Seven tips for starting uni in 2020: What you need to know

This article was last updated on 27/08/2020

Your results are in, you’ve accepted your offer and, before you know it, you’ll be starting uni. But what can you be doing now, to make sure you're fully-prepped for when the big day arrives?

1. Remember your safety basics

This has been a year like no other and restrictions still in place due to the Coronavirus pandemic mean that your experience as a Fresher will be different too. You’re bound to have concerns about staying safe and questions about how restrictions will impact on you as you start university, but rest assured that universities will be working hard on your behalf.

Grace Joyce from The Student Room says: “Universities will do their absolute best to try and make the experience as normal as possible. They will be putting a lot of effort into creating an environment that is fun and conducive to meeting new people, but done in the safest way possible. You may be asked to wear masks in certain buildings or on campus, or have timetabled slots to book to reduce the number of people moving into accommodation all at one time. Enhanced cleaning regimes and social distancing will likely be enforced around the whole campus to increase safety and ensure everyone feels more comfortable interacting in shared spaces.

“Universities will be doing lots of different things to help prepare campus for your arrival in the Autumn. The first thing to do is check any information the university has sent you if you are unsure of what the procedures will be or check their websites for this information. These policies will be constantly monitored and updated to ensure the safety of students and staff is a priority.”

If you’re struggling to get in contact with your uni via phone or email, Grace Joyce suggests using social media. She adds that there are Official Representatives from many UK universities on The Student Room, who will be happy to answer questions. You can also speak to other students on The Student Room forum and also on Unibuddy.

2. Research your course

According to Diego Fanara from Unibuddy, over 30% of messages exchanged on their platform have been about university courses. “Students want to know how they'll be taught this year," he says, "but as with every year, they want to know about preparation and reading they can do in advance, who will be teaching them, what modules they can choose etc.”

Helpful resources here are university social media accounts and university virtual events and open days, as well as forums like The Student Room. “Lots of universities are now opening up for socially distanced campus tours or drop-in sessions so students are able to pop-in,” say Unibuddy.

You can also chat with someone currently at university through Unibuddy on UCAS or with staff and students at hundreds of unis here.

3. Get on top of budgeting

First up, Ben Jordan from UCAS says, “If you’ve applied for student finance support, make sure the Student Loans Company have all your necessary details.”

In terms of managing your money once you start uni, it’s a good idea to get your head around budgeting and to work out your priorities in advance. You might want to sign up for a student bank account and/ or download one of the many apps out there that can help you keep track of your spending.

You can learn more about how to live your best student life without running out of money here and how to be fit and healthy on a budget here. If you’re planning to get a job, you could research opportunities for part-time and/ or remote work in advance by joining a recruitment agency or searching online. Make sure your CV is up to date and ready to go and check out our five top tips for acing online interviews for tips on interviewing remotely.

4. Find your new pad

If you’re planning to move away to study, check your accommodation arrangements. There’s lots of useful info on this UCAS page about undergraduate accommodation. Ben Jordan from UCAS says that if you’re going to university halls of residence, “you’ll probably get a lot of information on this directly from the university.” It’s likely that you will have questions about new measures, such as student bubbles, which your university can advise on. As before, you can always speak to other students via The Student Room and Unibuddy platforms.

If you’re moving to a new town or city, try to find out as much as you can about the place before you go. If you can, visit in advance or look at campus and other maps to get your bearings. Make sure you know where the following are:

  • GP surgery
  • Dentist
  • Library
  • Student union
  • Lecture buildings.

Also, think about where you will buy your basics and where you want to go to have fun! Make sure you’re aware of any regional restrictions around socialising and equip yourself with masks and plenty of anti-bacterial hand sanitiser.

5. Get your must-have supplies

You don’t want to turn up to uni loaded with everything you own and more, but neither do you want to find yourself lacking basic essentials. It’s a good idea to find out in advance what is already provided in your accommodation so you can be clear on what you need to take. Here are some things you will need:

  • Towels and toiletries
  • Bedding
  • Basic kitchen equipment: a frying pan and saucepan, a sharp knife and chopping board, a tin- and bottle-opener/ corkscrew, a couple of mugs and plates, a couple of knives, forks and spoons, a cheese grater, tea towels, scourer and cloths.

You’ll also want some home comforts to make your student accommodation feel more homely. Think posters, photos, a favourite blanket and maybe a plant or two, but don’t overdo it: depending on whether or not your accommodation closes for the holidays, you might find yourself lugging everything home again at the end of every term! Here’s some tips from others on How to make your house a home, How to love living independently and Five things I wish I’d known before moving out

6. Unleash your inner chef

No-one can live on toast and takeaways alone… If you’re moving away from home to start uni, you’re going to have to learn to cook, but you can start with the basics and there’s loads of simple recipes online. Make a start with BBC Food’s Ten recipes everyone should know and check out their tips for student dinners.

The right food is important not just for your physical health, but for your mental health too, so do some research on how to eat a balanced diet and make sure you get plenty of daily exercise too. Here are some more articles to help you:

How to cook a healthy meal on the cheap

How to do the weekly shop on a budget

Cooking 101

7. Get ready to mingle

Freshers’ Week is all about settling in and meeting new people. You can prep for this by getting in touch with your Students’ Union to find out what will be happening during Freshers’ Week and beyond and by checking out in advance clubs and societies you want to join.

It’s understandable if you’re concerned about how Coronavirus restrictions will impact on your ability to find your uni tribe, but Grace Joyce from The Student Room says: “Freshers’ Week will still have lots of different options to meet new people, so you can get involved and stay safe at the same time. Socially-distanced outdoor cinemas, yoga classes and mini golf courses have all been suggested, along with a mix of virtual and in-person events to get to know your new uni. The most important thing to remember is everybody is in the same boat and is probably feeling as apprehensive as you about starting university in the middle of a pandemic. It may feel strange at first, but when you get into the swing of campus life and understand what you need to do to keep yourself and others safe, you’ll get into the swing of it in no time.”

In the meantime, soak up time with your ‘home’ mates and family and maybe get a reunion date in the diary when you can touch base.

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