Those of you who are sticking around know how much I love to organise and plan. This matter is no exception. As September approaches, I prepared a list of things I need to check before the new academic year begins. I want to be sure I am up to speed with the following aspects, so I can avoid the hustle of last-minute preparations. My list will include the key aspects you need to check before the Autumn Term starts.
Don’t make the mistake I made last year. When I got to the end of August, I realised I had not received an e-mail regarding enrolment. It turns out a mistake in the system did not show the faculty I had completed the Science Foundation Year, so I could not pass to First Year. After a series of e-mails to the Faculty Office, this misunderstanding cleared up and I could enrol. However, this issue carried some consequences.
First, I was not assigned a tutor. When I checked who my tutor would be during Fresher’s Week, I realised I was not on their lists. After another e-mail, the Student Office fixed it. Second, I did not receive the lab badge with my name until the lab sessions had already started. Not a big deal, but still something that I could avoid. Third, they considered me a “late enrolment”. Although this did not carry any meaning, it was still annoying to think a problem caused by a computer system might be attributed to poor management on the student’s part.
My key point here is to check well in advance that you enrolled for the upcoming year. If the enrolment system does not work for any reason, contact your Faculty’s Student Office, so you avoid the hustle of being late.
At the University of Southampton, the form for module choices opened in late July. It would normally open earlier, but the world situation disrupted the system-there were more pressing matters to reflect on.
Your university should communicate the dates when the module choices are available, so you have time to read through the syllabus, assessments and connected modules. Check my guide Tips To Choose The Best Undergraduate Modules to know more about my thought process to pick the modules.
Before the year starts, check the modules again and see if you are sure about your choices. You still have time to change them, so this is the best moment to look at the different options and to re-check the modules you picked are right for your preferred pathway.
Visas (for non-EU students)
This point does not concern EU students-at least for the moment-but all other international students who attend university in the UK. Although there should be a team in your university dealing with visas and immigration, checking everything is going smoothly is always a good practice. This will allow you to take stress off of moving back to the UK and it will ensure you will not encounter problems with Customs once you arrive at the border.
EU students should check whether they applied for the Settlement Scheme. Brexit is nowhere close to be finalised, but the Settlement Scheme provides security in terms of immigration laws and rights to work, to receive medical care and to pay the same fees as UK students. Read my previous post My Thoughts On EU Students Becoming International After Brexit to know the updates about the status of EU students in the UK.
Universities set term dates years beforehand-pending extraordinary circumstances. Checking them gives you an idea of when the Autumn Term starts, but also about the Holidays and the Exam Time.
As a non-UK student, I want to go home as soon as I can. I’ll admit it: sometimes I skipped a day or two before the holidays, so I could be back earlier, spend more time with my family and-last but not least-save money on flights. We should not ignore the last point. Plane tickets become expensive closer to Christmas and Easter, so knowing the dates in advance allows to book earlier and get the best deals.
We can pay fees at the University of Southampton in full or in instalments. If you pay in full, then the term for depositing the money is in September. If you instead deposit in instalments, the dates are scattered throughout the year, the first being in September. These key dates should be annotated somewhere you check frequently, so you can always be on top of your deadlines.
Although universities are not super strict with the terms for paying, depositing the money on time allows you to avoid the stress of e-mail reminding you to pay-and maybe giving you a stricter deadline. My top tip is to annotate the dates on your calendar on the day you have to pay and at the beginning of the month, so you can prepare for it-and have enough money on your bank account.
Similarly to university fees, you will need to keep in mind the dates to pay rent.
If you rented in private or university halls, you can pay in full or in instalments. Again, annotate the dates to pay the instalments, so you can pay in time. If you rented a room in a house, then rent is paid monthly, making it even more important to be aware of dates and deadlines.
Check in advance when the rent is due and make sure you send it to your landlord before the last day available.
Universities keep in contact with students throughout the year. However, during the summer they often share information that you need to start the new academic year. I’ll use an example. The University of Southampton updated us on what they were doing behind the curtains and how our experience will change because of the pandemic.
I might have already said this in another post, but you need to check your university e-mail regularly. Apart from general communications, you get all the information you need for modules, labs, deadlines and assessment. Especially now, being up to speed with what’s happening and is expected of students to keep everyone safe.
Although I will look at the beginning of this academic year from my desk in my home country, I still have to be updated on the matters I highlighted above. This checklist will help you get organised before the hustle of Fresher’s Week-for first years-and the introductory week for continuing students.