University can be a time to have fun as well as to gain more knowledge to increase your level of education and job eligibility. The best way to ensure you can do both, is to have a solid foundation in place before you arrive at uni. Think of this foundation as built of the bricks of various necessary life-skills. Have these bricks ‘cemented in’ prior to arriving, and you’re set to study well and enjoy your time here!
How many of these life skills can you check off?
Discuss with a trusted older relative or friend
- Budgeting – ask a family member or a friend/neighbour who runs their own household, to figure out with you how to make sure you don’t go overdrawn.
- Calculate with them roughly what bills you’ll have, and how much money you’ll have left, to use on whatever you want. This could avoid a shock at some point in the academic year.
- Bank account – set up a student bank account.
- Meal planning – it’s easy to fall into eating pizza or take-outs every day, which is expensive, and unhealthy. Discuss a way of making a weekly meal plan, to ensure variety. It makes shopping easier too. To cut costs, a packed lunch is practical to take with you, to eat in a short break between lectures.
- Medical appointments – who makes your medical appts while you’re still living at home? When you come to Reading it’s usually best if you register with the University’s Medical Practice. Think through with someone, how you’ll let the receptionist know when you’d like an appt and how much information to give when they ask what it’s for, as they’re likely to, nowadays.
- Medication – make sure you have enough of any regular medication with you, to last till you go home again, or until you’re registered with a local GP practice such as the University Medical Practice (9 Northcourt Avenue, RG2 7HE; tel: 0118 987 4551). If you’ve never managed your own medication, make sure you know how often to take it and how long it’ll be before you need to order a new prescription.
- Decisions – are you good at making your own decisions? Think together about possible scenarios that might arise, and the options available: will you choose passive, assertive, or aggressive ways of relating to others?
- Keeping yourself safe – if you’re out at night, one safety precaution is to tell someone where you are. What other ways of keeping safe would your trusted person recommend for this, or other situations? Discuss ideas around credit card, phone, alcohol, drinking while out, getting home at night, sexual safety, and any other safety issue you may want some advice on before leaving for uni.
- Insurance – check whether your valuables (laptop, mobile, musical instrument …) are covered by your home insurance, while you’re at uni.
Learn and practise
- Washing machine – you’ll need to figure this item of equipment out, so ask the main laundry-person in your house to show you, and practise. Think how pleased they’ll be, too! Find out about the importance of drying clothes thoroughly before putting them away.
- Shopping – might be an idea to ask what’s needed at home and go food shopping for your current household a few times, to get used to prices and how/what time of day/where to find bargains.
- Cooking – ask for recipes to take with you, from whoever does the cooking at home. How can you tell when something’s cooked enough to be safe to eat? Preferably join in the preparation well beforehand, to get some practice, then have a go at cooking unassisted, before you rely entirely on your own skills.
- Microwave – if you don’t use one at home, ask a friend who lives nearby to show you a basic programme for heating food up. It’s practical, and makes sense for when you might be in a rush at uni.
- Ironing – you may not be bothered about having ironed clothes. If you are, though, and have left this to someone else to do for you, now’s the time to have a try at home.
- Getting up in time – who usually makes sure you get out of bed and out of the house on time in the morning? Start taking that responsibility well before it’s a necessary skill, so it becomes second nature and you’re on time for classes.
- Public transport – find out how to take the bus, the train or a taxi, safely and confidently.
- Washing-up – there are no dishwashers in halls. As washing-up can cause a lot of arguments in shared accommodation, you can avoid tension by learning this simple, practical task.
Living with a chronic medical or mental health condition:
- Register with the Disability Service – make sure this is done well before you arrive.
- Disabled Student Allowance – find out whether you’re eligible for DSA, and if so, apply for it as soon as possible.
- Day-to-day support – have a detailed discussion with the person who helps you most at home, about what support you’re likely to need academically, and for daily living. Contact the Disability Service and let them know, so that they’re more likely to be able to help provide them for you. That way, your start at uni can be smoother.