Find out how your uni will take care of you
Starting uni is a really exciting time, but it's also pretty daunting to be heading off into the unknown. For most new students, it will be your first time living independently away from home, and that's sure to be a big adjustment.
So when you're choosing the right place to spend the next three or more years of your life, you're not just looking for the most interesting course, the coolest city, or the campus with the best night life; you also want to know you're going somewhere supportive, where you'll be looked after and helped along that tricky transition.
The type of support you're after may vary depending on your needs, and may even change over the course of your time at uni. Here are seven ways to be sure your prospective university will take the best possible care of you.
1. It's got great student support services and facilities
"Students should ensure their university is investing properly in their own range of professional support services," says Martin John from Teesside University Students' Union (TUSU). "This should include dedicated support for international students and mental health services for all students who need it."
If you need help with housing, you're going to want to speak to someone with specific expertise in student accommodation, rather than a counsellor or careers adviser. Make sure your uni has their own dedicated team of specialist staff for all the areas where you might need help.
Simon Lee, Deputy Director for resilience, sport and wellbeing says “Teesside University support staff can offer advice and guidance on a range of subjects, such as counselling and mental health, disability support, international support, advice on finance, welfare and health, as well as our multi-faith chaplaincy."
2. The information and advice it gives is independent and accredited
While you want your uni to have services in-house, you also want to know the information and advice they're giving you is trustworthy, up-to-date, and independent.
At TUSU, all information and advice given by the SU Student Support team is accredited by the Advice Quality Standard, so you can be sure they're providing the best possible support.
"This is delivered by an experienced, professional student support team who work independently of Teesside University, and will always try to help with any problem a student faces, or point them in the direction of someone who can," Martin says.
3. The careers service is ready to make you as employable as possible
The careers service is a big area to look at. This will come in particularly handy as you near the end of your time at uni, but shouldn't be overlooked in the beginning either.
"Teesside's careers service supports you from day one of your time at university, and this continues long after you graduate," says Sue Stockwell from the university.
"We've got an experienced, dedicated team of careers advisers, recruitment consultants and volunteering staff with specialist expertise and hundreds of employer contacts to help you," she adds. "Teesside also offers a fantastic range of internships, work shadowing and volunteering experiences, to enable you to get essential experience and stand out to graduate employers."
4. It provides top-of-the-range facilities and equipment
Besides moral support, there are all sorts of practical ways your university can provide for you, during your time as a student – whether that's free sexual advice or state-of-the-art sports and IT facilities.
According to Jonathan Eaton, academic registrar at Teesside University: "Our full-time first-year undergraduates are provided with an iPad and keyboard for use in lectures, seminars and workshops. Our students also have access to the Future Facing Learning Toolkit, a collection of software that supports learning and preparation for employment."
The university also offers a newly refurbished library, and Future Facing Learning Digital Classroom – as well as a "comprehensive suite of workshops and development opportunities for students to develop their academic and professional skills outside of the classroom," Jonathan adds.
When it comes to your physical health and wellbeing, whether you're an elite athlete or a fitness newbie, it's good to check out the quality of your uni's sports facilities too. Teesside offers some top-quality facilities, including their sports centre, recently refurbished gym and full-sized state-of-the-art pitch, for example. Decide what facilities are important to you and make sure you have access to these at your future uni.
5. It looks for innovative ways to support student welfare
At Teesside, Simon says: "We are always looking to innovate and offer new services that can support the student experience." The most recent of these is the introduction of pet assisted therapy as part of the counselling services.
"Margaret the dog is our trained pet therapist and can help offer support to students. Margaret is particularly skilled in helping people overcome anxiety and social worries, and is an excellent addition to the team," he explains.
As for the Students’ Union, Teesside is one of the few in the country to accredit local landlords and letting agents, to ensure quality housing and accommodation support for all students. And, for the days when you've been burning the candle at both ends, TUSU also provides 'Snooze Rooms', for students to rest and relax safely and comfortably between lectures!
6. There's a close relationship between the university and SU support teams
A great uni will work hard to forge a strong working relationship between the university and its student body, taking on-board feedback through the Students' Union, student officers, and student representatives.
For Martin, "the excellent working relationship TUSU enjoys with Teesside University means we can really make a difference to students' lives when they need it. Staff and officers at TUSU really care about students, and want to ensure everyone has the best possible experience while they're here."
Regularly gathering student feedback around campus – and through both academic school and course representatives – is key to informing the university and Students' Union's campaigns and representation work.
7. It has a constant presence on campus
Finally, look out for the kind of events and campaigns regularly taking place on campus, as well as out-of-hours services to offer 24/7 support. Simon says: "Teesside students can drop in to our student centre every day Monday to Friday, give us a call, or drop us an email. Out of hours, students can contact our security team either in person or using the Safezone app."
Many universities will also organise campaigns and events around student health, safety and wellbeing, as well as careers fairs where you can meet prospective employers and voluntary organisations.