Preparing for your first or second year

Student Princeton is just going into his second year, and has some great tips on getting prepared for your year ahead – just before the Autumn term starts!

Preparing for your first or second year will give you an important advantage to ensure that the rest of your following academic year runs smoothly.  This short blog will cover some of the essential things you could be doing to have a smooth and efficient start to your year.

Write a C.V

Not only are C.Vs used for jobs, you may also need to provide a C.V for work experience or voluntary work. It is compulsory that you have a well-presented C.V which highlights your accomplishments and unique set of skills to allow you to stand out to your future employers.

Work experience

Taking part in work experience or voluntary work allows you to gain more knowledge and improve your skills which lets you build a stronger C.V. For example, I study a degree in biology so I decided to shadow doctors and work in labs.

University routine

Making a plan or routine for your week can be very important as it will help you save time in the long run and keep you organized.  Similarly, you should look at recommended reading lists for your modules to get ahead of your course. This will give you time to prepare and to ask questions about topics you are confused about.

Note taking and essay writing

If you are beginning first year looking at note taking methods such as the Cornell method will help you keep your notes more organized. The Cornell method is a technique many students find very useful. You can find tutorials on how to use the Cornell method on YouTube. Many modules also have coursework that is graded by essays, so refining your essay writing will help you get better grades. You can find many guides and tutorials for essay writing on the University of Reading library. The library provides many tutorial videos covering a range of topics which I’ve used during my first year.

Enjoy and Relax!

Lastly it is important that you relax and enjoy the last of the summer before the start of your academic year. Spending time with friends, trying out new hobbies and exploring new places will help take off any stress before the start of your year at university. My hobbies include photography and music. I recently started teaching myself the guitar at university and I will continue learning it during summer. I’m also going to be travelling to Italy this summer with my friends to spend time with them and to relax.

Mindful about money

Whether you’re a new student about to start studying with us, or returning and want to be savvy with your finances, student Nozomi shares some of her tips on saving. 

You wake up to the sound of your alarm on a Monday morning. After a weekend with friends and family, and perhaps even a holiday not long ago – you are struck by the realisation that it is August and you’ll be at university in a month or so and that means buying your own groceries, paying bills and that money matters.

But affording student life doesn’t need to mean two part-time jobs along with your studies and an anti-social life. There are loads of ways you can be saving money to make it easier for you to spend time with friends at university, go home for a weekend and most importantly, focus on your degree. Here are a few ways to save!

Student Bank Account

If you’re starting university this September, have a look at opening a student bank account. A student bank account gives you an overdraft (a money safety net, so to speak) with different branches offering students different benefits along with a student bank account. At the University of Reading, we have a Santander on campus which offers students a free 4-year 16-25 Railcard! Have a browse around to see what suits you best before settling on one bank.

16-25 Railcard

If you don’t choose to open an account with Santander or if you are not eligible for a student bank account as you may be an international student, you can still choose to purchase a 16-25 Railcard. This will save you 1/3 on train fares making journeys home and day outs much cheaper. Look out for student deals and Black Friday offers for an even cheaper price when buying a railcard!

NUS Extra Card

An NUS Extra Card give you a variety of student discounts such as 10% off at ASOS, up to 40% off a meal out at Pizza Express and with a new Co-op on campus at Reading, we’re going to make full advantage of the NUS 10% off discount at the Co-op.

An NUS Extra Card also gives you free ISIC. The International Student Identity Card (ISIC) is internationally accepted as certified proof of student status. Thus, giving you discounts when you go back home or if you go on holiday!

Student Discount Websites

If paying for an NUS Extra Card doesn’t appeal to you, don’t worry – you can still get student deals online. By registering student status using your university email address, websites such as UNiDAYS and StudentBeans offer you lots of student discounts from food to tech and everything in between!

Trials and Freebies

Trials are often marketed towards students – giving us some freebies for a period of time. For instance, Amazon Prime offers students a 6-months free trail and also 50% off if you were to purchase. Students also get 50% off Spotify premium.

Here’s some free software that are useful to students:

  • Microsoft Office – Using your student email account, your university will be able to provide you with all the Microsoft Office software you could ever dream of. The link shows you how we get it at the University of Reading.
  • Avast – Avast is a free and fairly comprehensive antivirus software. Definitely worth having to protect your computer. Compatible with PC, Mac and Linux.
  • Google Drive – It’s super simple to use and lets you to create basic documents, spreadsheets and presentations online making group work much easier at University.

From Your University

Yes, I know this one sounds crazy – we pay to go to University, not the other way round! Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean the University doesn’t offer us any financial help. It’s worth checking whether you might be able to get a bursary, grant or even a scholarship from your University and/or Department at University.


Hopefully this article has helped you chill out and bit knowing that there are so many ways to cut down your costs when you’re a University student. So lay back, relax and enjoy the rest of your summer!

See the Money Matters pages on Essentials for more information.

To bring or not to bring: Being an international student in the UK

Greetings! This is Andy, second year History M.Phil Graduate Student. Like many of you I wanted to pack my house in my suitcase when I was preparing to study in the UK. For me packing for university was an experience I had already had but many years ago, back in my own country; when I did my undergraduate degree I was only two hours away from home. It was easy for my parents to bring forgotten items up to me. This time, I was traveling to a different country and on the other side of the world. I couldn’t just call home if I forgot anything.

First and foremost, make sure you have your passport, ID, CAS letter and any other information that is required by immigration neatly organized and ready to give to immigration once you get off the plane. It is not a good idea to place this in your checked baggage. You see your bags AFTER you have a nice visit with Border Control.

You know your favourite hair dryer? Shaver? Or other electrical items? Just leave them at home. Yes, you can buy a transformer or power converter, but from personal experience and a visit to a Travelodge, I do not recommend it. I blew the circuit breaker for my whole room with one I bought from Amazon. You can buy new hair dryers or shavers for a good price at Boots or Asda.

Your laptop and cell phone chargers are easy to get a different cord or transformer. There are a few stores on the high street that carry parts. Apple is there as well. So, if you are a Mac user all your bits and bobs can be taken care of by their fabulous helpers. Pens and pencils and desk supplies you can buy here for pennies, so you can leave those things at home if you want.

Clothing wise, try to pack light. Everyone says, ‘leave your sweaters at home’. They are right, you can buy them here and they take up space in the suit case. Bring an umbrella. This is England. It rains quite often.

If you are coming with your family to study, here are a few tips as a mature student with children. One piece of advice is to have your children pick their favourite toy and make a play sac for them for the plane and some things for them to have while they are here. If they have a tablet, bring it. It will save your sanity. Crayons and colouring books are also a great thing to pack as well. They even have them for adults!

Think you are going to miss your family? Pack some pictures without the frames. Wilko and Primark all have inexpensive frames and you can purchase them and place them in once you are settled.

Finally, if you have any medical conditions that need monitoring, make sure you get a current prescription for any medication and bring the necessary medical records with you. Keep these on you and give them to your new GP.

To second the above, if you wear glasses or contacts, bring them but don’t worry about packing a huge bottle of solution.  Having your prescription handy is also a good thing. If you must have solution for contacts; it needs to follow airline regulations. You can get new ones, and save space once you arrive at Boots.

These tips are the most important ones and ones I remember using. Yes, I did forget a few things, but it wasn’t detrimental. But as always, the summer holiday is dwindling down and we’re getting closer to the start of the new academic year. Happy packing and safe travels!