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Building a foundation

In this activity, we move on to the practical side of things that you can do before you start uni. It’s worth building a solid foundation of some practical skills before you start uni life. Think of this foundation as built of the bricks of various necessary life-skills. Have these bricks ‘cemented in’ prior to arriving, and you’re set to study well and enjoy your time at uni.

The following are useful things that would be a good idea to put into practise or prepare for:

  • Laundry: Learn how to use the washing machine. Ask the main laundry-person in your house to show you and then practise. Find out how to dry your clothes thoroughly before putting them away.
  • Shopping: It might be an idea to ask what’s needed at home and go food shopping for your current household a few times. This will help you get used to prices and how/what time of day/where to find bargains.
  • Cooking: Learn about food safety and ask for recipes to take with you from whoever does the cooking at home. Join in the preparation at home to get some practice, then have a go at cooking unassisted before you rely entirely on your own skills.
  • Microwave: If you don’t use one at home, ask a friend who does have one to show you a basic programme for heating food up.
  • Getting up in time: Who usually makes sure you get out of bed and out of the house on time in the morning? Start taking that responsibility well before it’s a necessary skill, so it becomes second nature and you’re on time for classes.
  • Medication: Make sure you have enough of any regular medication with you, to last till you go home again or until you’re registered with a local GP practice. If you’ve never managed your own medication, make sure you know how often to take it and how long it’ll be before you need to order a new prescription.
  • Public transport: Find out how to take the bus, train or a taxi if you’ve never done so.
  • Washing-up: There might not be a dishwasher in your halls so it is a useful to learn this simple, practical task.
  • Decision making: Are you good at making your own decisions? Discuss with someone you trust about possible scenarios that might arise and how you might react. Will you choose passive, assertive, or aggressive ways of relating to others? See under ‘downloads’ for further information about these types of responses.

For students living with a disability, chronic medical or mental health condition:

  • Register with the Disability Service: Make sure this is done well before you arrive.
  • Disabled Student Allowance (DSA): Find out whether you’re eligible for DSA, and if so, apply for it as soon as possible. DSAs are a form of government funded support. They are aimed at helping disabled people to study on an equal basis with other students.
  • Day-to-day support: Have a detailed discussion with the person who helps you most at home, about what support you’re likely to need academically and for daily living. Contact the Disability Service and let them know what you need, so things are put into place to help you with a smoother transition and that you’re getting the right support.
  • Plan ahead: Plan the routes you’ll need to take around the campus and the town by looking at maps of the local area
Article adapted from the University of Reading’s Counselling and Wellbeing blog post ‘Practical skills to have in place before coming to Reading Uni’


Which skills do you feel you have little or no knowledge of? Over the next few days take at least one, no matter how big or small, and learn how to do it and practise a few times. Report back to this Step and tell us which practical skill you picked and how you got on with it.

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This article is from the free online course:

Live Smart: Your Essential Guide to Living at University

University of Reading