Practical skills to have in place before coming to Reading Uni

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.

Everyone else seems happy!

“Everyone else seems to be having fun, but I’m finding uni stressful. Am I doing something wrong?”  Is this something you find yourself thinking?

Here’s something to consider: ‘Facebook. How much do you believe of what people post on it?’  Are most people you know, likely to post about the downside of life? Or post pictures of themselves looking less than perfect, or having a difficult time?   Some people work hard to keep up that positive image on-line, and even harder to maintain the façade in real life.  When we’re face-to-face with a relative stranger, we all tend to want to come across as confident and fun to know. But underneath that confident exterior, most people have doubts about themselves, things they wouldn’t want others to see. You’re not the only one.

You can ask yourself “How can I manage stress better to feel stronger?” 

Firstly, it might help if you acknowledge to yourself that actually, academic work at uni is meant to be quite demanding.  Think back and remember how much effort you made, just to get here.   Revising for your A levels, writing a personal statement…..and now you’re here, that effort and work goes on. At the end when you graduate, that’ll be validation of all that you’ve done here.

group of students study group

Think about getting together a group of ‘study buddies’

So, If you’re having a hard time academically, what about forming a small group of study-buddies?  See if anyone wants to talk about the meaning of the latest assignment for half an hour or so. It’s so much better when you have others’ perspectives too. Another source of help is Study Advice, for any kind of academic question:

Make sure you’re also taking care of yourself physically, to give yourself the best chance to cope with the change from home life to uni life first. Think about what you are eating as this can have a huge impact on how you’re feeling about everything!    Make sure to drink plenty of water as well as whatever else you’re drinking.

Then start thinking about cultivating a good relationship with yourself.  No-one needs to be perfect. When things go wrong, stop and think: would I forgive someone else for doing that? If you accept others as ‘good enough’, what about easing up on yourself?

Socialising can be fun, or can be a stress-point. At home you probably had old friends you’d known for years.   Making new ones is going to take a while. Just because you didn’t get asked along when your flatmates went out isn’t a reflection on you. Another time, instead of waiting to be invited, decide what you’d like to do, think about who else might enjoy that, and suggest it to them. Be prepared to maybe hear that they’re busy – if so, suggest it to someone else. People who have a good time don’t give up on their plans when others say no, they just find someone who’ll say yes.

What is this mysterious thing called Mindfulness ?

So, you’ve heard this word ‘Mindfulness’ a zillion times now and are curious about what it actually is and whether it might be something that can help you get through the stressful moments that inevitably happen during your life at University.

being 'mindfull' in the Harris Garden

Well here are the basics :

Mindfulness has its origins in the Eastern traditions of Buddhism but refers to a secular practice of meditations and relaxation exercises. Mindfulness means quite simply being aware of what you are experiencing in the moment as opposed to the mindlessness with which we ordinarily approach the day! How many of us run from one task to the next never really concentrating on the actual moment but thinking ahead or behind of us, maybe multitasking and not really listening to each other or to our own experience of the moment. If you recognise yourself in this description then Mindfulness may help.

So how can it help me ?

People who practice mindfulness regularly, even for a short time each day notice the following benefits :

  • Less anxiety
  • Less depressed
  • Better memory and concentration and
  • Less easily upset by everyday things that go wrong
  • Better sleep patterns
  • Better problem solving skills improved immune system so fewer bugs!

mindfulness photo buildingBut I haven’t got time to practice relaxing and awareness …..

Well of course you do have a lot of things to balance whilst at University, studying, making new friends, learning new skills, looking after your own finances, eating healthily and getting used to independent living away from home. However putting a small bit of time aside each day, maybe 5 minutes, can benefit you in the longer term and help you to manage all the other things a bit easier.

So how do I find out more?  Mindfulness photo view out of window

Well there are lots of free resources on line that enable you to listen to a mindfulness meditation in your own time at home, for eg:  or  and if you just put mindfulness into a search you are bound to be able to check out other options you may prefer.

There is also a ‘Life Tools Talk’ on Wednesday 18th November at 1.00pm in Palmer Building room 103 – “ An Introduction to Mindfulness Part 2-Keeping Going”. ( Don’t worry if you didn’t attend part one, it doesn’t matter – you can still come along and find out more.)

Tired of being Tired?

Don't let your bed space get taken over by the rest of your life!

Don’t let your bed space get taken over by the rest of your life!

After a summer away from uni, perhaps working full-time, or reverting back to family routines, the return to student life, let alone Welcome Week, can come as a bit of a shock to the system! One issue that is consistently brought to us here in the Counselling Department, is the difficulty that many students have with their sleep patterns. Unfortunately student life is not really conducive to a regular 9 – 5 lifestyle, and thus it can be really easy to slip into a habit of late nights, and long lie-ins…and then struggle when 9am lectures are scheduled.
If this sounds like you, try the following tips:
Keep to a set bed-time; if you are a night owl and prefer to go to bed around midnight, that’s fine, but make sure that you don’t then over-compensate by getting up at lunch-time the following day. Our bodies produce a hormone called melatonin that helps us to sleep; levels start to rise as the sun goes down, and then decrease as the sun rises meaning that you will be working against, instead of with, your natural sleep hormones if you go to bed as the sun is coming up.

use an alarm clock - not your mobile phone!

use an alarm clock – not your mobile phone and try to get up when your alarm goes off

Get up when your alarm goes off; repeatedly hitting snooze doesn’t provide you with refreshing sleep, it just messes up your ability to go to sleep in the evening! Our bodies are designed to get the most refreshing sleep early on in our sleep cycle, so dozing does not provide the quality of sleep that you need. It’s better to get up when the alarm goes off, and if you still feel tired, just schedule in an earlier bedtime.

Use an alarm clock, not your phone – that way you will not be tempted to check it through the night, and you won’t be woken up by alerts sounding during the small hours. Although research is conflicting on this, there is also some evidence to suggest that the blue-light of the phone screen can interfere with your production of melatonin as well.


Wondering who to hang out with?

So, you’ve come to Reading Uni. Well done for making it here! 

You’ve brought things that are important to you, you’ve got paper, files and pens, stuff that’s necessary, and things to personalise your room, to make it your “home from home”.

NOW WHAT? What events to go to? Check out the events schedule at the Uni site and the Students’ Union site:

Who to hang out with?
• Being at uni can feel great – free at last! It can also feel quite weird – being away from everything you know. Most likely, everyone who’s here for the first time is feeling a mix of these emotions, as they’ve all left important people and places behind.    Plus, there’s a mass of information to take in.
• Take each day as it comes, and sift out what went well so you can retain the information you’ve learnt today: people’s names, where they come from, where the library is, which flatmates prefer coffee to tea, who’s studying what, who stays up till late and who prefers socialising in a quieter way….
• Notice one or two people who are on your wavelength. Start trying to be around when they are. Do you prefer clubbing, or watching films together?
• Be prepared to share a bit about your personal life back home, so others can get to know you.
It takes time to settle in, so although you might feel a bit up and down for a while, remember it’s normal when you’ve been ‘transplanted’. Everyone needs a while to put roots down. Once you have, you’ll notice yourself feeling less blown around by your emotions, getting steadier, and feeling you made the right choice.

Everyone needs a while to put roots down!

Everyone needs a while to put roots down!


Well done and Welcome to our new students!

Today is ‘A-level’ results day and many of you now know for certain that you are coming to study at Reading University in September. Congratulations and welcome to all of you.   As I sit here now I can see the wonderful ‘award winning’ Whiteknights campus which is looking amazing –  at its summer best despite the rain!  When you come to Reading, don’t forget to take some time out in Welcome Week  to explore the campus – take a walk round the lakes, enjoy the wonderful nature and relax.  Here are a few photos which show what you have to look forward to.  See you all soon.

The Harris Garden

The Harris Garden

Whiteknights campus near the lake

Whiteknights campus near the lake

Woodland walks through the Whiteknights campus

Woodland walks through the Whiteknights campus