Faculty of Social & Historical Sciences


How to prepare for university in isolation - PhD

Helpful advice from Isabelle, UCL English student, on how to get ready for university life.

University is one of the greatest and most eye-opening times of your life. However, it is also simultaneously challenging, not least because this is likely the first time many will be looking after their own finances, cooking for yourself and doing your own washing. This article offers some ideas on how you can prepare for university life whilst at home, from how to prepare your budget for university in advance to learning some simple recipes. This should make moving to university is a swift and simple process!

Financial budgeting spreadsheet
Financial budgeting 

Having a budget when I went to university really helped me make sure I was staying on top of my finances and allowed me to see exactly where my money was being spent. The first thing to do is decide how much money you have to spend in a week, factoring in food, social life, academic books and other personal allowances. When you have decided how much you have to spend in a week, you need to think about dividing that total between the essential things that require money; knowing how much you have to spend on each thing will ensure you don’t become unaware of how much you have. I would also recommend preparing a budget spreadsheet, either on paper or on your computer - this will encourage you to write down how much money you spend and on what on a daily basis so at the end of the week you’ll be able to look back and see how your budget has been spent.

Meal planner spreadsheet

Having to stay in the house is the perfect time to learn some simple meals to prepare you for university. If you’re a cooking novice (as I was pre-university), start by watching a parent or relative cook, picking up skills and asking to do the simple tasks. Then, why not find some simple, nutritious recipes, either in a cooking book or online? These can be things like making a pasta sauce, finding the best dishes to bulk cook and freeze, and some of your favourites that you’ll want to have under your belt before leaving for uni. I downloaded an app on my iPad that lets me scan in recipes and sort them into folders for different meals, which I used all the time when planning my meals. If you’re a cooking expert, it may be useful to do a mock weekly meal plan that you can save in preparation for starting university. I found deciding what I wanted to eat at the start of each week made food shopping really efficient (as you know exactly what ingredients you’ll need) and made sure I stuck to cooking for myself rather than being tempted to buy food out.

Learning to use the washing machine/dryer

This is a uni essential and learning how to do it whilst in lockdown will be so beneficial for when you start university. Many young adults rely on their parents to do their washing, but at university the burden lies on you. Whilst every washing machine is different, this exercise will help you know what temperature/setting different loads will need to be washed on, how to use a washing machine, as well as making you aware of what colours/items can be washed together and what cannot (so you don’t suffer from a washing disaster!).

Make a list of the things you’ll need to take/buy

University is such an exciting time, especially when you have your own flat/space to decorate and make a second home. Why not spend some time thinking about what you want to take with you? The best place to start is by thinking about what you use on an average day from start to finish, which will help you decide what is essential and what isn’t. In addition, it is undoubtable that you’ll probably need to buy a few new items before going to university, especially kitchen and domestic essentials. Ask your parents or guardians what they use in the kitchen everyday, or what they use to wash your clothes. And, don’t just focus on the things you want (clothes, pictures, gadgets), but remember the things you need (duvets, pillows, towels, toilet roll).

Start some university reading

If you’re missing having work and study to do, this is a great time to get ahead on your reading lists and prepare yourself academically. This doesn't mean everyday must be a work day - you can spend a few hours doing some research or reading around your degree subject, which will keep your brain active but also give you time to do other things. You could also start buying stationary and folders that you can take to university.

Update your CV

If you’re thinking of applying for jobs whilst at university, having an updated and polished CV ready to go will be very useful. This means that you can apply quickly for jobs as they come up without having to create or modify your CV and job documents, which will make the process of getting a job much quicker!

Plan ahead for essential services

This is something I didn't really think about before university. An absolute essential in London is travel - buying a student Oyster Card or Railcard now will ensure you’re ready to go when the time comes. It may also be worth researching where the nearest GP surgery is to uni/your halls, and researching the process of switching GPs. There are also plenty of student discount services (such as UniDays) that will come in handy when starting university, so do your research now and set up some accounts to help save money!

Research your university city/country

If you’re moving away from home and going to uni in an unknown city or country, there will be countless things to do on your doorstep (especially in London), and this is the perfect time to do some research! Making a list of things you want to see and do when you go to university will give you something to look forward to and ensure you use your free time outside of uni to your advantage! As well as this, it may be worth looking at specific things that interest you that you want to build into your daily routine: for example, if you’re a gym goer, why not look at the nearest gyms and compare membership prices?

Get excited!

University is full of new experiences and exciting times - why not look forward to it? In these times of uncertainty, it is important that we look forward to a time when the world has come out of the pandemic, and going to university is your next big adventure!


These are only a few things you can do to help prepare for university whilst in lockdown. As well as giving you something to do, this will also be very practically beneficial and ensure moving away from home is as easy as it can be!