Heading off to university can be a daunting task, whether you’re a first time student or going back for a second, third or even fourth year.
Being away from friends and family, living on a tight budget and managing that fine balance between studying and partying can all take their toll.
So here’s a handy guide to the gadgets, apps and websites that will help students settle in – or return – to university in style.
Staying in touch with the folks back home has never been easier or cheaper, especially if you register for Skype. Downloadable on a huge range of devices – computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone – it lets you make free video and regular calls to any other Skype user anywhere in the world, along with discounted calls to landlines and mobiles. For a full guide see our feature article here on How to Use Skype, which includes set-up instructions.
If you want to get the best from Skype, or a similar service, then a good webcam is a must – as it’s always nicer to see your nearest and dearest, rather than just hear their voices. Most new laptops and devices have a webcam built-in, but if not there’s a good range starting from just £12.99.
Dealing with bills and bank accounts for, possibly, the first time, isn’t actually that hard – but all the expensive 0870 and 0845 numbers you need to dial will rack up the bills, especially as many aren’t covered in your inclusive mobile minutes. This user-generated website will give you alternatives for all the major companies that start 01, 02 or 03 and these are therefore free to call on most mobile and landline tariffs. It’ll save you a LOT of money in the process.
The old student cliché is to have a map of the world on the wall or, at least, a chunky dusty atlas on the shelf. But if you’re really interested in discovering new places, then this amazing app from National Geographic, which costs less than £1.50, is the one to get hold of. It has three different styles of world map, which all drill down to country-level detail, allowing you to spin, pan and rotate your way around the globe.
If your student days are anything like mine were, you won’t remember what you were doing five minutes ago – let alone where you’re meant to be in five hours. There are lots of timetable and reminder apps out there, so have a search in your chosen App Store to find the right one to suit you. But the award-winning 2Do for Apple devices is my favourite with clear day-by-day scheduling, wireless syncing, sharing, voice notes and password protection.
That’s all the sensible and worthy stuff out of the way, so now onto having some fun. This app for Android and Apple smartphones solves that age old student problem of ‘Where can I find my favourite beer nearby?’ Just pick your preferred tipple, from Blue Moon to London Pride, and it will direct you to all the pubs serving it in your area, along with handy user
reviews and ratings of each establishment.
Want to know what club nights, gigs, comedy shows or other events are on near you? Then look no further than this website which has a huge, and easily searchable, database for every major city in the UK – taking in everything from Drowned In Sound to Tinie Tempah to Jason Manford. There are many similar sites out there, but the reason I’ve chosen Skiddle.com is its strong emphasis on students. It even has an in-depth ‘Freshers’ Guide’ to help you discover more about the city you’re just settling into.
They say staying in is the new going out and if you’re looking for a good night in then, along with a takeaway, there’s no better entertainment for students than a bit of gaming. Whether it’s Pro Evo for the boys, SingStar for the girls or everyone joining in for some Wii Sports action – there are plenty of choices on the market, and prices are falling all the time. Now you just have to decide whether the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 or Nintendo Wii is the best machine for you and your new student mates.
It’s not true that all students can’t, or won’t, cook but if you’re a bit nervous in the kitchen then this site of recipes and tips will help you get to grips with everything. With page titles including ‘fending for yourself’, ‘no time to cook’ and ‘ideas for every occasion’ it covers all that you need to know. Although make sure you’ve got that pizza menu handy if things do go wrong.
Everyone knows the best thing about being a student is the discounts. One flash of that NUS card and you’re getting an extra 10, 20 or even 25% off clothes, books and electrical items. This site from the student body sets out exactly what you’re entitled to and, with money off everything from Big Macs to Apple Macs, it’s quite a lot. Just think of us poor old working men and women who now have to pay full price…