From clearing to coping with home sickness: useful tips for school leavers to embrace the change and get ready for university
For school leavers looking to continue with their studies, university can present itself as an adventure.
It may feel a little scary, but mostly exciting as an opportunity to experiment new things and put yourself to the test. As unique and unpredictable as your time at university will be, there are a few things everybody is likely to go through and get ready for.
Waiting for results
Try not to focus too much on this as you can’t change the grades now. However, if you are feeling anxious, speak to someone you trust.
If you are concerned you might not get into your first or insurance choice, browse your options. Which universities offered places on your course in clearing last year? Are there similar courses you could consider?
Joint honours courses can be a great way to get on a programme at your uni of choice. Don’t fear clearing - one in eight students gets a place this way.
If you think you might have done better than you expected, research your options for adjustment. Make sure you know your username and password for UCAS Track, but remember it will be busy from midnight on results day.
Nervous about starting university
Social media can provide a great way to ease yourself into a new reality, and it’s easy to find a group of students starting at the same institution, or doing the same course as you.
If you are moving to study, then visit the place a few times over the summer, be a tourist and get to know your way around. Practice getting home and back using public transport, find supermarkets, the laundrette and local library.
If you are studying with distance learning think about your study space and times and how you can create conditions that will help you focus.
Preparing to study
An introductory reading list can give you a head start, and a study skills guide will help you uncover your weaknesses. Try to speak to anyone who has completed their first year on your course, and speak to them about their hints and tips for success. If you are taking a laptop or other tech with you, check you have the correct software downloaded, the correct cables, and safe storage space.
Money, money, money
Learn how to budget. Plan a week’s meals and learn how to shop and cook them; what is essential and what is not? Work out how much per week you’ll have to spend and try to stick to that as a trial. Research your budget options; where can you buy cheap but quality food, when is the best time to travel and when is the best time to buy the cheapest travel tickets.
Student bank accounts can be extremely helpful and flexible, and some offer great benefits such as a free railcard, which can mean a big saving on your commute.
Many students buy things they never use. Ask your friends already at university what their top five things to take are, and what they took and never used. Explore second hand alternatives, or previous students selling their books from first year on. Make a list and prioritise what is needed and what is just a luxury item.
Keep in touch
Chances are the people who you’ve spent the last few years at school with are not going to attend the same university as you. Make a group space or a chat group to keep in touch and plan a get-together over the holidays. Take photos and make memories before you go.
Can’t live without your Dad’s homemade cake or your Mum’s best curry? Can you make it yourself? Start a notebook with recipes and advice, you will appreciate it more than you realise.
Practice at home while you have the chance to ask for help. Can you wash, dry and iron your clothes, hook your laptop to a printer and manage your own bills and payments?
If you are moving away think about what you want to take; homesickness can be tough, but familiar things around you can help overcome this.
Try not to worry
It will all be okay, and even if it isn’t - there’s plenty of support available. There are personal tutors, student support teams and many people to help you with any concerns. You aren’t going to be on your own, even in distance learning. There are thousands of people feeling apprehensive too. It’s normal to feel a little scared but try to feel the excitement too – it is an adventure after all!
Siân Duffin is a Student Support Team Leader with Arden University. She assists distance learning students across the world from enrolment to graduation with every aspect of their learning journey.