How to Survive College

Unless you’ve been a student, you don’t know what ‘student living’ is! When you see someone filling their shopping basket with 12p instant noodles and discounted doughnuts it’s pretty easy to see that they’re at university, but if you’ve never been there yourself you won’t get that students learn to live off this kind of food!

Luckily, when I was a student, university fees were still relatively reasonable, but those applying for places at uni for September 2012 will soon be confronting the evil that is The Tuition Fee Increase. Students could end up paying a ludicrous amount, as much as £9,000, for just one year’s fees, which means they’re going to need to take a fast-track course in student living.  

1) Make Halls Your Home

The reason Halls exists is to save you money. There is absolutely no way you’ll be able to afford living on your own when you’re a student, at least not for your first year. If you already have friends near the university, then do feel free to move in with them and share the rent costs, but it is recommend that you spend first year in Halls, if only to interact with the student community better. 

2) Budget, Budget, Budget

Budgeting is one of the main ways you’re going to get through your degree, and without it you’re guaranteed to blow your entire loan in a few weeks, like so many of my friends did. When you first get your loan you see it as free money – obviously it isn’t, but you can’t help but see it that way. After working on minimum wage after college and school, you’re suddenly able to afford everything under the sun and sort of go money-mad.

The first thing I did was purchase a new computer for my graphic design and a brand new wardrobe of clothes – whilst this all made sense when I was buying it, I neglected to think in the long-term. Get yourself a notebook (that’s cheap enough!), figure out your budget for each semester and do a week-on-week analysis of your spending. Write EVERYTHING down. No cheating!

3) A shopping list is your friend

I find it incredibly difficult to go food shopping without a list; otherwise I walk out of the supermarket with a bagful of sweeties and not much else. Before heading to the shops sit down and figure out what you need to buy. Do it once a week so it’ll coincide with your budgeting. Also, mini-tip that seems to work well for me: don’t go shopping when you’re hungry – you always end up buying much more than you may have intended to!

4) Rent your reading material from the library

When you start each module on your degree you’ll be given a reading list. Usually, the university will have a limited number of the books on the list at the campus library. As soon as your first lecture is finished get yourself to the library and take out all the books on the list. 

Photocopy pages if you have to, otherwise you’re going to have to spend a substantial amount of your loan on new books you’ll never use again after you finish your degree. If you do end up being too late to borrow the books, haunt your local second hand bookstore or go to the public library to see if you can find them there. 

5) Don’t go on a night out with more than £30

Generally, £30 is all you’ll need for a night out, especially if the club you’re going to has a student night. Drinks will be incredibly cheap (they know students well) and you’ll be able to carry out that favourite student pastime of getting rip-roaring drunk without spending more than you can afford, and you’ll have enough for a takeaway. I once went out with £100, and as with most people, the drunker I got, the more I spent - It did not end well!

Being a student is a fantastic experience and can help to teach the value of money to many, as well as the difficulties that can be faced when living independently or sharing with people of the same age. It certainly is an eye-opener (well not literally, as students tend to sleep a lot!) and really explains why so many students end up with overdrafts to pay back.


Dani Butlerson writes on behalf of Promethean Planet, who provides free lesson plans and Free teaching resources to the online teaching community.

Categories: College Life   Tags: How to survive in college, how to survive college, survive college, surviving college, college survival guide, student living