Eight top tips for life at university | NatWest

Eight top tips for life at university

Prepare for student life and what you can expect from your time there.


Before you arrive

Student accommodation

Your accommodation is where you'll spend the majority of your time, so it makes sense to be best prepared for moving away from home.

There are three main types of student accommodation and each has its benefits and disadvantages.


University halls of residence


This managed accommodation is a stepping stone to independent living as you experience being away from home for the first time without the complications of utility bills or landlords. The halls are managed by the university so you're likely to be covered if anything goes wrong.


Many students choose to live in halls during their first year as the close living situation means it is a great way of interacting with people and you may end up finding good friends who you later choose to live with.


Main benefit: Great way of meeting new people


Main disadvantage: Very little peace and quiet if you want to study!


Private Halls/Private University Houses


These are a comparatively new addition to the student accommodation market as a compromise between university accommodation and traditional rented houses.Your bills and maintenance are usually included as with traditional halls of residence but they differ as the private halls are laid out as shared flats and studio apartments.


You can either rent an apartment to yourself, or rent one room within a flat and allow yourself to be allocated flatmates.


Main benefit: Living in private accommodation without having to worry about bills.


Main disadvantage: The prices for these private halls are usually higher than halls or private renting.


Private Accommodation


Renting a private property can appeal to those students looking to escape the halls of residence as it enables you to decide where and who you live with. Not all universities can provide halls for first year students so some may have to go down this route from the start.


The private houses are usually located quite close to the universities but you may have to put up with difficult landlords, splitting utility bills and untidy housemates. Reach out to your university for a list of approved landlords and student friendly letting agents.


Main benefit: The capability to choose where you live and who with.


Main disadvantage: Managing and splitting utility bills.




What to take with you

Obviously you can't take everything to university with you, but which essentials should you pack and what will you need?

If you're leaving home for university, you're probably frantically deciding what you need to take with you and what you'll need for life as a student. The key is to create a checklist and pack your essentials first, then optional items if you have room.


Your checklist will obviously vary depending on whether you're staying in university halls or private accommodation. Often when living in halls you'll be provided with things like kettles, toasters, noticeboards, lamps etc.


Important documents


All official university documentation including acceptance letter and accommodation contract

All student loan correspondance

Bank card and details

National insurance card and details

Student discount cards

Medical documentation (donor cards, diabetes information etc)



Cutlery set

Crockery set


Saucepan/frying pan

Baking tray and oven gloves




Mobile phone


USB sticks




Pens and pencils


Highlighter pens

Post-it notes




Duvet, pillows and sheets

Mattress protector

Laundry basket

Radio/alarm clock

Coat hangers





Flip flops

Washing products

Dry shampoo



Arriving in your new home city

Leaving home for university can be stressful and daunting. Take the time out to get to know your new home city.

Your first few days in a new city can feel quite overwhelming. That's why it is a great idea to visit your new home city before term starts and maybe even spend a few days taking the time to get to know your new surroundings.


Find your bearings

Every city has its less savoury areas and it is reassuring to know where to avoid and which places are safe.  A little bit of online research should help you in this respect.


The necessities

Take the time to find where your nearest supermarket, doctor's surgery and bank branch are. In your first few days in a new city you'll have to think about things that your parents had probably done for you until now, so be prepared to have to fend for yourself.


Public transport

Is there a bus that will take you right to the university on a rainy day? How much is a taxi back to your halls from the city centre? By finding the answers to these questions you'll be able to explore your new city more confidently and plan days/nights out accordingly. Download the local bus route map and look at signing up for a travel card if your new city has a metro/tram/tube service.


Where to buy the essentials

So you've arrived at your accomodation with all your belongings, but there's bound to be something you've forgotten. Instead of paying over the odds at the first shop you come across, it will be helpful to know where you can purchase reasonably-priced essentials. Check out student forums online for helpful advice.

Once you're there

Making your student loan stretch

Making your student loan go further is harder than it sounds. We share some helpful advice on managing your money.

Managing your finances while at university can seem like an impossible task. But its not. Avoid the pitfall of living off an overdraft or falling into debt by making your student loan work harder for you.


After a couple of weeks of life at university, your student loan has hit your bank balance like a gift from above. The temptation is to go out and enjoy student life by splashing the cash. However, if you want to be able to afford to live off more than beans on toast by the end of term, you'll have to budget, plan and manage your money wisely.


Check our money tips for students Life Moment page.

Check our budgeting advice for students Life Moment page.



Part time work

If your student loan isn't enough to cover your cost of living and studying, why not consider a job to help ease the burden?

Many students find that a student loan alone cannot cover their costs while at university and require a part-time job to help them get by. Here are some top tips to finding the best job and how to manage your work-study balance accordingly.  


Find a job

Many universities will issue a list of available part-time jobs in their newsletters and via the online intranet.

The university campus will usually be looking for part-time employees to work in its shops, cafes and restaurants. Drop your CV in or just go in and ask.

University towns will boast a number of bars and restaurants on the look out for staff. Make sure you apply early in the term as there will no doubt be lots of interest from fellow students.


Work-study balance

Working while at university is a great way of picking up some extra cash, but it shouldn't interfere with your studying.

Ideally, you should be looking for flexible working patterns that allow you to pick up extra shifts when you are available and when you can work minimal hours when you need to knuckle down and study. Weekend jobs are pretty practical in this regard as it leaves you free in the week to work towards your degree.

Working seasonally could also be an option. You can get some real hours in around the Christmas and summer busy periods when your university work will be on the back burner.


A part-time job could also look really impressive on your CV following graduation. The fact that you were able to juggle university life while maintaining a job proves you are a responsible, hard working candidate.  

Work out a budget

Planning and budgeting will help you avoid any unexpected cash emergencies.

Living to a budget doesn't have to mean scrimping and saving. It just means that you are responsibly allocating your funds so that you know how much money you'll have to spend and save each month. Use the NatWest Budget Calculator to help you plan. You'll need to work out how much you spend on


  • household bills
  • living costs
  • financial products (insurance…)
  • family and friends (presents…)
  • travel (car costs, public transport…)
  • leisure (holidays, sport, restaurants…)

Check out the budgeting advice for students Life Moment page.

Social Media, your new best friend!

From arranging study groups, to organising nights out, social media could be your best friend at university.

Many universities are now harnessing the power of social media to connect with their students. From accommodation services, to library and sports news, you can keep in touch with your university through a variety of different social channels.


The main reason for using social media while at university however, is maintaining contact with friends, both on campus and back at home. Connecting with friends on Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and Facebook is a great way of avoiding becoming isolated in a strange, new city.


Social media has also changed the way we study as well. Excellent articles, blogs and studies are available on these platforms but in a more mobile and visual environment that appeals to students in this day and age.


Student discounts

Every penny is important as a student. Find out how you can use discounts to your advantage.

Many brands, businesses and retailers offer a variety of discounts to students. While this is a great money saving technique, it is not an invitation to spend frivolously because you're getting a great deal!


You can get a choice of offers with your NatWest Student Account. Specific account eligibility criteria applies.


An NUS card will unlock the door to numerous discounts on essentials in university, traveling or when you're out and about.  

You can see a full list of the discounts here.


Another discount site to look out for is Unidays. Once you've verified your student status it is free to use and provides codes for ongoing online student discounts.

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