Whether you're a current student or waiting to head off to uni, the internet can bring you closer to your chosen institution. We don't mean sneaking around the place on streetmap - although that's handy for planning optimal coffee / beer / late-for-lecture runs - but actually getting to know it, and getting the most out of it in the process.
That's where official uni blogs, often written by current and former students, come in. Here's a look at what they can do for you, with a little help from Karis Gouldbourne, recent Coventry University graduate, of the Coventry Uni unCOVered student blog team.
Getting to Know You
Every uni has its own personality and it comes through in different ways, from the sports soc songs to the tone the student newspaper takes. A student blog can also reflect the uni's attitude, making it a great way to learn about the place you're about to go to and what makes it tick.
The trick is in who writes it. UnCOVered is all created by students and former students, so they know what they're talking about and can speak to readers informally, one-on-one. "It's a very light-hearted blog, written in quite a chatty voice" says Karis. "Whoever is writing the post tends to add their own opinions, so it never seems as though we're generalising."
A student blog can give you info on all the academic essentials - fresh from the brains of the people who have gone before you. Karis explains that unCOVered has all kinds of study tips and practical advice, whether you're trying to pick a course, get to grips with Harvard referencing or find advice on life as an international student.
You can also get help on everything beyond uni, from CV writing to job interviews. Or, in the wee small hours when you're considering an ill-advised pact with a dark force in order to get that essay written, some moral support and guidance to help you through. (Seriously, no dark pacts.)
The Social Side
Of course, your student experience will be about more than study, so who better to point you in interesting directions than your fellow students?
"We have posts about Coventry as a city, what students can do while they're here and places to visit" says Karis. "The person writing the post will visit the place and do a little review on it along with taking some photographs."
In addition, you can rely on a good student blog to amuse and entertain you. UnCOVered has a 'song of the week' for readers to check out, and there are plans for more lifestyle content. "We're working on putting together more fixed posts, such as 'student recipe of the week', or 'student tip of the week'", says Karis.
Many blogs also feature lighter topics, including a little listology. For example, on unCOVered you can discover 10 essential student smartphone apps, 5 places to go on dates, 15 things you need to know about squirrels
(we actually learned a lot from this one) and much more.
Pre-uni and during it, there are going to be times when you need an extra bit of support. Take Clearing, or exam results day: never a walk in the park. A good student blog will have advice but also encouragement from people who know just how it feels, and that's exactly what unCOVered tries to offer, according to Karis. "We'll do posts on Clearing, or how to sleep the night before results day and things like that. We know that students want to hear this sort of stuff from people who have gone through it before."
All in all, an official student blog can be a huge benefit to you at every stage of your uni career. It's a guide, a counsellor and even a source of entertainment. Whatever uni you're going to, see if they host a blog and do some digging on it to get even more out of your student life; you never know what you might find (did you know that squirrels can fall up to 100 feet unharmed? We didn't).
"I would like to have had something like unCOVered to refer to when I was at Coventry," says Karis. "It's an information hub for all things uni, both academic and personal, but it also reminds students to have fun and that they're still human beings."