Getting the most from your experience at university is about much more than finding the right course. You’ll also need to think carefully about everything from the way you manage your money to the accommodation you choose. Here, we take a look at some of the most important factors that help to make a student experience.
There’s no getting around the fact that higher education costs money. As well as covering any course fees, you’ll need to make sure you have enough money to live off during term time. However, there are a few tips you can follow to help ensure you stay in control of your finances. For example, it’s important to budget from the outset. This means working out how much money you have coming in – which could be from your family, a job, loans, awards, scholarships or savings – and calculating your anticipated expenses. Remember to include all bills, travel costs, academic expenses and general living costs.
If it looks like your income won’t meet your outgoings, you’ll need to find ways to balance your budget. This could mean cutting your living costs and taking on more paid work. Bear in mind though, research has suggested that doing more than 20 hours of work a week outside your studies can have a negative impact on your academic performance, so don’t overstretch yourself.
The quality of learning facilities on offer at your university will also have a big impact on your experiences as a student, especially if you’re doing a practical subject like a science or engineering course. If the labs and other environments you use simply aren’t up to scratch, you could find it hard to engage with your subject and perform to the best of your ability. Learning areas should be well planned and equipped with features such as interactive whiteboards so that students can get on with practical and theory work with ease. One organisation that emphasises the importance of attention to detail in these environments is laboratory design and interior education specialists Innova Design Solutions. The company believes that an expertly designed learning space can serve to inspire both teachers and students.
The best way to get a feel for the standard of facilities on offer at particular universities is to attend their open days. Although you can get information online, there’s no substitute for seeing these environments in person before you apply for a course.
Deciding what sort of accommodation to go for can be tricky. One popular option is student halls, and there are plenty of benefits associated with this university-managed accommodation. For example, it can be one of the quickest and easiest ways to get to know people and make friends. Also, it’s usually conveniently placed for on-campus activities, and it can be a good middle step between living at home and moving into private rented accommodation. You won’t have to worry about the complications of dealing with landlords or paying utility bills, and you should be well supported by the university if something goes wrong. On the flip side, you don’t get to choose your flatmates and you could find you have to cope with lots of mess and noise.
If you’d prefer more control over who you live with, a privately rented property could be a better bet – and you might find your university or college provides a list of approved letting agents and landlords. You’ll have to take more responsibility if you go for this type of accommodation though. For example, you’ll need to manage your own utility bills. You might also find you’re further away from campus.
For the full student experience, try to take advantage of the extracurricular activities available. From societies and clubs to student newspapers and radio stations, there could be a whole range of things to try out. This is a good way to meet people who you have things in common with and it’s great for your CV too.
Building your work experience is another good use of your time. This could help you to make connections with employers and it will help you to build your professional experience. Always balance these activities with your academic work though. If you get carried away with extracurricular commitments, you could find your grades start to suffer.
There are plenty of guides online that can help you to get most from your experiences in higher education. The most important thing is to be prepared for what’s ahead and to understand your options.