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'This is the best thing I have ever done.' Mature student Anna Clark shares her story

In October 2014, on the off chance, I called into my local university and it just so happened there was an open day on. I spoke to a lovely man who reassured me that if I wanted to enrol, I could, despite having two young children. I remember him telling me: ‘it won’t be easy, but you can do it, because I did.’ That year I chickened out. It was so easy to keep everything the same and not embrace the change. I consoled myself that the young man had a wife at home who could look after his children, but I regretted my decision, and so, the next year I went to the open day again. I found out as much as I could and applied to UCAS. I remember thinking that it was challenging to apply because I had been a stay-at-home mum for seven years and had no confidence. UCAS made the application simple and you could save it and go back, which I did many times. I was delighted to receive an offer and accepted it straightaway. This was just the start of my journey.

I turned up on the first day apprehensive that I would be the oldest person there, after all, university is for young people isn’t it? There were other mature students there, some older than me, some younger, some from other counties, and some from other countries. I was accepted in like all the rest. It had been a long time since I’d had real friends since having my children. Friends you talk to on a daily basis and share life and troubles with. Those I found at university. It is almost certainly the first thing I hear in the morning, the ping of a message from a friend asking when I’m getting into university. The first few weeks you may struggle with tiredness, I’m not going to lie. I certainly wasn’t used to using my brain all day, but that soon changes, and it’s not long before I started to notice things I’d achieved that I never would have dreamed of before. I’m now a second-year law student going into third year, trying to become a barrister. My grades are good, and my friendships are strong. I am Mooting President of the Law Society here, where I arrange mooting workshops for the first years and take part in mooting competitions. I have been Second Year Law Rep this year, sitting in on staff and student liaison meetings and campaigning for module changes. I have achieved three mini-pupillages with chambers, and I volunteer with a charity which supports people going into court without representation. It is such a fantastic experience. All of these things and more are possible, with children or without, and at any age. Now heading into my final year, I am looking ahead to doing my BPTC and Pupillage.
I have achieved a lot during the last two years, which I never would have achieved if I hadn’t found the confidence to apply. I am so proud of all the things I’ve done, but the thing that has changed the most is my confidence. This is the best thing I have ever done. Please don’t hesitate for a second, jump in.
 

Mature students at Staffordshire University

Each year, thousands of mature students apply through UCAS to study at a UK university. Unsure if this path is for you? Check out the inspirational stories from mature students studying at Staffordshire University to see if it’s the right journey for you!
 
Claire Wilkinson, Business management
 
I’m a single mum with two children – and a mortgage – living in Tamworth near Birmingham. I’ve worked for several years in a variety of different jobs, but I started to realise that the only way I was going to make real career progression was with a qualification as formal ‘proof’ of my skills and capability.
 
Studying an accelerated degree really appealed to me. It meant I could complete it in two years rather than three, reducing the pressure on family time and allowing me to get back into full-time employment sooner.   
 
Like a lot of my peers at Staffordshire, I work part-time alongside my studies. The flexible, self-led learning across the summer months also combines well with school holidays, meaning I don’t need extra childcare. It allows me to balance my time between study, work, and family.
 
Before starting my accelerated degree in business management, I had been out of education for quite a few years and had doubts about my academic ability. I’m now at the end of my first year and the doubts are gone – I’ve really enjoyed every aspect of the course so far. Our course leader is dedicated and positive, and I think his real commitment to his accelerated students is a key part of why it works so well. 
 
The process of accelerated study has also helped us as students to form a close team bond, where we support each other throughout the study challenges. I get the sense that we’re closer than our peer taking the three-year option. For me, the biggest success of the year was the ‘Willingam winners’ team competition – where my team took first place.
 
Grace Thomson, Business management
 
After finishing my A levels, I didn’t plan to study further. I wanted to get straight into work, and I did. This was good at first, and I really enjoyed where I worked, but after a while, I started to feel I would be able to make better and faster progress in my career if I had a degree.
 
The idea of an accelerated degree at Staffordshire really appealed to me. I’ve moved to Stoke-on-Trent to study and get back into work one year sooner than if I were taking a regular degree.
 
I’ve continued to work part-time whilst studying, which is great for keeping in touch with my colleagues from work for weekend trip and holidays (and for continuing to earn and support myself).
 
Danielle Nugent, Business management
 
I never planned to study at university after finishing my A levels – I wanted to get a job and start earning. I spent a few years in France, then moved back to the UK to work in insurance, before taking time out to go traveling. When I got back, I decided that I needed a qualification to progress further in the workplace. I chose to do an accelerated course so that I could get back into work sooner, and moved to Stoke.
 
I am now at the end of my second year, about to graduate, and have been headhunted by recruitment agencies specifically because I have ‘accelerated degree’ on my LinkedIn profile. Other students on this course have had similar experiences – having an accelerated degree has been seen by employers as a positive selling point, and as graduates they’ve been fast-tracked through recruitment stages because of it. 
 
Amy Lambeth, English
 
I went straight into university after finishing my A levels but didn’t enjoy the course I initially chose. I wanted to complete my university education alongside my peers, but I also wasn’t happy with what I was studying. When I realised I could switch to English and complete the course in two years, the decision was easy to make. 
 
I’m the type of person who likes to keep busy, so working through a summer term isn’t a problem. I’m studying at the same rate each week as students taking a standard English degree, so I haven’t had any problems keeping up with any of the study requirements or timescales. I still work part-time alongside my studies. The accelerated degree is simply the ideal option for me.

Choose to live with passion and intent…

My last blog was about the things a mature student needs to consider… I’ll start my latest blog with a brief update on where things are at with me, as there were a few things I left open…

My health; I had my back surgery early last month; the surgeon is happy it went well. I had a badly slipped disc, so they cut away the part of the disc that was sat on the nerve.  I’m still having issues with the nerve, as it was damaged, but the hope is that it will settle before too long.  The great news is that last week I was given the all clear to start my rehab, so after four months of living a painfully sedentary existence, I’m now able to swim, do yoga & Pilates and play a little golf.

My long overdue return to work; I previously touched on my nervous breakdown on the 5th February 2016 – a subject I’ll open up on a little more below. It has seen me unable to work for much of the la

st two and a half years; however, thanks to the help of an incredible counselor (a real-life Yoda) and a clinical psychologist, who have assisted me in picking up the pieces of my shattered life (I wish I was embellishing for dramatic effect), I’m returning to work TODAY.  Once I’ve submitted this blog, I’ll be getting ready and heading into the office – wish me luck! As my boss is flying down from Scotland specifically to see me, I’ll also be straight in the deep end today, having to inform her that I’m starting uni soon, and hoping to negotiate some part-time hours to enable me to financially support my babies & put myself through uni.
Student financing; I alluded to my application for student financing within my last blog.  I’ve found the team to be incredibly helpful and transparent in their handling off my application.  Make sure you apply for everything you believe you may qualify for! My experience is that they will discuss every aspect with you and they’ll help you to clarify how you can attain the bits you’re entitled to – an example, for me, was I had to provide copies of my girls’ birth certificates and demonstrate that their mum gets the child-related financial support. The level of student finance that I quality for has gone up a little, which all helps, and I’m still hoping that I can achieve my ‘plan A’ existing come September; work just enough to enable me to financially support my children’s life, but also affording me the spare time to commit to my studies & finance a place in the halls of residence, so I can live between Cheltenham for uni & Bristol for my babies.

Oh… and it was my birthday last week; 38. How demoralising!

So that brings you up to date…

I want to now talk a little about mental health. To piece together the above and to share a little of my life experience. My hope is that I might be able to inspire someone; whether this be a younger student that is searching for their own identity and path in life, or a mature student, like me, that is facing the daunting prospect of re-training later in life.

Put simply, choose to live with passion and intent! Without passion, what is life really about? Everyone is different, through nature & nurture, we live through different experiences, our brains function differently & we aspire to different goals. But we also share many similarities. I can’t speak personally to every individual reading this, but what I can do is share a little about my experiences, what has shaped me in my 38 years & what life lessons I can pass on, which I think might help someone else…

I’ve previously alluded to some of the less favourable experiences that I’ve had, which have shaped my future in some ways; for example, three years of bullying and isolation in the second half of senior school. My first relationship ended in horrific circumstances in my early twenties when – six months into an engagement, having just exchanged on (but not yet completed the purchase of) our first home and on the brink of trying to start a family – she told me she’d cheated on me years earlier & my world crashed down around me! Then to my marriage, a 14-year relationship (12 married), which was a concoction of happy & traumatic moments; my ex-wife was my favourite person in the entire world, but we needed different things to be happy, which ultimately corrupted our union. But throw in her long-term ill health, my high—pressured career and a young family and you have too many highs and lows to talk about in detail here.

Thanks to support of Yoda (as I’ll forever refer to her within my blog), I was able to dissect my life experiences in order to understand the root cause of my breakdown and, importantly, to enable me to pick up the pieces of my life and to reform them into a stronger and more balanced version of myself.  I could talk all day about the numerous lessons I’ve learned from Yoda and from my life experiences, but you have a life to live & this isn’t meant to be a novel! So, instead, I’ll impart the two main things I’ve taken away… live with passion and intent!

I’m a passionate and emotional person. However, because I was living my personal life being what my ex-wife needed (in turn, suppressing what I needed), and living my working life doing something that wasn’t feeding my soul, I was dying inside.  That sounds more dramatic that I intended, but it’s ultimately true.  Now that I’ve seen the error of this, I have been able to rebuild my life with clear passion and intent for my future and, you know what, it’s incredibly satisfying. Choose a life that you want to live.  Don’t settle for less. Pick a career that you can be passionate about.  Work that’s fulfilling! That doesn’t have to mean hut building in Africa, it can mean teaching, for example. Social work. Nursing. In my case, psychology.  It’s open to your interpretation too, it doesn’t have to be something that someone else believes is fulfilling work, what’s important is that it’s fulfilling to you! You might want to earn big money, have a career that’s ‘high-flying’, so stockbroking or law might appeal.  What matters is that you open your mind and soul to finding what makes you tick! Don’t live as I did, for someone else, without true purpose, as you’ll otherwise get to your late thirties and feel empty inside.  It’s a gut-wrenching feeling.  Truly soul destroying.

Try to apply this to all aspects of your life too; if you’re going to be in a relationship, make sure it works for you both! Love someone that’s good for you and will love you back. Otherwise, be patient. Don’t settle! Life is truly too short to be unhappy or live in a dysfunctional relationship. You can’t force these things; be patient and just live for now.

I’ll relate this back to university; embrace your subject. Work hard to get the most from your time – even if your subject doesn’t end up being the basis for your career, a strong grade and positive experiences will benefit your future. This is also true of your life outside of university; enjoy your life, grasp the experiences. Embrace people that are good for you & be good for them too!
Believe me, the more passion and intent you have in your life, in the way you live it, the more fulfilling it will be.  You’ll also find that the pieces of your own jigsaw will more naturally fall into place if you live in a balanced way; the friendships you nurture, the work you take on, the people you love, the pastimes you choose.

That’s enough from me. Until next time… stay classy San Diego!

Reflections of a first year by Julian Carter-Tugwell

As I write, I’ve just completed my first/fresher year at the University of Gloucestershire (UoG), and it’s been both an eventful and incredibly fulfilling experience so far.

Returning to study wasn’t a decision that I took lightly. At the age of 47, not unlike most people of that age, I had acquired a good set of life’s baggage and responsibilities. I also had a modicum of security in permanent employment, and a natural reluctance to jeopardise this. However, on the flip-side, I had a growing realisation that my career had reached an impasse. I had never really achieved the happiness and sense of belonging that I craved during my 30 years in employment.

I’m a firm believer in the adage that ‘life is too short’, and I certainly don’t want to regret the things I haven’t done, once retired. Hence, I began to tentatively investigate the possibility of returning to full-time, vocation-based, education, to improve my prospects of finding a more suitable career path; I have twenty-plus years of working life left in me, and I want to make the most of them.

I initially attended a teaching open day, as my pragmatic nature directed me thus. The event was very informative and answered every question I had, and more. However, I was hesitant and knew, despite its solid vocational status, and the possibility of studying at an exceptional establishment, that this wasn’t for me. Having scanned a generic course brochure, in my heart of hearts, I knew what I really wanted to do: Popular Music. Was a it possible though? Yes, I had a raft of doubts, but how do you know if you don’t try?

I’d played keyboards, sung and written songs for over 25 years, but it had never, realistically, gone any further than a hobby, even though I’d been dedicated at times – largely due to lack of money and resources. I felt I didn’t have the experience to offer, had a number of seemingly irrelevant qualifications, and an even less relevant CV (I’ve worked in the civil service, air traffic control, and health and safety, to name a few jobs). Nevertheless, I had nothing to lose, so I set about applying.
The University of Gloucestershire was my first choice of educational establishment, largely due to my domestic circumstances, and because my wife is also a full-time university student, studying to be a nurse, locally with the University of the West of England (UWE). Nevertheless, the university also has a superbly equipped media campus, staffed by very experienced industry professionals, which sealed the deal for me.

Prior to being offered an interview, I had been asked to submit evidence of qualifications, a CV, and a portfolio of my musical work. When I received an invitation to attend an interview day, I had a huge sense of awe. Maybe I could do this though – I’d got this far? The event itself was wholly informative and enjoyable. It provided good indication of what student life was about at the UoG, the content of my course choice, and it was also an opportunity for me to showcase my musical ability. When I say ‘musical ability’, I need to be clear that I wasn’t a ‘jobbing’ musician, just someone who liked to write songs, play, and record for their own entertainment. Yes, I’d been dabbling with keyboards since the age of 16, could produce a SoundCloud portfolio, and had a few qualifications to my name, including CSE’s, GCE’s, GCSE’s and several occupational Level 3 certificates, gained in employment. However, I wasn’t an academic, professional, or properly trained, in any sense of the word, and it was somewhat reassuring to meet some others in the same position as me. It was clear that creativity, commitment, and resolve were key factors in the selection process.
When I received my offer, I was elated. I’d made my first tentative steps into higher education, and in a subject/vocation I could only previously dream about. It was a life-changing moment.

Okay, so I’d got over the first hurdle. How would people receive my news? What would my wife think? Well, the whole experience was the antithesis of my expectations. Family and friends have been incredibly supportive. However, my wife should receive the biggest accolade. Not only has she been a huge source of encouragement, as a student herself, she has huge empathy and understanding for what I’m doing – she knows what it means to me.

So, the next question was how would the bills get paid and could we still have a life outside of the course? Thus, armed with my offer, I applied for student finance – tuition fees and maintenance. There are plenty of questions to answer and the forms are a little daunting at first sight. However, it’s worth the pain. I’ve, personally, found Student Finance England (SFE) most helpful to deal with; their website is very straightforward to use and their call centre personnel very reassuring.
I suspected it was unlikely that my maintenance grant would be sufficient to cover everything. Therefore, I made provision in my SFE application for a part-time wage. Subsequently, I was able to secure a part-time role as a vehicle loader, for a well-known courier company. I now work between 4am and 8am, Monday to Friday. This suits me well, as it facilitates my lectures and I still have weekends free.

Student status can help in other ways, such as reduced bus fares, retail discounts, and a Council Tax exemption for the duration of the course, if you’re in private accommodation. All of these make a big difference when running a household.

My course commenced on 18 September 2017. My biggest concern was, being older than many of my lecturers, how would I fit in with my new peer group – most younger than my 22 year old daughter? Well, I needn’t have worried. Within my first two days, I was working on a project with a member of my cohort and have done so, with others, on many more occasions since. I feel that I was accepted very quickly by my fellow students, which was a big relief. I feel very privileged to be amongst such talented and creative people.

The support network for mature students and pastural assistance are, quite frankly, superb. I’ve never yet experienced anything as good in all my years of working. There’s always somebody to talk to for advice.

So, here ends an educationally rich, roller-coaster year – let my blog bear testimony. I can’t wait for the next instalment in September!
 

The Final Countdown

This is it. Those final weeks that make or break your A-Levels. Some people have been preparing for months; some weeks; others days. But how should you be feeling? Everyone is taking exam stress in different ways. I have seen so many breakdowns in lessons juxtaposed with people who appear to not even care. I am lucky. I have an unconditional offer to study next year but that doesn’t mean I am not feeling the pressure just like everyone else. Despite reading almost every article going on unconditional offers, I still worry that if I crack under the pressure and get 3 Us that I will not be able to study Music next year. All my life all I have wanted to do is study Music and the thought of not doing that makes me want to cry inside so I cannot imagine what those who have conditional offers are feeling right now.

I recently read an article about the brains of teenagers and how they should not be subjected to major exams such as GCSEs at 16. It claimed their brain is underdeveloped and more susceptible to mental illness, but surely that would just put more strain on 18 year olds who are already pressured enough knowing that precious place at university could easily slip through their fingers. If I could go back in time I would resit my GCSEs again and again until I got amazing grades because I know now that they are unimportant but at the time they seemed to decide my whole future. I hope someday I can look at A-Levels in the same way.

I don’t intend to be negative but to any Y13 student unconditional or otherwise, is there any positivity right now? Last week was my final week of school and all the teachers did was set us essays and practise papers. Everyone saying there was areas they did not understand and the teachers responded with silence. When I began my A-Levels they told me they were a step towards university independence but I do not see ignoring those asking for help in their final week to do so as ‘independence’. I see it as a disgrace.

Wednesday sixth I will sit my first two exams and I wish anyone who has already or will sit their exams reading this the best of luck. I cannot wait to go to University. I have my place confirmed, my student finance approved and my shopping list ready. I just have to hold on a few more months.

Best wishes and good luck,

Lauren

Reflections on this year

After nearly completing my first year of uni (!), I thought it may be good to reflect on my experience and give some tips for anyone starting next year:

1. You will meet some great people
One of my major concerns about going to uni was about whether I’d find friends and people on my wavelength. Happy to say, there are so many people in a university that you’re more than likely to find people like yourself. Don’t worry if it takes a bit of time, or if your friends change over the first year – you’re still getting to know these people and finding your feet!

2. There will be (a lot of) work
Misguidedly, I thought I would have significantly less work than at A-level, as at uni I’m doing only one subject. Sadly, this is not true! As well as doing work to prepare for seminars, you’ll have a lot more independent work to do, and, of course, a lot of reading!

3. You’ll probably be more adventurous than you were at home
Certainly, in my own experience, I found going to uni made me more willing to try new things and meet new people. Whether it’s going out or learning to cook, I found I was more willing to be experimental and more open to doing new things.

4. Your days will be quite unstructured
This is certainly true of a humanities degree. Gone are the days where you had a fixed number of lessons and frees during a working day. At uni, you’ll have different numbers of lectures on different days, sometimes you’ll have a seminar, sometimes you won’t. Getting used to this less structured daily routine was quite a challenge for me; I would recommend getting a diary to make sure you turn up to the right lectures at the right time, and sometimes planning how you will use your time can also be helpful.

5. There will be a lot of new opportunities
From singing to sailing, at uni you can find a society for pretty much anything! One of my regrets for this year was not signing up to as many societies, because I feared it would negatively impact on my work. But joining societies can be a great way to meet new people from different courses and years; I’ll definitely be returning to Freshers’ Fair next year!

6. From time to time you’ll miss home
Although it can be assumed that if you’re at uni, you’re automatically having a great time, that isn’t always true. I really missed home and my family over this year at uni, and speaking to friends, it was nice to know that I wasn’t the only one who felt like this. Reaching out to friends for support helped me to feel less lonely, and if you’re able, going home sometimes can be helpful.

Overall uni is a great, crazy, intense experience – make sure to look after yourself and enjoy it! It is a time to try new things, learn more about the subject you’re passionate about and just have fun!

Enia x

Being a mature student

Colette Simpson – Foundation Degree in Counselling

Colette Simpson was working in the hospitality industry as an assistant manager before she decided to take the leap and return to studying for a change in career. Colette had never been to university before, and had worked in hospitality since leaving sixth form.

While on a gap year teaching in India and Nepal, Colette felt she wanted to do something more meaningful with her career, and, coupled with personal experiences, decided her preferred route would be counselling.

Collette joined Newman University as a mature student, and studied a counselling foundation degree, which enabled her to continue working, and support her studies.

Colette felt the course at Newman University was perfect for her, as they not only looked at your qualifications, but considered you as a person, and how you would fit onto the course. Colette explains: ‘I was nervous to return to university as a mature student, as I was 27, and it had been nine years since I was last in education, however, my counselling course had a mix of ages and people from different backgrounds, which was great. The atmosphere at Newman is brilliant; you are taken seriously, and everyone is seen as important.’

Colette experienced some difficulties at home, with various members of the family falling ill and requiring her care, yet she felt Newman was able to offer her the support she needed to continue with her studies. Colette juggled working 30 hours a week, attending lectures, going on placement, and caring for her family, to achieve her Foundation Degree in Counselling.

‘The foundation degree prepares you in a rounded way; it has an academic and vocational balance, and is in the welcoming environment of Newman.’

Since graduating from Newman University, Colette has returned, but this time as part of the staff team at Newman Health & Wellbeing, as the receptionist for the counselling service. Colette admits to loving the university so much that she could see herself working there, and that is exactly what she did.

Colette hopes to progress into counselling roles at the university, and continue to develop her skills along the way.

When asked what advice she would give to students, Colette said: ‘Take your time; going to university at 18 years old isn’t for everyone. I’m glad I took my time to choose the right course for me.’

Jayson Rawlings
Jayson completed his Sport and Education Studies BA (Hons) in 2017, gaining a first class honours.
Jayson worked for the British Army for seven years before leaving in 2009 to work for the local government in IT project management. It didn’t take long for Jayson to realise this wasn’t the path he wanted to follow, and he left the job to begin caring for his grandparents and mother. It was then that Jayson decided to follow his dream of becoming a physical education teacher, and enrolled onto an access to higher education (HE) course at Bournville College.

After completing the course, Jayson began his sport and education studies course at Newman. Jayson had to manage his time well, as he was not only studying, but was a carer for his family throughout his studies. Jayson had to deal with the loss of his grandparents and continue caring for his mother, while focusing on his degree.

Jayson explains: ‘Student Support were absolutely amazing. After my first meeting with staff in there, I was able to open up and ask for help whenever I needed it, and they knew exactly how to help. They assisted with mitigating circumstances, and without all of this, I would not have been able to complete my studies. It put me on an even keel with my peers, who were a lot younger, and did not have the issues that I had at home.’

Jayson completed a placement in his second year with The Albion Foundation, and was offered a full-time contract immediately. Jayson comments: ‘Newman opened my eyes to a lot of things, and I realised that PE teaching was not for me, as I could relate to those who struggle in school more. I now work with young people with an array of behavioural issues, mental health issues, and those who are on the verge of expulsion from school.

Being at Newman was an amazing experience. It gave me drive and determination to succeed, as a lot of help was thrown my way. I used my studies as a means to escape certain aspects of my outside life, and without Newman and the support that I received, I do not feel that I would have coped like I did.’

Jayson is now completing his master’s degree in integrative child psychotherapy at Newman University, and hopes to continue working with children and young adolescents with emotional, behavioural, and mental health conditions that prevent young people from achieving their dreams.
 
 

Money saving tips for travellers

Create a budget:
Before you start looking at flights and dreaming of 5* holidays, take a look at your finances and be realistic with what you can actually afford. If you’re looking for
a summer escape with your mates, agree how much you can spend on flights and accommodation before you decide on where to go. If you’re travelling for a long time don’t forget to budget for three meals a day, transportation to and from the airport, visas, keepsakes, entry fees to attractions and a new passport if it’s about to expire.
 
Plan in advance but remain flexible:
Travelling around the time the schools break up is the most expensive time to get away. Last minute deals do exist, but by far the cheapest way of travelling is to book months in advance. You’ll snap up some gorgeous accommodation on the cheap by doing this. Flights get more expensive closer to the date of travel, so don’t leave it too late to book. Flying direct can be the most expensive way to get anywhere. Indirect flights can often be far cheaper if you’re prepared to add a couple of extra hours to your journey.
 
Compare before you commit:
It’s easy to get swept up in the moment once you’ve found where you want to go, but always remember to compare the price of your flights and accommodation to make sure you can’t get your holiday cheaper. Sites like Skyscanner and Trivago compare prices of lots of different sites and will also check to see if booking direct would be cheaper too. There are so many different accommodation options out there - consider trying sites like Airbnb or Couchsurfing for some really great deals if all you need is a bed for the night and plan to be out and about during the day.
Check for discounts:
Students often get exclusive deals, so it’s worth checking to see if you can get more money off with your NUS card or use sites like STA Travel for student discounts.
 
Compare rates of your travel money:
Lots of travellers forget to factor in the cost of buying foreign currency. If you leave this to the last minute it could end up costing you far more than you’d bargained for. Compare travel money rates online to see where you can get the most for you money. Airports are the most expensive places to exchange your cash - even if you’ve left it to the last minute, book your currency online to secure better rates and pick it up at the airport.
 
Beat no frills:
Cheap flights usually mean no frills - no food, no checked baggage and no in-flight entertainment. But there is no reason you can’t beat all this by downloading films onto your mobile before you go, taking your own snacks with you for the flight and making sure your luggage is small enough to fit in the overhead lockers. You won’t be able to take liquids through security but if you take a reusable flask and ask a restaurant at the airport to fill it up with water for you, you won’t have to buy expensive drinks at the terminal or on the plane.
 
Take food with you:
If you’re on a really tight budget take food with you. Dried noodles, soups and tea bags are all light weight and as long as you have a kettle in your accommodation you’ll save yourself money on expensive meals out.
 
Get cheaper travel insurance:
An annual multi-trip travel insurance policy can be cheaper than buying on the spot insurance for a single trip - so even if you only plan to travel once this year double check a multi-trip insurance policy wouldn’t work out cheaper.
 
Paying with a debit card when you’re abroad:
Before using your debit card abroad always check what fees you’ll have to pay. Some banks don’t charge at all for transactions or withdrawing cash abroad, others charge a withdrawal fee, foreign loading fee or purchase fee. The worst accounts charge all three fees and the percentage will be high. If you plan to be away for a long time, you might want to consider switching your current account to a travel friendly one.
 
Paying with a credit card when you’re abroad:
Using your regular credit card abroad may mean a fee per transaction which can really add up. If you want to use plastic abroad look for interest free travel credit cards which don’t charge any fees and offer a near perfect exchange rate. Just make sure you pay the balance off when you return home. This way your money will be safe, you won’t worry about carrying rolls of cash and paying in the local currency means you’re likely to get a better rate.
 
Paying with a pre-paid travel card when you’re abroad:
 
Ordering a prepaid travel card and loading it with what you’ve budgeted for well in advance of your travels means you’ll get a rate you’re happy with, you won’t pay foreign transaction fees when you use it, your money will be safe and you won’t overspend or be left with debts to pay off when you return. Some cards may charge you an initial set up or loading fee but not all of them do, so shop around for the best deal.
 

Nine money saving tips to cut the cost of your food shop

1. Create a budget
The best way to help make sure your food shopping doesn’t leave you skint is to create a monthly budget of your outgoings and incomings. Factor in how much you spend on food and stick to your budget when you shop. It’s easy to go over by a few pounds each week but over a year this really adds up. Subtract money from your budget every time you pick up anything to eat while you’re out and about to get a handle on how much you’re actually spending on food - you might be surprised by how much you’re actually spending on takeaway food.

2. Take a shopping list
Before you head to the supermarket, write down everything you need and work out if you’ve got enough in your budget to buy it all. Shopping without a list can be lethal – you might end up with goods on offer that you don’t really need and you’re far more likely to blow your budget.

3. Plan your meals for the week 
If you plan what meals you’re going to make in advance, you’ll reduce waste and create your shopping list at the same time. Cook meals in a batch and freeze the leftovers, this will save you money and time to study (go out).

4. Shop on a full stomach 
Shopping when you’re hungry means you’re likely to buy more because you’re starving. Try to shop when you’re satisfied, and you’ll avoid splashing out on items you’d never normally buy but you’re craving because your body is telling you that you need it.

5. Shop with a calculator 
Use the calculator on your phone to add up how much you’re spending as you go around the shop so you don’t have any nasty surprises when you get to the till. It will really help you to stick to your budget.

6. Try shopping in a different store
Loyalty doesn’t always pay when it comes to supermarkets. Switching where you shop could save you a fortune. Try out a few different stores to see how much you could save. It might mean you have to visit more than one to get all the things you need. You can use sites like My Supermaket to compare prices. Buy non-food goods like detergent, bin bags and toilet roll at discount stores to save a few extra pennies.

7. Hunt for yellow stickers 
Find out when your local supermarket mark goods down. If you can get into the habit of shopping around the time the yellow stickers start to appear on things that are about to go out of date, you could save yourself a fortune each week.

8. Pay smart 
If you have a decent credit score and you’re good with money you could consider getting a credit card which gives you cashback on your goods. This way you’ll earn money from your weekly food shop. You’ll need to pay off what you spend in full every month to avoid interest charges and ensure it’s worth while. Although it’s a pain to sign up for them don’t forget to use supermarket loyalty cards. Over a year your points will add up and you’ll get money off your food shopping or a balance to spend at online stores like Amazon.

9. Get organised 
Clean out your cupboards and fridge once a month. Use up what you bought before buying more. If you don’t know what you have or can’t find what you’ve bought you’ll end up buying more of the same unnecessarily.
 

How to get your rental deposit back

University is probably the first time you’ll move out from your parents and be left to fend for yourself. Not only will you have to decide who you want to live with but you’ll also have to sort out all the paperwork and take on the financial responsibilities that come with renting a place of your own. It’s important you understand everything you need to do to make sure your tenancy goes smoothly and you keep on top of all your monthly bills. Here is how to make sure you get your tenancy deposit back.
 
Keep your deposit safe:
 
To secure rented accommodation you and your housemates will have to hand over a deposit for the property which could be up to two months rent. By law the money needs to be held in a Tenancy Deposit Plan, so it’s important you check which scheme your letting agent or landlord uses. Make sure you get confirmation your money has gone into a scheme within 30 days of them receiving it. If anything goes wrong the company who hold your deposit may be able to help you get it back - they can work as a mediator if you have a dispute with your landlord or letting agent when it’s time to move out.
 
Complete a detailed inventory:
 
Before you move in to your rented accomodation make sure you go around the property with your landlord or letting agent with an inventory. If you aren’t provided with one make your own - simply write a list of any damage or wear and tear you find and list all the items in the property. Take photos and video and send these to the letting agent or landlord so they can keep these on file. Pay particular attention to the state of the carpets, oven and expensive items and ask if they’ve been professionally cleaned before you move in. When it’s time to move out you can refer to the inventory and photos as a guide for any items that need cleaning or replacing.
 
Keep on top of your cleaning:
 
As soon as you move in draw up a cleaning rota with your housemates to help you all keep on top of your household chores. Regularly cleaning will mean you’ll have less work to do when you have inspections. If you allow mould and mildew to set in you could face costly cleaning bills when it's time to move out - a few minutes cleaning often is better than hours and hours after months of not doing any.
 
Check your contract:
 
Before you sign your tenancy agreement make sure you know exactly what is expected of you before you move out.
Some contracts will state you need to get the house professionally cleaned including the oven and carpets and provide receipts to prove you’ve done so. This may mean moving out proves costly, however if you know it’s coming you can budget for it upfront. Don’t allow your landlord or letting agent to choose who will do the professional cleaning because they may use the most expensive. Be sure to get a few quotes before agreeing to anything to make sure you’re not getting ripped off.
 
It’s a good idea to get someone else to look over your contact for you too, like a parent, guardian or someone at your students union - they may spot things you hadn’t noticed. Don’t be afraid to negotiate with your landlord or letting agent if there is anything in your contract you think is unfair or you want to change.
 
Keep on your landlords good side:
 
Keep your property in a good condition and report anything that gets broken straight away. This could help build a good relationship with your landlord and help make it easier to get things fixed when you need it. You may also be asked for a reference for the next property you rent and being a good tenant will help to ensure you secure your next tenancy.
 
Communication is key - be respectful of the property you live in and treat it like it’s your own. Good communication, respect and honesty will all go towards getting your full deposit back at the end of your tenancy.
 
Keep on top of your bills:
 
Paying your bills on time is really important, so make sure you set up a budget at the beginning of term and agree with everyone sharing your house exactly how much they need to contribute.
 
Before you move out at the end of term, make sure all your bills have been paid in full and you tell the utility companies that you’re moving out. Take pictures of the electricity and water meters before you leave so you can prove how much you used.
Be sure to pay your rent on time too, if you don’t you’ll likely get stung with late payment fees.

Getting a handle on your personal finances at University is key. If you miss electricity payments or run up bad debts with your mobile phone company it could take months, if not years to improve your credit rating which may impact your ability to secure credit in the future like a mortgage so make your finances a priority.
 
Don’t be afraid to disagree:
 
When it’s time to move out you may get charged for certain things like not removing rubbish, dents in the wall and not cleaning properly. If you disagree with charges make sure you dispute them, especially if the items you are being charged for were already in that state when you moved in. Speak to your landlord or estate agent and explain why you think the charges are unfair - they will have ten days to get back to you and if they don’t you could start legal proceedings.
 
Getting your deposit back:

When the time comes to move out, your landlord has ten days to return your deposit to you. If you are disputing deductions from your deposit, it will continue to be held in the tenancy deposit scheme until the issues are sorted.

Make sure you thoroughly clean your house, get rid of any rubbish and fix or replace anything you’ve broken. If you’ve put up pictures and made holes in the walls fill them in and if you’ve moved furniture around put it back where you found it.

Basically you need to try your best to leave the property in the same or better state than you found it in. Reasonable wear and tear is allowed and this is where you can run into a grey area, which is why if you’ve got a good relationship with your landlord or letting agent they are more likely to be lenient with you.
 

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