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Top tips for preparing for University

So you’re planning to come to the UK to study. Maybe you’ve been accepted for the full undergraduate international student experience or maybe as part of your course as a year abroad. Either way you need a university checklist. Something that can prepare you for university life in the UK.

Leaving home and travelling abroad to live and study will be a great experience, but it can also come with stresses, mixed emotions and potentially life-changing challenges. You will likely leave family and friends behind, temporarily at least, and it’s important to prepare yourself for what university life will be like. 

So before you uproot and leave, work through our UK university checklist to ensure that you have at least the basics covered. We hope you find this article helpful. 

University checklist: Remember the ‘boring stuff’ 

There will be much anticipation and excitement surrounding moving abroad and studying in another country. It’s important not to get caught up in the whirlwind, and forget the all important, perhaps ‘boring stuff’.

First things first, make sure that you are confirmed on the right course at your chosen university. You don’t want to travel without making sure this is all in place. Read our recent article on UK university applications for more information. 

Secondly, do you have the correct visa to enter the UK? All international students will need to gain permission to enter the UK as a student, with a few exceptions, so making sure you have that ticked off your checklist is critical. 

Once that is done, you are ready to arrange your travel. Booking a flight is often simple, but making sure you’re flying into the closest airport to your university is important, as well as considering how you will get to your university or accommodation from the airport. Many universities will provide a meet and greet service for international students, with transport to your halls of residence.

If you’ve got those things sorted the next thing you need to do to prepare for university is sorting out your finances. Once your place is confirmed on your course, you will likely need to pay tuition fees. This will probably be spread over a period of time with a clear payment schedule, and is information that your university will give you well in advance. 

Depending on the university, and where it is, you may need to arrange accommodation - either with the university or privately. Some universities have designated international student housing. These are a good idea as they help you to settle in and integrate into university life more easily. 

Lastly, as well as your visa, you need to gather any relevant documents that you may need to live and study in the UK. This will include: 

  •  your passport, 

  • travel insurance documents, and 

  • details of any healthcare provision. 

If you need private healthcare insurance, this is also something you should arrange prior to arriving in the UK.

Preparing for living away from home


Preparing to move away from home can be hard at the best of times, and moving abroad can be harder still. In preparing for university, you will need to think about what you need to take with you. There will be limitations on flights and excess baggage can be very expensive so, depending on what you plan on taking with you, researching shipping companies might be a sensible option.

First determine which essential items you will need in the UK. Many things such as bedding, household items, crockery, small electrical appliances, can be purchased reasonably cheaply after you arrive. The UK weather can vary so be sure to take that into account when deciding which clothes to pack. Students in the UK tend to dress casually, so if you can’t take your entire wardrobe you will be able to buy extra clothes without too much trouble. 

Be sure to pack at least a few reminders of home, such as photographs, as this will help with feelings of homesickness at times. 

An important thing to remember is to avoid bringing food - especially fresh produce such as meat - as this is something that may not be allowed into the country.

Sorting your finances

Before arriving it is a good idea to start looking at bank accounts in the UK. It’s recommended that you talk to your bank in your home country before you leave as that may be able to give advice on the best way to approach this, and they may even be able to help facilitate setting up an account.

Keeping in touch

Another vital step is figuring out the easiest and cheapest way to keep in touch with your family and friends while you are abroad. While a lot of the time you will likely be caught up in university life, being prepared for the occasional bout of homesickness will help in the long run. There are always free online services available for communicating with home. Before you arrive it is also worth shopping around for the best mobile network for placing international calls.

Researching your new neighbourhood

While ticking off your university checklist, you might want to research the area that you’re going to be living in. The UK is crammed full of history and culture, and the likelihood is there will be something going on wherever you are. Take the time to learn a little about the traditions and culture, as this should help you settle into UK university life more swiftly.

Preparing to get social

There will also be plenty of opportunities to get involved with social clubs and activities whilst at university in the UK, and your university checklist should also include looking into these, as well as visiting your university’s Freshers’ fair.

Preparing for your course of study

Getting a head start on your studies can make all the difference. 

University study can require more discipline and engagement than any previous study you might have undertaken. As such, the workload can quickly become intense, with reading, lectures and assignments, and it’s important that you are prepared so as to avoid becoming overwhelmed.

Be sure to read over your course outline prior to arriving, and check to see if there are any subject readings that you can get ahead with. Getting on track early will mean you can spend your time on more important tasks, like assignment preparation. 

Find the people who will be able to answer any questions that you might have. Is there any specialised equipment or materials that are required for your course? Make sure you are aware of anything before arriving, and plan accordingly.

Many universities provide virtual tours and maps, which allow you to familiarise yourself with your campus, how to get around, and where the different buildings and lecture halls are. This will help you to find your bearings as you begin your studies abroad.  

Many university courses will be active on social media, and this can be a great way to meet some of the people who will be studying the course alongside you. It will also be reassuring as you will see that more or less everyone is in the same position when arriving at university.

A useful skill to practise in preparation for university is time management. Succeeding at university can largely come down to how responsible you are with your time and whether you use it efficiently. Try practising by prioritising your activities and then putting them into a daily context so you can see when you need to be doing what.

Finally, stay passionate about your subject. It's easy to forget why you’re going to study your course in the throes of preparing for your big move, but it’s important to remember what led you to making that decision in the first place. 

Be it creating yourself some extra fun reading, or attending courses that are related to your field of study, make sure you find ways to keep yourself motivated and engaged while you are preparing to go to university and ticking off that university checklist.

If you would like to learn more about our pre-university courses, then please get in touch now.

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