9 Great Things to Do Before You Leave for University, While You Still Can

Image shows a young man looking out of a train.

The start of your university years is approaching rapidly, and you’re probably already being bombarded with information about all the things you need to do before you start your course.

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The things you’re being asked to do probably aren’t all fun, either – things like making headway with your reading list, opening a student bank account, sorting out accommodation and so forth. So, we thought you might appreciate an alternative list of things to do before you go to university, and one that’s a bit more fun. You’re about to enter a new phase of your life, so this list is all about making the most of the last few months you have living at home before your real transition to adulthood begins. These are almost all things that are easier to do while you’re still living with your parents, but the main focus is on enjoying yourself before the hard work of university commences and the adult world beckons.

1. Learn to drive

Image shows a bright red sports car with learner plates.
Pass rates in the UK also go down with age – 55% of women taking their test at 17 pass, whereas only 44% pass taking it at 20.

Whether or not you’re likely to need to drive in the next few years, while you’re at university, the fact remains that driving is an essential life skill. If you haven’t yet mastered the art of driving, the summer months before you go to university are a good time to do so. Learning to drive becomes a lot harder if you leave it until you’ve left university and are living independently; it’s much easier to persuade your parents to take you out in the car to practise than it is to coerce a friend into helping you out (and the person who supervises your driving needs to be someone who’s over 21 and who’s been driving at least three years themselves, which could rule out some of your friends). What’s more, parents are a great source of the engine knowledge you’ll need in order to pass your practical test!
You can start the theory side of learning to drive any time; you’ll need to pass your theory exam in order to book the practical test, and since there’s a lot of useful information about the Highway Code in the theory test, it makes sense to get to grips with it early on. Then you can spend part of the summer undertaking regular driving lessons and practising with your parents before taking your practical test.

Image is a button that reads "Browse all Student Life articles."2. Read books you enjoy

You’ll have less time for reading ‘for fun’ once you get to university, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll probably end up feeling guilty for reading anything that isn’t strictly related to your course. The months before you go to university are a great opportunity to enjoy reading for pleasure, guilt-free. In particular, you could use the summer to devour books that may not seem quite as good once you’re properly an adult, such as On The Road. You could even re-read the Harry Potter books or the Lord of the Rings trilogy, or anything else you loved when you were younger that you probably won’t have time to read again for quite a while.

3. Go on holiday with your parents

Image shows a beautiful beach in the Bahamas.
Holidays with your parents definitely have advantages.

You may well consider yourself to be already past the stage of wanting to go on holiday with your parents; you’re too old for that now, right? It’s easy to take that view when you’re still living with them, but your view of your parents is almost guaranteed to change once you fly the nest and move into university accommodation. Suddenly, the hard work they’ve put into raising you will become apparent; all those years they’ve spent doing your washing and cooking for you will be thrown into sharp perspective once you have to do these things for yourself! You should therefore try to make the most of the time you have left with them before you move out, so why not go on holiday with them – even if it is just one last time? Embrace the fact that you’re (almost) still a child – you’ll be taking on plenty of adult responsibilities soon enough. Enjoy every moment of being cooked for and looked after, and just enjoying your parents’ company. Your parents are probably going to be feeling a little fragile about the fact that you’re about to leave home for university, so this is also a good opportunity for them to spend some quality time with you before you disappear and the house feels empty.

4. Learn to cook

Image shows chopped minestrone vegetables.
Being a good cook is a great way to make friends at university.

Quite apart from the need to feed oneself, there is great enjoyment to be had from cooking. If you’ve not yet learned the art of rustling up a hearty meal, now’s very much the time to do so. Once you get to university it’s too late; you won’t have your parents there to show you how, and you’ll probably end up feeling quite homesick and stressed if you get to university and suddenly discover that you lack the skills necessary for feeding yourself anything more than baked beans on toast. Start by sitting in the kitchen while your parents are preparing meals and observe what they’re doing. Offer to help with bits and pieces of the food preparation and ask them to explain what they’re doing. As your knowledge starts to grow, you could start volunteering to take on the entire preparation and cooking of simple meals and gradually increase the complexity of what you’re prepared to try. Cooking is largely very easy, and once you know the basic principles – such as how to make a sauce, how to chop a leek or how to tell whether chicken is cooked through – everything will click into place.
Of course, it may well be that you’re already something of a masterchef. If that’s the case, you could spend some time over the summer before you go to university brushing up on some more unusual recipes with which to treat your parents in the short-term, and your friends in the long-term. Whether you’re already culinarily talented or not, though, dig out some new recipes and ask your parents if you can add things to the household shopping list. That’s something you won’t have the luxury of doing for very much longer!

5. Spend time with your school friends

The close-knit friendship group you’ve formed at school has probably been your support network for the last few years, but you’ll soon be going your separate ways and making new friends. That’s not to say that you won’t remain in contact with your friends from school, but it’s inevitable that as your paths disperse and you each move to your own new part of the country, you’ll start to grow apart a little. This is perfectly normal, but easy to overlook in those final few months before you go to university. Make the most of this remaining time with your friends and spend plenty of quality time with them. Enjoy nights out together, go on outings, perhaps even go on holiday after your A-level exams are over. Before you all embark on new beginnings, now’s the time to celebrate all that you’ve achieved together up to this point.

6. Be a tourist in your home town

Image shows a dog sitting in a packing crate.
You’ll miss your dog – and your dog will miss you!

It won’t be long before you leave your home town for university, when you’ll start calling an exciting new town or city ‘home’. It can throw a new light on your home town when you realise that you’re soon to be leaving it, and your old haunts can take on a bittersweet sense of nostalgia. In this frame of mind, you could take the opportunity to explore your home town as though you were a tourist. The chances are that there are plenty of attractions in the local area that you’ve never been to, walks you’ve never been on or things you’ve never experienced. You could pair this idea with our previous point and explore your home town together with your friends. This is also a great chance to take plenty of photos of you all as a group before you go your separate ways. Take your dog, if you have one – you’ll be missing him once you get to university as well!

7. Get a part-time job

If you’ve never had a part-time job up until now, the summer before you go to university is a good time to get one. This will add valuable experience to your CV, but will also enable you to save up some pocket money to take with you to university. As with solo travel, starting a part-time job will also familiarise you with the scenario of introducing yourself to and making friends with new people (your colleagues may well be older than the people you’ll meet at university, but that doesn’t matter), which will help you feel more at ease when you get to university and come into contact with scores of new acquaintances. We’ve given you some ideas for possible part-time jobs – and how they benefit you – in a previous article, which you can read here.

8. Update your wardrobe

Image shows a pile of clothes on a bed.
Aside from anything else, clearing out your wardrobe now will make packing for university much easier.

You’ve finished school, and you’re rapidly becoming an adult. You need a wardrobe that’s going to reflect that, and one that will express your new, more mature identity. The clothes you’ve worn as a teenager may not necessarily be appropriate once you get to university, and contrary to popular opinion, students aren’t all scruffy (and certainly don’t have to be!). The clothes you wear say a lot about who you are as a person, and can dramatically alter the way you feel about yourself. Have a sort-out in your wardrobe and look objectively at the items in it. If there are items of clothing in there that need updating – whether because they’re too young for you, too dated or too worn – get rid of them.
Don’t forget that you’ll now no longer be wearing uniform, so you’ll need things to wear during the day for lectures and so on. You’re also likely to have a fair few formal occasions to attend once you get to university, which will require smart clothes. Go on a shopping spree to kit yourself out with some new clothes ready to take to university with you (you might be able to persuade your parents to help you out with the cost of this if it’s something you can’t afford yourself). While you’re in the process of updating your wardrobe, now might also be the time to acquire some essential laundry skills, if you don’t already know how to shift stubborn grass stains, iron a shirt and so on.

9. Travel on your own

Image shows a woman in a pink dress, sitting on a sand dune and taking a photo of the dunes stretching away into the distance.
Increase your confidence by travelling alone.

We’ve already mentioned going on holiday with your parents, or even with your school friends, but the months before you go to university are also an ideal time to experience solo travel. This is particularly worthwhile if you’re not having a gap year, as you’ll get a flavour of the famed ‘gap year experience’ without having to commit as much time (or save up as much money!). Inter-railing around Europe is a popular choice for students who want a shorter gap year-style break; with cheap train travel, you can easily hop from city to city experiencing different cultures and seeing the sights. Travelling on your own before you go to university will also help build up your confidence with meeting new people and facing new situations, so it’s a good time to do it. The chances are that your university holidays will fill up with course work and other academic commitments, so use the summer before you go to university to the full.
You’re about to enter an exciting new phase of your life, but before you do, make the most of what you have at the moment. You’ll soon be looking back on these pre-university experiences with fond memories, from the perspective of greater responsibility and maturity. The best years of your life may be just beginning, but take a moment to appreciate life back home and invest a little time and money in developing your own life skills and character ready to take on the new challenges that lie ahead.


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Image credits: banner; learner; beach; cooking; dog; clothes; sand dunes