What do I need before I get there?

Just a couple of points I learnt from my Bachelors, and some advice as a lecturer. You run the risk of falling into a black hole of buying everything you think you’ll need, and missing the important things.

Should I buy a computer?

This is a difficult question.  You arguably don’t even need a computer to survive university, it makes things considerably easier and not having to rely on university and library availability, but you could.  Would I like to try?  Definitely not.  As fun as writing a group assignment in the middle of the night in an open-access IT lab with a group of mates and ordering a takeaway (this was actually eaten in the glass corridor watching the inebriated students returning home) was I wouldn’t like to write every assignment, do further study and research in a shared space.  But, everyone is different.

Firstly, I don’t necessarily agree that tablets are the best tool for a student.  You would be better off buying a 2-in-1, that will probably cost you the same if that is what you want.  My reason for this is if you need to use specialist software or referencing tools these are more likely to work with a full rather than mobile OS.  I actually use a touchscreen and OneNote to take notes, as you can save them nicely and search them etc. (I fell in love with the functionality of OneNote) so this is something I would consider for studying rather than having a folder of paper notes for each module (as I did before touchscreens were affordable).

Secondly, does your uni network support your chosen operating system?  There a particularly shiny OS that is cheap, and functional, but might not work with a university network unless they have an accessible guest network.  As these tend to be netbooks with a very small storage capacity, connecting to a network with these is fairly essential.

Thirdly, you get some good deals as a student directly from some major manufacturers or major retailers.  Take a look at Student Beans, or Totum, towards starting the new year/at the start of the new year and you might see deals with up to 25% some top-end computers.

If you want some advice on what you will need, find the techiest or geekiest lecturer you have (ask who the other lecturers go to, there will be one).  Many students come to me asking about computers. I don’t recommend devices as that would be unfair, although I do have my favourites, I just advise what to look for.  I will try and write a post in the digital literacy section on my blog on this too as a more general guidance.

A question to always consider is; if I have one already, do I really need a new one?

Should I go and buy all the textbooks for the modules I’ve chosen?

This is a mistake I excitedly made in the first year.  They are normally readily available in the library, rarely get opened, and are expensive.  There are a couple of core texts that I still refer too now, but ended up selling a lot of them.  If you need to buy a textbook, look at the last edition.  It probably hasn’t changed much (unless it is clinical guidance etc.).  It will be considerably cheaper and still last you.  I bought a key text for each module, then lost lots of money sending them after selling online as everyone else was doing the same and the market flooded.  With more texts available as eBooks, there is even less reason to buy textbooks.  You could easily save yourself £200+ which could go towards buying a better computer.  This might be different if you have pre-reading, where you might have to buy the latest edition of a certain textbook but I try to avoid forcing students to spend money wherever possible, and I hope other lecturers take this stance too.

What do I actually need?

This depends on what you have, and what you are planning to do. 

Going into halls?  You may need bedding and cooking essentials.  Student packs are good, and there are a few available.  Personally, keep a little money spare and map out the cheap bedding and cookware shops and wait until you get there.  You’ll probably need bedding, but it might be that your whole flat/house has each turned up with a set of pans. 

A student cookbook.  If you have never lived away from your parents a good student cookbook will be invaluable. 

A TV licence if you intend on watching terrestrial TV. 

A crate of beer/bottles of wine for the first night.  A bit of cash for a takeaway would be a good idea too.  This could be your chance to get to know your housemates. I’m not saying you’ll be expected to pay for it, but after moving into halls you probably won’t want to go out for a beer. Some do get help off of family and go for a meal with them after, but beer will last until another night.

Check on parking permits and what is included in the halls rental price.  There are some out there that include food!

Headphones.  Might sound like a weird one, but a decent set of headphones when you are working in the library or a social area, or even a noisy house, can help with distractions.  Look for active or passive noise cancelling.  Gaming over-the-ear headphones are good at this and generally more affordable (you don’t have to buy AMAZING headphones, just ones that do the job).  I even keep a set on my work desk now, I use them for Skype or to cancel out people chatting around me when I am working with a bit of music or radio.

Last, and probably most importantly, a budget.  If you have worked, you will probably end up with less money as a student than you are used to.  You may still have a job, but Uni will take up a lot of your time so it is unlikely that you will be able to work much without your academia suffering.  If you have savings, all the better, ensure you work out an allowance from your savings.  If not, think about where you can buy cheap food, cheap cleaning and personal items.  Do I need to run a car in a city or is it just costing me money?  This is something I did badly.  I had a student overdraft and it didn’t last me very long, so I got a job and it cut into my study time.  A lesson I learnt is to have an extra bank account, all money goes in and out of a main account that I don’t even carry a card to.  Then, I have a ‘small’ account on the side that I put money in each week as a standing order and that was my weekly budget. I only ever carried this card on me so couldn’t overspend.  I just wish I had worked this out in the first two years and could put it in place before it was necessary to stay afloat.

If you have anything else you want to add, please write a reply.  If you don’t agree with something let me know.

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