fancy them, is also a student 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 just take a look at the food section on the site – we’ve also got a list of cupboard essentials to get you going.

  9. Avoiding washing clothes

    HOTTUBCATThrowing 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

    drinkingNow, 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).

    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 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 vodbull in your hand.

  11. Dealing with chores

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

    We would suggest to use a rota, but we all hate them, they never work and 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.

    Unsurprisingly we’ve put together a guide on how to deal with things like chores, cooking and bedtime. Yeah, we’re rock and roll.

  12. Learning to deal with house issues

    Housemate-problemsUnfortunately, 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. Voucher scavenging

    Voucher-HunterYou 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.

    Here at Save the Student we keep you in the loop on hundreds of student deals and also have a full directory of student discounts that’s worth bookmarking.

  14. Standing your ground and knowing your stuff

    walkedoverWhen it comes to things like landlords and other contracts you’ll take out while you’re at uni, the sad fact is a lot of people will see what they can get away with if they think you’re a wishy washy student.

    Don’t let people walk all over you though, it’s painful, demoralising and not fun in any way! Research your rights and talk confidently. You’re no mug!

    Make sure you know your rights as a tenant and check out our guide on how and when to complain.

There you have it! A concise list of skills that will most definitely improve your university living (hopefully). We know that we’ve missed out a lot of the “studying skills” but we’d hope you’d kind of know those considering you’re off to uni…

In the meantime, checkout these 57 awesome life hacks!

Disclaimer: try not to take this article too seriously. While there’s some great advice it was also written as a bit of fun. Enjoy!

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