Better Than Beans On Toast: The Essential Student Cookbook

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Students get a bad reputation when it comes to cooking, with the stereotypical student painted as someone who can’t boil an egg, surviving solely on pot noodles and pasta and cheese. Thankfully, this is far from the truth, and if the young bakers who have popped up on GBBO in recent years have proved anything, it’s that students have a passion for cooking.

With that in mind, we have created a cookbook full of diverse recipes that will take you from breakfast right through to dinner and dessert – we’ve even put in a few veggie/vegan options for good measure.

Given that we’re experts in student accommodation rather than cooking, we collaborated with a number of food bloggers to bring you a cookbook full of tried-and-tested dishes that will surely impress all your mates but won’t require the skill of a Michelin-starred chef.

So, if you’re in the mood for a chicken and halloumi stir-fry, or want to learn how to make vegan donuts, download our essential student cookbook and say goodbye to beans on toast.

 

10 Questions You Need to Ask at Open Days

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You’ve spent the summer being put through your paces with various exams and assignments, and as you await results day it’s time to look at where you’d like to study next. Universities across the UK are opening their doors to prospective students; showing them around campuses, talking about courses and speaking to parents.

But keep in mind – this is your time to talk too. An open day is your opportunity to learn why a university is right for you. You’re going to spend three to four years there, so it’s vital you get all you can from the experience. Don’t let yourself be herded around and leave none the wiser.

One more thing – have a look through the prospectus beforehand. You won’t want to waste valuable grilling time on things already covered in the programme!

Without further ado, here are 10 questions you need to ask at open days.

1. What careers have recent graduates gone on to?



This will give you some great insight into the specialisms of the university, and their reputation in the working world. If you want to work in journalism, for example, and various graduates have embarked on careers in editorial then you’ll know that you’re in good company.

You’ll get to know a lot more about your career path, the doors it could open and where you could be after your degree. Some universities even invite their successful graduates to speak at open days, so you could pick their brains and get the answers you want.

Whether your desired degree is highly specific to a certain career path or the skills you have are transferable, this will give you a much better idea of the opportunities you’re likely to encounter throughout your degree, and after.

2. What is the student support like?

There may be times where you need to lean on the support of your university, and a good one will always have a structured, trustworthy support system for students.

Whether it’s deadline day stress, exam worries or you’re just having trouble settling in, having a rich network offers countless benefits and can help you with the transition.

Remember that looking after your wellbeing is key to academic success. Many universities now employ mental health professionals who can speak to students with complete confidentiality.

You never know when you may need a helping hand. If you need a little help filling some paperwork in, or are concerned about the safety of yourself or those around you, student support are on hand.

3. How much contact time will there be?

This has a lot to do with how much independent learning is required of you. It’s often a balancing act – working independently will help you grow as a student, but on the other hand you need feedback, guidance and sometimes help.

If you don’t think you’re going to get enough contact time, it’s safe to say that you can look elsewhere. Your lecturers should give clear office hours, and general times of availability for you to see them.

Having ample contact time improves your relationships with staff, too. At university, you’re no longer a ‘pupil’. You’ll be treated like a fully-grown, responsible adult (even if you don’t feel like one sometimes).

4. What’s the accommodation like?

You’ve probably heard some student-housing horror stories, and you don’t want one of your own. At an open day, you should be given a tour of the accommodation, so now is the time to inspect your potential living space and see if it suits your needs.

Is it maintained to a respectable degree? Are there enough cleaners? Universities employ Student Resident Advisors (SRAs) – often third-year students or postgrads – to offer support and advice to first-year students, so it might be worth speaking with them to get an idea of the living situation.

Again, you’ll be spending a sizeable chunk of your time in the accommodation, socially and while studying, so it’s vital you find out all you can.

Here are a few things to ask:

– How much do halls of residence cost?
– When is the application deadline?
– What accommodation options are available to first-years?
– What is the location like?
– Is it safe, and secure?

You may also want to look into the crime rate of the area, especially for city-centre locations. For added peace of mind, taking out contents insurance is a recommended measure.

5. Is there an opportunity to study abroad?



You’d jump at the opportunity to leave your UK campus to go study somewhere exotic, wouldn’t you? Most reputable universities offer students the chance to study abroad, and it’s a great opportunity if you’re that way inclined.

It’s your chance to take in a new culture, absorb life lessons and bring home a renewed sense of purpose (with a little sunshine, maybe). You can also make lifelong friends and further your career opportunities.

It looks fantastic on a CV, too…

6. How expensive is the food and drink?

The golden word of university life: budgeting. This is, most likely, your first leap into the ‘real world’, and you’ll be expected to spend responsibly and not squander your maintenance loan on countless portions of cheesy chips (it all adds up).

Yes, we hate to be the bearers of bad news but watching your pennies is vital at university. At open days, you should be keeping an eye out for local supermarkets and places to eat on campus.

Take your questions to student reps, as they’ll be best positioned to help. They were in your shoes once upon a time!

7. Is there a good social life here?



University isn’t all lectures, seminars and reading lists – you need to let your hair down once in awhile. A university with a healthy, inclusive social offering will often produce motivated students.

Things will likely be hectic at university, especially in Fresher’s Week, so you should make sure the nightlife on offer suits your character and meets your needs.

With a nicely-packed social life, you’ll be well on your way to building lifelong friendships and taking well deserved time out from your studies.

8. Are there opportunities to get some part-time work?

Student jobs are a great way of earning a little extra pocket money while at university, and if you can balance studying alongside a job then part-time work is for you.

It not only gives you a few extra pounds to spend at the end of the week, it improves your employability and gives you real-life experience of the working world.

Also, your loan might not cover all of your living costs. This is an unfortunate truth of university and it happens all the time here, a little part-time job will definitely make ends meet.

Ask around! Your open day is your chance to engage with the community; sit in at the campus coffee shop, take a tour around the library and speak to student reps. You’d be surprised what you can stumble upon.

9. What clubs or societies can I join?


One of the best ways to make friends at universities is to flaunt your interests and join a society. Keep an eye out for posters advertising meetups and, again, ask the student rep for societies of interest.

Now, you may end up adding your name to 10-15 societies without ever going to a meetup. This is a frenzied and slapdash approach and will only result in your email inbox filling up with 10-15 weekly invites.

Instead, know what your passion is and join the groups you’re certain you’ll enjoy. This way, you can show what you’re good at, make friends and build a life outside studying.

10. How is the course assessed?

Some of this may well be in the prospectus, but you’ll find out a lot more by speaking to the course directors themselves. Knowing how academic success is measured on the course will give you fantastic insight, and will prevent you from ‘hoping for the best’ when you work on assignments.

Knowledge is power, after all.

With the above questions, you can take full advantage of your open days and leave feeling like you asked everything you’d wanted to – and, even if you missed something out you can still get back in touch.

If you’re looking for more advice on student life, take a look at our blog. We have fantastic accommodation across the whole of the UK, so be sure to explore your options.

Applying to University: The Ultimate Guide for Sixth Form Students

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Everything you’ve heard about applying to university might just be right. From choosing the right course and editing the 12th draft of your personal statement to navigating the world of UCAS, it’s a stressful time for applicants.

And, with an application deadline of 15th January approaching for most undergraduate courses the process will seem a little more real every day. It has a way of looming, doesn’t it?

However, it’s vital you don’t get bogged down by the prospect. Instead, if you start the application early enough, and do it step-by-step, you’ll be far less stressed.

With that in mind, we’ve written a comprehensive guide that you can refer to at every stage of the process. Consider this your go-to resource; if you’re feeling overwhelmed, or uncertain about anything in particular – our ultimate guide is all you need.

Choosing the right university for you

Before starting the official application process, it’s time to find the right university for you. The operative word here is you – okay, your results will dictate which university you’ll end up going to but at this stage you need to find a university that suits your needs.students on laptops

Will it be a lush, countryside campus or a bustling city-centre location? Go to as many open days as you can, and ask as many questions as possible.

This stage of the application process is arguably the most important – you could have the best cover letter in the world but if the university ends up a bad fit then you may have to switch later on.

It’s worth having a look at the official league tables for universities in the UK – based on student satisfaction, graduate prospects and more, it will give you a better chance of choosing a certifiably great university.

What course do you want to do?

What are your passions? Where do you excel? It’s important to play to your strengths, and at the same time study something you know you’ll enjoy.

This will either be an easy, natural choice or something you deliberate over all summer long. Either way, try not to rush into it.

It’s useful to think of it in three stages.

  • What have you been studying so far?
  • What interests you the most?
  • Where do you excel?

You’ll need to check the entry requirements for your desired course. If you’re currently on track to hit the requirements, then that’s great – well done! If not, there’s no need to panic. You have so many options available to you that you’re sure to find the course for you.

student readingWhen you’re looking at courses you’re interested in, keep in mind that you’ll be studying for three full years (four if you have a year in industry or do a postgrad). You’ll know if a course will stimulate you or not, so choose carefully!

If you have the slightest inkling that a course may wane in interest after a short while, you should carry on looking. You’ll find the right one eventually!

One last thing – be sure to check how you’ll be assessed on a certain course. You might prefer exams over written assignments, or perhaps you enjoy nothing more than writing a large body of work like a dissertation.


What time is it? It’s UCAS time…

UCAS: the bane of many students’ lives.

It doesn’t have to be this way, though. Like we said earlier, a little preparation makes the whole process go a lot more smoothly. It’s simple, really.

The first thing you need to do is register to apply. Once you’ve filled in some personal details and chosen a password, you can choose the courses you want to apply to.

You have five courses to choose, but you don’t have to choose them all at once. At this stage, you don’t even need to have a preferred course and your chosen universities won’t know where else you’ve applied.

Next, you’ll be asked to enter all your qualifications from secondary school as well as your employment history. The details matter, so try not to leave anything out. That little two-month stint at your local shop might seem unimportant, but if it shows off your work ethic, it’s best to include it!

Writing your personal statement

Your personal statement is your chance to capture a university’s attention – it should reflect your ambition, drive and experience in the clearest way possible. It doesn’t have to be a piece worthy of Tolstoy, and, in fact, it’s better to be concise.

Show why you’d be a great student and tailor it to the courses you’re applying to. If, for example, the courses are research-heavy then your statement should show how you relish independent work and aren’t afraid of putting in some hard graft.

Think about the following:

Why are you applying? What interests you about the course and why do you think higher education is for you?studying laptop

What makes you a great candidate for the course? What relevant skills and experience do you bring with you? Think about skills in the working world, and not just academically.

The structure of your statement is vital, so make sure that it flows logically and has a solid beginning, middle and end. The information should be structured to show the qualities the university value the most.

In terms of writing style, enthusiasm is key. Show your statement to every man, woman and child and, if your enthusiasm comes over then you’re well on your way. By ‘man, woman and child we mean your teachers mostly, and a few friends or family. Having your teachers proofread the document will ensure any glaring errors are taken out – you want a typo-free statement that reads like a dream.

We’d also advise to steer clear of being too funny or conversational. You never know if the admissions tutor reading your statement will have the same quirky sense of humour as you…

Once you get your reference sorted – this is a recommendation to the university written by someone who knows you in the academic space, and who has seen what you’re good at – it’s time to submit your application.

After it’s been sent, you can track your application and see what stage the application is at.

Wait for the offers to roll in…

The next stage will see your conditional offers start to come in. If you’re an exceptional candidate, you might get unconditional offers too! This is when your place at a certain university is secured regardless of your A-level results.

Here are the kinds of replies you can make:

Firm acceptance

This is your top choice of uni, and you’ll work to meet the requirements stated on the course. Fingers crossed you will do brilliantly and smash your exams and coursework. Of course, that doesn’t always happen.

If you don’t get the grades you need, there’s always your insurance choice to fall back on.

Insurance acceptancestudent-849827_960_720

Your insurance choice should be one with lower requirements – as long as you’d be happy studying there, your insurance is a safe bet as long as they don’t require the same results as you need for your firm choice.

Decline

If you know you don’t want to accept any of the other courses, you can straight decline them and add more in UCAS’ extras section. Simple!

Also, don’t worry too much if you don’t get the results you need for your favourite university because there is still clearing. Similar courses will still be available at various universities across the country, so all you have to do is log into UCAS’ Track system and apply through clearing.

Your accommodation

Once you’ve been accepted at your dream university, it’s time to organise your accommodation. This is one of the last hurdles, so see it through to the end – your accommodation is a vital part of university life and the spaces in which you live and study will influence you for better or worse.

Here are the main areas you should think about when organising accommodation.

Cost

Budgeting is part and parcel of university life, and it begins with your accommodation. Be clear on what you can afford, what your expenses are and the things you can afford to cut down on. This won’t be forever, and you can always get a part-time job while studying.

Costs for accommodation can vary, and some landlords include bills in the overall cost while others might leave them out – in this case, keep an eye out for small print. You don’t to sign your life away to a seemingly affordable flat only to have mysterious expenses sent your way after the fact.

Location

Location, location, location – this is the name of the game. You want your accommodation to be near to as many amenities as possible. Being close to your library, for example, will make those all-nighters that bit easier if your bed is just a short walk away.

We’ve talked about this at length already, but we’ll say it again: a good living situation is vital for success. Having somewhere you’re comfortable living and studying will set you in brilliant stead.

Facilities

Catherine House Laundry RoomSharing one shower between 15 students isn’t for everyone, so look for facilities that suit you. Are there designated laundry services? Is a gym a must-have facility?

Have a think about what you need from your university – good facilities make for a much better experience all around, and will make the transition a little easier.

So, there’s a lot to cover but with this guide, you’ll be much more informed. Once the application process is over the hardest part is out of the way and you’ll be well on your way to going to your chosen university. Congratulations in advance!

 

If you’d like to learn more about university life, you can find plenty over on our blog. Best of luck!