• Katie Mullender

Cold Hard Truths: Ten Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting University

Updated: Jun 8, 2018

There is no single way to describe University, every student or graduate has had a different experience. Nothing can fully prepare you- maybe that's the beauty of it.

I've just completed second year, successfully navigating my way through the hysteria of Fresher's and moving into a house like a functioning adult. While I don't claim to know everything, future university students, listen up: you won't find these in the outdated, flashy prospectuses.

1. Sorry to tell you...but your student loan may not even cover your rent.

The government in the UK insists that everyone can afford to go to university. While this is mostly true, it's not that black and white. The facts about student finance for students living away from home are as follows:


Every first-time UK student is entitled to the full tuition loan, (£9000-9250 per year.) So yes, you can afford your course! But where will you live?

- The tables turn here. The maximum amount of student loan you can apply for is £8,700. That MORE than covers your rent as usually, your rent will be just over half of that figure, leaving you with money for food and other essentials. However, loan eligibility is based on household income, so if your parents earn more than £25,000 collectively per annum, you will not get the maximum amount. The amount of loan you will be given gradually decreases as income increases up until £62,146. If your parents earn more than that figure collectively, you will only be given £3928, with the expectation that your parents will contribute the excess. These figures change slightly every year and for the most up to date information, always check GOV.UK .

2. Literally everyone is on Tinder, or they have been...

...and if you'd told me before I started Uni that I'd be singing it's praises, I'd have laughed until I snorted. Yet here I am! Not overly proud to share this on the internet but I met my boyfriend on Tinder when I was a first year, 16 months later, I'm still grateful that a thumb swipe brought us together. Sure, it takes a lot of sifting, but it is possible to find a great match on there. Take everything with a pinch of salt and don't feel like you'll be judged for downloading it.

3. It's very unlikely that you're going to be peer pressured into drinking if you don't want to.

I'll keep with the academic theme of this post and follow that up with an equation:

Less people drinking/less people drinking heavily = less money to be spent on alcohol/more for those who do want to drink A win/win.


Pasta à la chicken dippers might seem fun at first. The novelty will soon wear off.

I was by no means an expert in cooking when I moved into halls and it took many phone calls with my mum, note-taking more intensely than in any following lectures to feel confident in the kitchen. Her style of cooking is very much throw-it-together and not measuring anything, but I digress, choking on absurd 'guesstimated' quantities of paprika is a small price to pay for enjoying actual food.

4B. Your mum's home cooking will never be beaten and you will always miss it.

5. Perfect your packed lunch.

Meal deals are great! Until you have to pay for them.

It may not be as convenient, but my ears bleed listening to students complaining about their finances as they tuck into their sixth Tesco All-Day-Breakfast sandwich of the week. Whether you're religious or not, if Jesus can allegedly feed 5000 on some loaves, think about what investing in a bagel multipack could do for you.

6. Get a memory card for your phone, or better yet, a voice recorder.

When you can't hear the lecturer over your wine-and-budweiser-and-vodka-jellies headache, record the lecture instead! Listen back when you aren't an absolute state.

7. You don't need a part-time job during your first year...

...but a holiday job is an excellent idea.

I kept my retail job at home for my first year, working Christmas, Easter, and Summer holiday- in the period between my halls contract ending and my new house contract starting. I relished the spare time I had at university, previously I was used to a 5:30am wake up for Sixthform and full weekends at work. However, with no student loan left over once I'd paid my rent, the money I built up in those periods of working kept me comfortably afloat. Now I have a term-time job, but I've gotten used to the course structure and it is far more manageable than it would have been last year.

8. Lambrini is half the price of wine, tastes fine, and does the job just as well.

Closet Lambrini fans, REVEAL YOURSELF!

9. Keep the alcohol you care about in your room.

It may not be a financial setback if your 2 litre Strongbow gets drunk by your flatmates without your permission. But the big bottle of Russian Standard that your fun Uncle bought you as a moving in gift is better off out of sight.

10. Don't leave your referencing until the last minute.

I'm rewarding all those that have read to the end with a potentially deadline-saving tip. I swore by "refme" in my first year and was gutted when it became "citethisforme" and only let you save bibliographies if you paid a premium. But I needn't have worried! Download the CiteThisForMe chrome extension and reference all of your websites/books etc in one click- then just copy them into a word document. You can even order them alphabetically later with an online tool.

Bossing student life may be the ultimate goal but don't forget- it's the ridiculous mistakes that make the best stories! My flatmates may have lost two of my Poundland tea towels to the hob, but laughing at the photo evidence more than made up for it.

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