Exams are over. Results (for some) are in. You’ve done it – congratulations. Now the excitement starts to build as the days tick down until you arrive in ‘the bubble’. But with excitement comes, understandably, a slight nervousness. The majority of people who start St Andrews go not knowing anyone, not having lived by themselves before, and not knowing how to work a washing machine. Many have never even been to the UK before. If any or all of these apply to you, don’t panic. Most of these worries will disappear in your first week and you’ll feel at home in no time. In the masterful words of Dr. Seuss: ‘Will you succeed? Yes, you will indeed. (98¾% guaranteed.)’
One of the biggest concerns for any fresher is money. From big questions about budgeting, financial aid and paying for accommodation to small ones such as how much is a pint of beer (£2 up to £4, depending on where you go) and will I need to pay for my own books (yes), The Saint‘s Money section is here to answer all of your money-related questions. Simply tweet (and follow) @saint_money with your questions and we’ll do our best to help.
When it comes to money, there are some freshers’ week horror stories. So if you’re worried about sobbing into a cold can of value baked beans by candlelight, we suggest you follow our weekly freshers’ tips. If you have any of your own, please share them with others by commenting below.
Tip #1: Insurance
This is my number one tip because it is so easy to forget, but can be a real safety net for when things go wrong. It seems like a complete waste of money, until such time when you really need it – then it’s a lifesaver. Here’s some things to bear in mind:
1) St Andrews is a very safe place to live. The overall rate of crime is very low compared to the national average, with police priorities being driver related offences and anti social behaviour (according to www.scotland.police.uk). Having said that, there have been several incidents of bike theft in the past few years. If you’re planning on buying a bike or bringing one from home, make sure that you choose insurance that covers it. Make sure you always remember to use a lock, as many insurance companies won’t pay out if the bike wasn’t locked securely.
2) Pay extra for accidental damage insurance. If you love your precious new laptop, make sure you protect it. I learned this lesson the hard way in second year when I tripped and spilt a mug of tea over a 4 month old Mac. Manufacturers almost never cover that sort of damage on their warranties (even with Apple’s great customer service), and so without insurance you can say goodbye to that laptop. A £48 annual insurance bill and a £10 excess seemed like a small price to pay for a brand new laptop. Don’t think it will happen to you? My advice: don’t chance it.
3) Shop around. Nobody in the UK can genuinely claim that they don’t know that websites exist that compare the cost of different insurance companies. Whether you use the opera singer, the meerkat or any other advertising ploy that floats your boat, make sure you don’t just go blindly to one company. Remember, don’t just look at the price. There’s no point paying for insurance that isn’t going to cover what you need. Think of the worst case scenarios.
4) If you’re living in halls, make sure you’re aware of what areas the damage is covered in. Some policies will cover damage that occurs in your room but not in communal areas. Are you going to take your laptop and leave it in a kitchen or common room?
5) Read the policy documents. They’re not too long or complicated (and besides, you’re a St Andrews student) and it’ll ensure you understand exactly what you are and aren’t covered for.
6) Check if you have insurance already. Some credit cards, bank accounts and other financial products cover mobile phones, laptops and other possessions. There’s no point getting insured twice. Family policies may not work if you are living in a different country or over a certain age, so make sure you check all of the details and get a copy of the policy documents.
7) In the UK we are lucky enough to have a National Health Service (NHS) which covers everybody who is studying in St Andrews. This means that you do not need extra private health insurance whilst in the UK. Private health insurance is available but is rarely purchased by students. Again, if you’re not from the UK, check what your current insurance covers you form in terms of overseas study.