Useful information signposting to organisations for help with debt management, grant searches and online tools for self help with budgeting and saving.
Practicalities of living independently
Moving away from home to study is for many the beginning of a whole new stage in life. It may mean taking on new responsibilities that were previously held by parents and/or older siblings.
Many students now live in shared accommodation. This might be in a hall of residence, often for the first year, or off campus.
Halls of residence
Students in halls may have to share a room and will almost certainly be sharing kitchens and other living spaces. Sharing may cut down on living expenses; but there will inevitably be challenges. Sometimes a chat with your room-mate can iron out any initial disagreements, and an ability to compromise will be helpful. However, if this does not work, students in halls could speak to the hall’s warden about the possibility of a transfer. Bear in mind that most universities have a ‘settling in’ period during which time you cannot transfer. Even after the settling in period, halls are very popular, and often accommodation in an alternative hall cannot be found. Students should contact their student support services for further assistance.
Students who have spent their first year in halls will normally have established a network of friends and will have a good idea of who they might like to share with after their first year. However, problems may still arise.
Common problems include house-mates not paying their share of the rent or bills, being too noisy or not doing their share of the household tasks. The NUS has advice about the day-to-day practicalities of living in shared accommodation, including choosing your house-mates, respecting each other’s privacy and basic house rules. For further information, see the NUS website.
Students also need to be aware of the legal implications of a house share, for example, who pays for what, is it a joint tenancy and what happens if a tenant leaves. Jointly signed rent and utility agreements can prevent one or more flatmates being left with the responsibility for tenants debt. For further information, see Adviceguide, the on-line Citizens Advice website.
Sometimes, the shared houses offered to let for students are in poor condition. Students who are living in sub-standard housing can check with their local Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) to see if their landlord is fulfilling his/her obligations, for example, carrying out annual gas checks and ensuring proper fire safety measures are in place. To find your local bureau, see the Citizens Advice website.
For further information on tenants’ rights and landlords obligations, see the Shelter website.
Managing your money
Most students have a limited budget and will need good money management skills in order to pay bills and budget effectively for food and leisure.
Your university may offer programmes to help develop money management skills. The key to managing money effectively is by budgeting and living within your means. If you find yourself in difficulty with debt, you could see our help with debt fact sheet, or contact us for debt advice.
Money Helper offer free and independent advice on managing money. The website has a section on student and graduate money, and offers useful tools such as a budget planner to help you identify where you might cut back on spending or ways to make your money go further. For further information, see their website.
Living away from home means that you are responsible for paying your own bills. Below are some of the costs you will need to factor in to your budget.
Full-time students are exempt from paying council tax if they live in a student hall of residence, or in a house where everyone is exempt, for example, where all the residents are students. For further information about council tax eligibility, see the government website.
Anybody who watches or records live television using any kind of device, including laptops or mobile phones, is required to have a television licence. Students living in halls of residence are covered for televisions in communal areas but would normally require a licence for a television in their own room. Students who live in shared accommodation with a joint tenancy agreement may only need one licence. Students whose accommodation is self-contained may still need a licence for their own TV. Students who move out of their term time address over the summer can apply to TV Licensing for a refund. For further information on whether you need a licence and how to get one, see the TV Licensing website.
One of the biggest costs to any student can be travel. However, many travel companies offer discounts to students or young people which can save them a lot of money. Some will require you to buy a card or pass upfront, like the 16-25 rail card for discount on rail travel or the Young Persons Coach card for National Express journeys. For further details, contact the relevant public transport provider
Student loans/bursaries and scholarships
There are a number of different of ways in which students can get financial support to fund university courses and living expenses. Students may be entitled to a student loan and/or a grant depending on their individual circumstances. For further information, see the Student Loans Company website. Most universities have a hardship fund; however funds are limited and are only available to those in most need. Check with your student support services for information about any bursaries, scholarships and fee waivers that your university may offer.
For further information on student funding providers, including those specific to pharmacy students, see our Finding funding fact sheet.
Mature students are defined as any student aged 21 or over at the start of their studies. UCAS have a useful guide for mature students containing information about funding your studies, help with your UCAS application and the practicalities of preparing to study. Depending on individual circumstances, mature students may be eligible for additional financial assistance. For further information, see the government website.
Students with children
Students with children may be able claim a childcare grant. Additional financial help in the way of a grant or benefits and/or tax credits may also be available. For further information on possible entitlement, see the government details on the Parents’ Learning Allowance.
Students with dependent adults
Students with dependent adults may be able to claim the adult dependents’ grant. An adult dependent can be:-
- your husband/wife or civil partner
- a partner you live with as a couple if you are aged 25 or over
- another adult who depends on you financially.
For further information, see the government website.
Disabled students’ allowance (DSA)
DSA is available for students with a disability, long-term health condition, mental health condition or a specific learning difficulty such as dyslexia. Funding is awarded according to disability, not income. For further information, please see the government website.
International students will need to show that they have enough money to support themselves whilst studying as part of the visa application. Many universities now ask international students for payment in advance for tuition fees and accommodation costs. For further information on fees, funding and support, see the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) website.
Pharmacy as a second degree
Students who are doing pharmacy as a second degree may not be eligible for student finance. For further information on what financial help might be available, see the UCAS website.
Pharmacist Support bursaries and hardship grants
Student hardship grant
A one-off payment of up to £1,500 per academic year can be made available to students facing unexpected hardship, due to unforeseen circumstances such as ill health, bereavement or loss of income. NB Payments cannot be made towards tuition fees.
Pharmacist Support student bursary
The Pharmacist Support bursary will make awards to students who demonstrate financial hardship, outstanding and exceptional qualities to overcome an on-going adversity and sound academic performance. Students must also be expected by their school of pharmacy to make a positive and excellent contribution to pharmacy in Great Britain. Most fully accredited schools of pharmacy in Great Britain are participating in our bursary scheme.
Students should check with their individual university for further details. Applications for the bursary are only accepted once a year and will have to be endorsed by your Head of School.
Exams are part of student life, and it is natural to feel some anxiety at exam time. Preparation and planning can help students to cope with the stresses of exams.
Different people study in different ways. By the time students get to university, most are aware of their individual learning style. Examples include a preference for studying in a group, condensing notes into bullet points or reworking material into a chart or diagram. Whatever the method, remember that revision is about checking your understanding of the subjects you have been studying and identifying any gaps in your knowledge. Try to avoid last minute cramming/all-night studying just before exams. It does not help. Set yourself a manageable timetable for revision and then stick to it. If there are any parts of your course material that you do not understand, ask your classmates and/or tutors for help. For further information about revision skills, see the Skills You Need website.
Familiarise yourself with the exams by practising with past papers. Time the answers that you write, so that you understand how long you will have to answer each question in exam conditions. Try to remember that there is life after exams. It might also help to speak to one of our Listening Friends. For full details of this service, see below under the Listening Friends section.
All universities have policies and procedures in place for exam appeals and re-sits. Any extenuating circumstances should be taken into account by the university when assessing the possibility of re-sitting exams or re-taking whole modules. Students who have exhausted all their re-sit attempts and have still not passed may be asked to leave the course or be awarded a BSc at the end of their third year of studies as an alternative to an MPharm. Any student who is unhappy about the way their university has dealt with them can approach the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA)for guidance on how to make a complaint. For further information, visit their website.
University students spend a large proportion of their time on independent study. Well developed reading and writing skills are an essential part of effective study. Students will need to be able to:-
- scan books and journals quickly
- identify relevant information
- evaluate sources
- develop and evaluate arguments
- produce written work with all the correct citations and academic references.
Do check with your lecturers to see which style of referencing your university uses. If you have concerns about your study skills, you should check to see if your university offers a basic course on effective study methods. For further information on study skills, see the Skills You Need website.
Studying with a chronic condition
A long-term health problem is not necessarily a barrier to successful study. The key is good management and getting the right level of support. Most students with a chronic condition, for example, diabetes, epilepsy or sickle cell anaemia, will already have many years of experience in terms of managing their condition. It is important to remember to take any necessary medication and try to maintain a healthy diet. Students should ensure that their university is aware of their medical condition and ask for any additional support that they may require, for example, arranging for a note-taker or extra time in exams.
Do not be tempted to hide a medical condition. The GPhC student code of conduct states that students should ‘take responsibility for their own health’. It also states that students should ‘tell their university if there is anything that could impair their ability to study’.
MPharm students must acknowledge and take responsibility for the fact that they are on a professional accredited programme and this requires students to act professionally and abide by the GPhC code for pharmacy students. For further information and guidance on student codes of conduct, see the GPhC website.
Having second thoughts about studying pharmacy?
If, during your degree, you realise that you may not want to work as a pharmacist, it may be beneficial for you to get some careers advice before you decide to drop out. Perhaps you could research the work carried out by pharmacists in different environments such as industry and regulation. Doing a pharmacy degree does not necessarily mean that you have to work as a pharmacist. The degree offers scope to venture into other careers where your knowledge and skills could be used and valued. For further information, see our Careers advice and options for pharmacy graduates fact sheet.
Working whilst studying
Most students take on part-time employment to cover their expenses and at the same time gain valuable skills that can be used in the future. Most jobs in the retail industry offer flexible work shifts so students are able to revolve their work around their course. In addition to the usual sources, your university may provide information and contacts for potential employers. Here is some important information on working whilst studying.
As an employee, you will have employment rights, for example, the right to be paid the minimum wage, right to holiday pay, right to protection from discrimination. It is useful to know your rights to ensure fair treatment at work. For further information on students’ rights while working, see the Worksmart website. If you are faced with issues at work and are unsure of your rights, Pharmacist Support can help by referring you to our specialist CAB employment adviser. If you wish to use this service please contact us on 0808 168 2233 or email email@example.com.
Tax and national insurance (NI)
Students who work will be liable to pay income tax and NI on any income above the government threshold. Employers will deduct the income tax and NI contributions from your wages via the PAYE (pay as you earn) system. Students who only work during the holidays and are returning to full-time education after the holiday, may not need to pay tax through PAYE if their wages for the year are below the personal income tax allowance. They will, however, still have to pay NI. Paying NI contributions is important as without these contributions certain benefits, such as contributions based job seekers allowance and statutory sick pay, cannot be claimed. For further information on paying tax as a student, see the government website. Students who have paid too much tax over the year may be entitled to a refund. The HMRC website has a tax checker where you can check if you have paid too much tax and there is also information on how to claim the tax back.
Writing a CV
Ideally, students should write a CV in the first year of their studies and then update it regularly to reflect new experiences. It is best to use a simple, clear format that is easy for prospective employers to read. CVs should reflect all of your skills, abilities and experience, including that not directly relevant to pharmacy. Good interpersonal and communication skills are also important. All universities have a careers advisory service and students can contact them for assistance with CVs. The Student Room has lots of suggestions about what to include in your CV. For further information, see their website.
Most people feel nervous before a job interview. A little advance preparation can make all the difference. Find out where you are going in advance and ensure you know how to get there and how long the journey is likely to take. Prepare answers for questions that will almost always come up at interviews, for example, what are your main strengths/weaknesses, why are you interested in the role and what can you bring to the role. Be prepared to give examples of situations that have required you to use your skills. It is not enough to say where you have worked, prospective employers will want to know how you handled work place scenarios and what you learnt from them.
Most summer placements are advertised very early in the year and priority is often given to third year students. Do not get too disheartened if you do not get a placement within a pharmaceutical environment. Any work experience you gain during your studies will enhance your CV and give you valuable life skills. It will also give you a understanding of working life, for example, not every day is a good one, work can be very hard and you will sometimes feel very tired at the end of the day. Double check with your student union, they often have very good contacts and details of possible vacancies, or may even be looking to fill part-time positions within the union.
Hospital summer internships
Most hospitals offer unpaid work experience between June and August each year to MPharm students. Summer internships are not essential in order to apply for hospital pharmacy foundation pharmacist training.
Community summer placements
Paid employment is not always available; however, community pharmacies are frequently willing to accept students as volunteers. Some of the larger retailers also offer summer placements for first and second year students. Some of the larger chains now recruit some or all of their foundation trainees from people who have participated in their summer placement scheme. For further information on community vacancies, visit the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) website. Lists of community pharmacies in a preferred area are available on the NHS website and from your Local Pharmaceutical Committee (LPC) website.
Industrial summer placements
Students who are interested in a split industrial foundation placement will need to be aware that some companies only allow those who have completed a summer placement to apply for a foundation training position. Many of the industrial foundation placements are offered a full year in advance of commencement. See below for contact details for industrial opportunities.
AstraZeneca offer summer placements at their Macclesfield and Alderley Park Sites. During this placement, students will be offered the chance to apply for one of their foundation training placements. For further details, visit their website.
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) offer summer internships and industrial placements. For further information, visit their website.
MSD offer summer placements and graduate opportunities. For further information, visit their website.
Pfizer offer an industrial trainee placement scheme, for further details, visit their website.
Students should bear in mind that often the relevant information will only be available on company websites whilst applications for positions are open. University careers support services should have further information available for students.
Foundation training placements
The foundation training year is the culmination of many years of study and most students are naturally quite anxious about finding the right placement. The Pharmaceutical Journal (PJ)has a whole series of articles that have been written with the trainee pharmacist in mind. These include, how to make a successful pre-registration application, interview tips and getting started in the pharmaceutical industry. For further information, see the PJ website.
How to find a foundation training placement
As well as the Oriel recruitment process, there are a number of other places that you can look for vacancies, here are some suggestions.
Community foundation training placements
Chemist and Druggist
C+D have a jobs section where you can see the latest foundation training vacancies. For further information, see their website.
National Pharmacy Association (NPA)
The NPA have an interactive map on their website that enables you to search by locality. For further information, see their website.
Pharmaceutical Journal (PJ)
The PJ has an on-line careers section that includes foundation training vacancies. For further information, see their website.
Association of independent multiple pharmacies (AIMp)
The AIMp website lists all foundation training vacancies offered by their members. For further information, see their website.
The Oriel website contains all the details about hospital foundation vacancies. It also has the recruitment timetable and an on-line application facility. For further information, visit their website.
Split industrial foundation training placements
For all the key industrial firms and further information about how to contact them, please see above in the industrial summer placement section.
Split foundation training academia placement
These placements are very limited at the moment. Split academia placements are made up of six months in academia and six months in community pharmacy. There is an article in the PJ about the merits of a split academia placement. For further information, visit their website.
Split clinical commissioning group foundation training placement
A new pre-registration placement has been created in Leeds. Trainees will split their time between a clinical commissioning group (CCG) and a hospital. For further information, contact your local CCG.
Foundation training placement with GP experience
Many community placements now offer the chance to spend some time in cross-sector training in a local GP surgery. For further information, see the Health Education England website.
Foundation training recruitment timetable
The NHS recruitment timetable can often differ from that of community pharmacy employers. This can lead to trainees receiving an offer from one employer whilst still waiting for an offer from their preferred employer. If you find yourself in this situation and are concerned about contractual obligations once you have committed to a job offer, you can contact us for a referral to a specialist employment adviser for further guidance and advice. For full contact details for Pharmacist Support, see above in the Employment rights section . Please note, contractual disputes with an employer are not a fitness to practice issue and the GPhC will not become involved in employer/employee contractual disputes.
Taking care of your health and wellbeing
Relationships can be a wonderful thing; however combining the demands of a relationship with those of academic study can be tricky. Be wary of setting a model for the relationship you would like to have. There is no such thing as a ‘normal’ relationship. They cannot be prescribed by gender, sexual orientation or status. Healthy relationships are usually defined by qualities such as consideration, respect, shared interests and common goals. However, these are not instantly apparent. Good looks are clearly visible and therefore more easily quantified but are not an indicator of compatibility. Equally, people coming from similar cultural, religious or economic backgrounds will often have very different views. Unrealistic expectations of complete rapport can make any relationship formed seem unsatisfactory and ultimately cause it to fail.
Students who are unsure of their sexuality or need assistance with coming out or accepting their sexuality can contact the Lesbian, Gay and Trans (LGBT) Foundation . They offer a range of services including face to face counselling, email support and a telephone helpline. For further information, see their website.
A failed relationship can also lead to a loss of confidence; take some time to rebuild your confidence and self-esteem. For further information on increasing self-esteem, see the Mind website.
Going to university is an exciting opportunity and students often use it as a time to explore and develop new relationships. Students will need to take responsibility for their own sexual health and having all the facts about sexual health and safety and understanding where do go for support when things go wrong plays an important part in this. All universities offer support services and many will offer a range of services including health checks, free condoms and counselling. NHS Choices has lots of information about STIs, contraception and unplanned pregnancy. For further information, see their website.
The risk of suffering from violence or aggression is very low; however students need to be careful, in particular if they are in an unfamiliar city and sharing accommodation. Some important things to remember include:-
- never take an unlicensed minicab
- if you are on a blind date, ensure that you meet somewhere public and inform your friends
- never leave your drinks unattended in pubs and clubs as they could be spiked
- beware of hazardous places, such as riverbanks, after consuming alcohol or drugs
- remember, alcohol and drugs can make you more vulnerable to persuasion, assault, misjudgement, accident, acts of bravado and cold.
For further information and a range of personal safety tips, see the Suzy Lamplugh website.
Alcohol and drugs
According to the NHS, students are more likely to drink, smoke and take drugs than the general population. It would seem that a combination of peer pressure, cheap student bars and the freedom of living away from home for the first time can all be contributing factors to the choices students make. The NHS has a variety of information for students, including an alcohol tracking tool to help you to keep tabs on how much you are drinking, help with stopping smoking and information on drugs and their effects. For further details, visit the NHS website.
Our Addiction Support Service helps to support those who experience problems with alcohol, drug, or other types of dependency. This service provides access to fully qualified addiction specialists, and all calls to the helpline are entirely confidential. If you have a dependency issue or if you know of a friend or colleague with a problem, you can contact the Addiction Support helpline direct for advice. Call 0808 168 5132 or for further information, visit our website.
For further information about alcoholism, see our Help with alcoholism fact sheet.
For further information about drug addiction, see our Help with drug abuse fact sheet.
For many students, living away from home for the first time may cause them to feel homesick. It is entirely normal to feel homesick. Some people feel homesick immediately, others may feel fine to begin with, but develop feelings of homesickness later in the year. Some of the signs of homesickness are:-
- feeling sad and/or anxious
- difficulty sleeping
- lack of concentration
- changes in appetite
- excessive displacement activity, for example, drink, socialising and neglect of studies.
The Prospects website has some useful suggestions to help you settle easily into your university life. The website recommends taking simple steps such as decorating your room with familiar belongings and joining clubs and societies, for a positive impact on your mood. If you continue to feel homesick to the extent that you are frequently withdrawing yourself from participating in social and academic activities, then you may want to consider accessing your university’s counselling service. You could also speak to a tutor, student welfare officer or counsellor before you make any impulsive decisions such as deciding to leave university altogether. For further information, see the Prospects website.
It is possible to be surrounded by people and still feel lonely. Many first year students can feel isolated and awkward at the start of their first term. Leaving behind family and friends is never easy, and starting to build new friendships from scratch can be difficult.
Seeing other students having a good time and making new friends can often add to feelings of loneliness and alienation. For most students, this loneliness, much like homesickness, is only temporary. There are many things that you can do to change your situation. Be pro-active, make the effort to begin and/or join in conversations with your classmates, many of them are probably feeling lonely too. Join some clubs or societies that you are genuinely interested in.
However, beware of compromising your position in order to gain popularity or acceptance, remember that building meaningful relationships takes time.
Everybody gets nervous occasionally, however, for some, the very idea of unfamiliar social situations can cause intense fear. Social anxiety is very disruptive to normal life, and university can exacerbate the symptoms. Social anxiety should not be confused with shyness. Symptoms include:-
- dreading everyday activities such as meeting new people/talking in groups/eating and drinking with company
- low self-esteem
- misuse of drugs and alcohol to try to reduce anxiety
- making excuses to oneself in order to avoid social situations.
For further information about social anxiety and where to go for help, see the NHS choices website.
Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD)
As a society we are increasingly preoccupied with appearance. Images of ‘perfect celebrities’ can lead ordinary people to feel more dissatisfied with their appearance.
Whilst most people feel concerned about their personal appearance, for some it can turn into an unhealthy preoccupation, making it difficult for them to carry out day-to-day tasks and form meaningful relationships. Common signs of BDD include anxiety about perceived defects or flaws in appearance, for example, in relation to facial features, particular areas of the body or feeling that your body is out of proportion/lacking symmetry.
The main treatments currently recommended by the NHS are cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) and Serotonergic anti-depressant medication. For further information about BDD and where to get help, see the Body Dysmorphic Disorder Foundation website.
Eating disorders can affect anybody. Common misconceptions include the view that it is mainly women who are affected by eating disorders. However, men can also be affected by low self-esteem, body image and/or an obsessive relationship with food.
Eating disorders can affect anybody, at any age. You are never too young, or too old, to suffer from an eating disorder. Beating Eating Disorders (Beat) indicates that as many as 1.6 million people in the UK are affected by an eating disorder. Beat offer a variety of help, examples include two helplines, one for adults and one for young people, a UK wide network of support groups and a search facility to help people to find support services in their local area. For further information, visit their website. You can also see our Eating Disorders fact sheet.
Self-harm is a growing problem amongst young people in the UK. People often use self-harm as a means of coping with, or expressing emotional distress. There are many different ways in which a person can intentionally harm themselves, such as:-
- cutting or burning themselves
- poisoning themselves with tablets
- misusing alcohol or drugs
- deliberately starving themselves.
Self-harm is often accompanied by feelings of shame and fear of discovery. Many sufferers feel isolated and cut off from society. Help is available. The Harmless charity offers a variety of support including suggestions on coping strategies, a workbook and postal and email self-harm support. For further information, visit their website.
A Listening Friend
If it all gets too much and you need to talk to someone in confidence, Listening Friends are there to help. Our Listening Friends are all pharmacists who volunteer to offer a listening ear to those in need. For further details about our Listening Friends service, click here.
Other useful contacts
British Pharmaceutical Students’ Association (BPSA)
As an undergraduate student, you can become a joint member of the BPSA and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) for free and take advantage of a range of services offered by both organisations. The BPSA offer students support and representation. For further information, see their website.
Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS)
The RPS offers a selection of support services, including a dedicated online student group allowing you to network with other students in the UK, access to the PJ and library support services. For further information, visit their website.
Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA)
Students can join the PDA for free. As most students now combine work and study, the PDA can provide representation for employment disputes. They can also provide assistance to students with issues surrounding the GPhC code of conduct. For further information, see their website.
The Student Room
The student room has forums specifically for students to discuss all matters including pharmacy. For further information, see their website.
Mindfulness for students
Mindfulness for students offers advice to students about mindfulness and how it can help you in your daily life. For further information, see the Mindfulness for students website. You can also see our Mindfulness fact sheet.
Students against Depression
Students against Depression offers information and resources about stress, depression and suicidal thinking. For further information, see the Students against Depression website.
Nightline counselling service
The Nightline counselling service is run by students for students. It is a confidential listening service and it is open throughout the night. Each university offers their own Nightline service. See your university website for further details.
Stand Alone offers support services to adults that are estranged from their family or children. Services include support groups and therapeutic workshops, support for students having difficulties with student finance and accessing accommodation over the summer period and information about adult foster families. For further information, visit their website.
This fact sheet was last reviewed on 29 July 2021.