www.barrowvoice.co.uk - First Publised 1975
3,000 copies published quarterly and delivered FREE to all households in Barrow upon Soar

The Hitchhiker's Guide to University

University is a wondrous time in your life where you can learn to push yourself to achieve things you never thought possible while also making friendships that will last a lifetime.

Well, now we've got the standard advertisement for going to university out of the way, let me explain in a little more depth what the first year of university is like.

As I say, I have only been at university for one year and of course some things vary between each uni and each course but there are some things that will remain the same no matter what you do or where you go. Personally, I'm taking a BA (hons) in Media Production at the University of Lincoln which I enjoy for the most part but inevitably there will be modules you don't enjoy as much as others (if at all) but that's fine because finding out what you definitely don't want to do with your life is still an important factor in finding out what you do want to do. If you find that, actually, the whole course isn't what you were hoping for then of course that's a shame but there are still options you can take: you can switch course for example or if you feel that university really isn't for you then you can always drop out which is absolutely not as disgraceful as you may or may not believe; in fact it's not uncommon to hear of someone's flatmate or friend leaving university from stress or not liking the course.

This is where making friends comes in. Almost everyone you ask will tell you it's a good idea to live in halls for the first year even if your home is close to your university. It's important to get along with your flatmates as they can often help you get through university... or at least make it a little more interesting, I can tell you that from experience. Take time to hang out and talk to your flatmates even if at first they don't seem like people you would normally make friends with; on paper I would never have made friends with the people in my flat but a year down the line and they're some of the best friends I've ever had. It is worth mentioning, however, that you can switch flats if it turns out you really don't get along. I should warn you though, if you put a group of 18+ year olds in a house for a year virtually unsupervised you should be prepared for a lot of madness. I felt like every day I would walk out of my room and see something I never expected I'd see which has led to more crazy situations and stories than I can count; I've lost track of how many times I've eaten breakfast surrounded by half empty bottles of assorted cheap alcohol.

Speaking of cheap things, going to university isn't one of them. We all know that university is expensive; firstly there's the tuition fees which have just gone up to £9,250 and may or may not go up again depending on the university (honestly I don't know how it works). On top of that there are also accommodation costs which vary, and of course there's living money, i.e. shopping for food etc. All is not lost however, as there is a loan system in place that students can apply for which is worked out based on parent's income. For example, someone in a low income family could be given more than someone from a high income family. The maximum amount a student can be given is roughly £8,000 per year with the minimum being roughly £3,000 per year and can be done in advance to be paid automatically at the start of each academic year. Being a loan, students are expected to repay it once they leave university however this will only begin to happen once you are earning at least £21,000 per year within thirty years of leaving university at which point your employer will start deducting it from your salary and at the end of each tax year will pass on your repaid amount to HM Revenue & Customs. This will continue until you have fulfilled your repayment.

From what I've seen and heard from others, there is no right or wrong way to spend your time and money at university; some choose to put their loan towards their tuition fees, others put it towards accommodation or living. From what I can see the only consistent is that parents also subsidise their children with an allowance (either weekly or monthly). Well... that and students and parents complaining about how expensive it all is.

Elliot Wilkes