Lovers PCA 010

Our Journal

Practical tips to help you prepare for university

MA Painting and BA (Hons) Painting, Drawing & Printmaking graduate Marcus Nodwell gives his best tips and tricks for starting university, from finances to what to pack!

You’ve had your confirmation, you’ve been offered a place at university or college! Congratulations! This is just the beginning of your journey into higher education and a step forward for your future. While this time is super exciting, it can also be quite nerve wracking. You may be moving to a new country or city, or leaving home for the first time, it’s perfectly natural to be feeling a little overwhelmed! I know I was!

Having moved to Plymouth from Belfast in 2015 to study BA (Hons) Painting, Drawing & Printmaking at Plymouth College of Art, I know all too well some of those feelings of uncertainty. Hopefully this blog will not only help you prepare for your time at university, but also help settle any nerves you may have!

48255583626 5b3e5f0e08 k

MA Painting and BA (Hons) Painting, Drawing & Printmaking graduate Marcus Nodwell

Everyone worries about money, especially when living away from home, but if you’re smart and budget your student loan, you can live and support yourself comfortably. Here are a few of my tips on how to budget your money throughout your studies:

Work out an estimate of your student loan month by month, week by week and day by day. This will help you have an overall idea of how much money you will have. The majority of your money will go towards your rent (bills are usually included) so bear this in mind. Roughly work out how much you may spend on a food shop throughout the week. I shopped at Lidl or Aldi when I was a student, spending between £20 - £30 per week.

One of the many perks of being a student is a student discount. Many shops offer discounts for students with the average discount usually around 10% - 20%. This is a great way to budget your money and save as much as you can! When you get your student login details for your university account, you will be able to sign up for UNiDAYS. You will find offers on food and drink, fashion, health and fitness and much more! You also have the opportunity to sign up to Totum. They issue you a discount card that can be used in a huge range of stores.

Although your main focus will be your studies, you could apply for part-time jobs such as Student Ambassador roles to make some extra cash. Many universities offer Student Ambassador roles to their students. This is a really fun job where you get to represent your university at events such as Open Days, Careers Fairs, Workshops and much more. Not only do you get paid (very nicely might I add) you also get the chance to meet your fellow students, get to know the staff and sometimes even get free pizza!

You’ll understand when you start your creative degree that for many artists, selling their art (whether that be prints or originals) is a great way to make some extra money. By attending pop up fairs and markets, opening an online store, or even using social media to promote and sell your art, you’ll be surprised at how many people would love to buy something special from an original artist!

"A female student sits in a grassy area with fellow students on a concrete bench outside The Gallery window smiling whilst reading"

It’s very tempting to want to bring everything and the kitchen sink when packing to move away for university. By creating a list of essential items, you can break down what you need and then add any nonessentials on top if you need to. I’ve made a list of things you can pack from home and a list of things to buy once you move into your accommodation to help get you started.

  • Clothes/Shoes
  • Laptop/Tablet/Phone
  • Chargers
  • Books
  • Equipment to create (ie. what you need for your practice/craft)
  • Home comforts (photographs, cushions, plants etc.)
  • Extension lead(s)
  • Clothes horse/airer
  • Washing/Laundry basket
  • Towels
  • Food/Drink
  • Bedsheets
  • Quilt/Pillows
  • Mugs/Plates/Bowls/Cutlery/Pots/Pans
  • Cleaning Supplies

If you feel like you could use some extra help and support during your first weeks of university, don’t forget that Plymouth College of Art offers lots of student support through our counsellors who you can book in with via email at studentsupport@pca.ac.uk. We also have an active and engaging Students’ Union who are more than happy to answer any questions you may have about being a student at Plymouth College of Art.