Hopefully, you have thought things through before signing up for college – a university education does not automatically guarantee a better life and is not for everyone. The subjects and college you chose are all factors that can influence your future career and the amount of money you're likely to earn.
Your college years could be some of the happiest of your life – but there are steps you should take to ensure they are.
A torch – wind-up ones mean not having to worry about batteries but without the freedom of a hands-free, head torch (which will come in handy if you're going on any adventure holidays or excursions).
Deciding on whether you need your own computer. And, if you do, whether to get a laptop or a desktop (while a laptop offers more flexibility the battery may only last a year and cost around £100 to replace).
UV pen to security mark possessions with name, home postcode and / or student number.
Personal alarm – probably a useful thing to carry. Especially, if you're likely to be out by yourself at night.
List your valuable possessions (including make, model and serial number) and keep it somewhere secure – not on your laptop because that’s probably the thing most likely to get stolen.
International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number – most mobile phones have an IMEI number which service providers need to block your phone if it is lost or stolen. The IMEI number can usually be found in the battery compartment or enter *#06# on your mobile and it should display it.
Suitable clothing – for people used to living in a tropical climate, the cold of winter is likely to be a shock. Hatfield winters are relatively mild and when it snows it rarely lasts more than a few days (often it melts within 24 hours). However, the cold north winds last much longer.
Back up memory sticks or files – in case your laptop (with your assignments) gets stolen or infected with a computer virus. Colleges often allow students some server space or you may be able to use free email account providers – like Hotmail, Google mail or Yahoo – to store back ups off site. While extremely rare, theft, storm damage or a house fire are all things that could happen to you in the real world – so it is advisable to have more than one set of back up files.
Medication – if you have a medical condition, like insulin-dependent diabetes, make sure you have enough medication (if travelling a great distance allow for any possible delays). It would be advisable to discuss your condition and requirements with the University in advance.
If you're coming from abroad, then it may work out cheaper to bring some of the things you'll use with you but you'll need to decide the pros and cons (for example, a computer may be cheaper overseas but will any guarantees / repair agreements be valid in the UK – and you may have to pay duty on it).
If you're entitled to a grant or coming from overseas then you're likely to need a bank account. Only licensed people are allowed to give financial advice but there are some commonsense things to consider.
Credit cards can be your best friend or your worst enemy. If you pay off your balance in full every month then they're likely to be your friend.
If you lack discipline or simply don't have the money then they can be a more expensive form of borrowing than an overdraft or a bank loan.
People are generally creatures of habit – form good habits (like keeping your receipts and checking them against your monthly bill) at an early age and it'll stand you in good stead for the rest of your life. It'll also help spot at an early stage if someone has cloned or otherwise 'borrowed' your card.
Don't ignore financial difficulties and hope they'll go away. Chances are they won't. So, speak to someone – whether it's a parent, friend, Students Union or Citizen's Advice Bureau – at an early stage, before you end up mired in debt. You may find things aren't as bad as you first thought.
Be careful about financial security – shred old bills, receipts, statements and anything with your financial or personal details on them. Identity fraud is a fact of life and could lead to hassles getting credit later on.
If you are going to write down your PIN number, make sure it's disguised so that no one but you is able to use your card.
More information, including on student grants, can be found in the section dedicated to Student Finance on the UK Government site Directgov – click here for a link.
If you're going to have to get a part time job to get you through college, think about trying to line something up as soon as possible – there's a recession on and there are likely to be many other students and residents competing for local opportunities (the further away you have to travel, the more time you'll spend and the cost of getting there may reduce your earnings).
Large employers in the town:
Tip: large supermarket chains often given their employees a staff discount after one year's service. As these stores offer everything from food and clothing to printer cartridges and games, the average student on a 3-year course could save a tidy sum of money if they had signed up in their first year.
Good luck with your studies!