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Start planning ahead

Other practical things to consider before starting uni is dealing with some of the admin side. This isn’t the most exciting thing in the world but once you get everything sorted or arranged, you’ll feel better for being more organised and not having to worry about yet another thing.

Set up a student bank account

Save yourself some hassle and get this sorted out as soon as you receive your UCAS codes. Once you apply for uni, UCAS will send you a unique set of status codes which you can then use to set up a student bank account.

You may want to stay with your current bank, or you can shop around to see what offers are available. Be sure to check the small print! Many banks will offer great deals and freebies to get you to sign up, but try and be savvy, consider which account will give you long term benefits for the duration you’re at uni rather than the instant reward. And be thorough, check that there aren’t any hidden costs. Here are some things to consider when looking at student accounts:

  • How big will the overdraft be?
  • What are the bank charges for being overdrawn?
  • What are the opening hours for the local branch?
  • How long does the interest-free overdraft last for?
  • How soon will I have to pay my overdraft after I graduate?

Below is a list of some of the banks that offer student bank accounts in the UK. You can click on the link to be directed to the bank for more information and current offers. If you stay with your existing bank, you’ll need to get in touch with your them and to upgrade your account.

If you go with a new bank, you’ll need to apply directly with them to get it set up. Have the following ready: UK passport or drivers licence (full or provisional), proof of address – a utility bill or bank statement, UK mobile number and email address.

Barclays Apply for an overdraft of up to £500 when you open your account and you can increase it to up to £3,000 in your third year
Halifax A fee-free arranged overdraft up to £1,500 for the length of your course plus
HSBC Get up to £1,000 interest-free in year one, which can grow to £3,000 by year three.
Lloyds Fee-free tiered arranged overdraft of up to £1,500 in Years 1 to 3
Nationwide An arranged overdraft limit of £1,000 in year 1, increasing to an additional £1000 in year 2 and another in year 3.
Natwest Interest-free overdraft up to £2000 (£500 in first term)
Royal Bank of Scotland Interest-free overdraft up to £2000 (£500 in first term)
Santander A fee-free and interest-free arranged overdraft of £1,500 in years 1
TSB Optional interest-free and fee-free overdraft up to £1,500

If you’re an international student

Opening a bank account in a new country is not always straightforward especially in the UK, and there are a few things you’ll need to arrange in advance of starting university.

Most international students should be allowed to open what is called a ‘basic bank account’, which takes at least two weeks to open. Make sure you have access to enough money to cover this period by making financial arrangements, similar to those you might make if you were a tourist. Bring travellers’ cheques with you, and possibly a credit card and a cash card. Before you can open a bank account in the UK, you’ll need to have:

  • Completed your enrolment and paid at least 50% of the year’s tuition fee.
  • Made sure your correct home address (in your home country) is stored on the University’s Student Records System (RISIS).
  • Registered for university accommodation or, if you’re going to live in private accommodation, have updated your address details with the university.

Once you have completed the above, you’ll be able to apply for a UK bank account when you start university. Check what documents and ID are required with your chosen bank. Here is a list of the main ones.


You’re going to be starting university so splurged on a fancy new laptop or phone. You’re a music student and you have an expensive piece of kit. If you’re thinking about taking items of high value with you to university, check the following:

  • Check what insurance cover the university offers for students who stay in their halls of residence.
  • Check whether your valuables are covered by your home insurance, while you’re at uni.
  • If you’re not covered for your items - get them covered.

If you’re an international student

We strongly advise you make arrangements in your own country to insure yourself and your belongings when travelling to and from the university.

Students staying for six months or less should be sure they are covered either by the European Union (EU) reciprocal arrangements (for EU students), by their home university or by private insurance arrangements which need to be made before arriving in Britain.

For more information about studying in the UK you can visit the University’s International Students Essentials page or alternatively get in contact with your university’s International Student Advisory Team.

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This article is from the free online course:

Live Smart: Your Essential Guide to Living at University

University of Reading