The Ultimate Back to School Checklist for Aspiring Career Stars

proprep back to school checklist

Whether you’re a fresh-faced freshman or a seasoned college pro, your back-to-school checklist likely includes the essentials to survive the upcoming academic year: a laptop, dorm decor, and perhaps a fluffy bathrobe for shared bathrooms. Yet, your back-to-school prep should also encompass a mental back to school checklist for excelling throughout the year – and it’s not just about working hard or getting good grades, brushing off outdated advice from parents and pals.

1. Cultivate Multiple Mentors

Behind the success stories of many post-graduates lies a common factor: mentorship. A mentor can open doors to fresh opportunities, shorten your learning curve, offer real-world advice, and introduce you to influential networks. They’re a goldmine.

Building mentor relationships may sound daunting, but by identifying shared interests and showcasing your potential, you can establish these connections effectively. Wondering where to start? Look no further – each of the following items on your back-to-school list can serve as fertile ground for mentorship.

2. Craft Your Online Presence

Crafting your online presence is like sculpting your digital identity – a dynamic reflection of your skills, passions, and professional journey. With platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook as your canvas, you have the opportunity to paint a vivid picture of your expertise and personality. Just as an artist carefully selects colors and brushstrokes, curates your content thoughtfully, showcases your accomplishments, and insights, and engages with industry trends.

Remember, this isn’t just about gaining followers; it’s about fostering connections, attracting mentors, and positioning yourself as a thought leader in your field. So, seize the digital brush, create an online masterpiece, and watch as your personal brand becomes a beacon that guides you toward exciting career horizons.

3. Sharpen your Transferable Skills

Your portable skills – those talents applicable to any career path – are priceless. Just like intellect and muscles, they need consistent development. Concentrate on the in-demand abilities that employers often find lacking in new graduates: communication, problem-solving, decision-making, work ethic, and self-discipline. Some skills you learn through trial and error, while others require proactive planning and commitment.

4. Cultivate Leadership

Leadership is the ultimate soft skill. It embodies teamwork, confidence, and the ability to drive results – attributes highly sought by employers. In today’s economy, companies rely on every team member to be a leader in their own right. On-campus activities such as clubs, committees, brand ambassador roles, and intramural sports are rich grounds for building leadership acumen.

5. Harness the Power of Informational Interviews

Unlock the potential of informational interviews and open doors to invaluable insights and opportunities. Just as a key fits into a lock, these interviews provide a direct channel to gain insider knowledge about industries, roles, and the career paths of professionals you admire. Informational interviews are more than conversations; they are gateways to expanding your network, refining your aspirations, and discovering hidden pathways to success. Approach each interview with curiosity and purpose, and watch as you unveil a world of understanding that textbooks and lectures alone can’t offer. Embrace the power of these conversations and let them guide your journey toward a fulfilling and impactful career.

6. Pursue High-Impact Internships

Internships offer the ideal platform to cultivate both soft skills and career-specific experience. A truly impactful internship involves mentorship, learning from failures, contributing meaningfully, and gaining hands-on experience that sets you apart. With recent grads securing jobs through an internship experience, including at least one high-impact internship annually is a no-brainer.

7. Construct a Robust Networking Strategy

A staggering 80-90% of jobs are secured through networking. While mentorships, social media, and other activities naturally contribute, having a proactive plan to expand your network is essential. Identify key influencers in your field, set networking event targets, plan regional or national conference attendance, and facilitate in-person meetings.

Set your goals, follow your back to school checklist, and watch your future unfold. Your back-to-school must-haves go beyond the basics; they lay the foundation for a successful career journey.”

What to buy for university: our top tips

Freshers Week 2022 is just around the corner, but starting university life takes lots of preparation. You’ll probably have a reading list to get through and want to buy lots of new clothes. However, you also need to be equipped with those boring but oh-so-important items for use in everyday life. If you’ve got no idea what to buy for university, we’ve got your back.

Are you in halls, dorms, or private accommodation? On campus or off? Wherever you live, you’ll need more than you think when you start university. The trick here is to shop smartly and wisely. Break up your list of what to buy for university into areas of your student life, and shop accordingly.

Study essentials

Most student accommodation comes with a desk, but think about any extra accessories you might need. This will help you be as productive as possible in your new workspace.

Top buys here include:

  • Noise-cancelling headphones – ideal for keeping you focussed in shared or noisy accommodation.
  • A wireless printer – for late night cram sessions, or any time when you just can’t be bothered to run to the library.
  • Your own stationery – get off on the right foot with the pens, paper, and other equipment you’ll need.
  • A lamp – lots of student accommodation is unfortunately quite badly lit. Come with your own lamp, or get one after you’ve assessed the light in your room. This will be handy for studying and for anything else.
What to buy for university: study essentials, like stationery or a good lamp.
Photo credit: Monkey Business Images, Shutterstock

Kitchen essentials

Living on takeaways gets expensive – you’ll want to do a fair bit of cooking as a student. Most student accommodation comes with some kitchen utensils, but if you can, it’s smart to invest in your own.

If you’re trying to work out what to buy for university, Argos Uni Page and the Ikea Uni Page are great. Here you’ll find crockery, pots and pans, utensils and more. A 20-piece kitchen starter kit is just £22!

Consider the kitchen appliances you’d like to take too. Again, student kitchens are usually well-stocked, but if you’re a coffee lover or a toasted sandwich aficionado, bring your own trusty gadget.

Bedroom essentials

A good tip for starting to stock your university bedroom is to look around your bedroom at home. Consider what you use the most and what you can probably survive without. If you want to get new things, the student page at Dunelm has bedding from £10, throws from £10 and towels from £1. 

Wilko also has an excellent bedroom bundle for just £33. It includes 1 x cream double duvet set, 1 x white double fitted sheet, 1 x pillowcase two-pack, 1 x 13.5 tog double duvet and 1 x medium pillows two-pack. Bedding aside, remember those small extras like a laundry basket, a mattress protector, a mirror and a dustbin. You can find all of these at Amazon and Ikea

Lastly, don’t forget how important it is to feel at home in your university room, since you’ll be spending loads of time there. If you can, get your hands on photos of friends and family, wall decor, or trinkets that mean a lot to you. They’ll go a long way in helping you settle in.

Living essentials

Storage is usually vital at university, as most students have a smaller living space than they’re used to. Consider whether you need hangers or extra storage drawers in which to put everything you’re bringing with. Other solutions include things like boxes you can stack on top of one another.

If you’re sharing a bathroom, add a container for your toiletries to your list of what to buy for university. This will help you bring them in and out without a fuss. Where possible, check out the amenities in your room or hall first, and then shop accordingly.

What to buy for university: chill essentials, like gadgets and subscriptions to help you relax.
Photo credit: BONNINSTUDIO, Shutterstock

Chill essentials

Finally, think about your downtime. Keeping up with the pace of a degree is a stressful task, and you’ll want things to keep you relaxed and entertained.

The Kindle Paperwhite features a glare-proof screen with a built-in light, so it’s great for both night and day. The battery lasts for weeks, it stores thousands of books, and you can download new reads in an instant.

For streaming services consider Amazon Prime student at £3.99 a month or £39 for the whole year. Membership gives you one-day delivery on millions of items for six months. You’ll also have access to Prime Video, Prime Music, and more student discounts!

Netflix doesn’t have a student discount, but it does have a free month trial and a range of plans. The lowest plan will only cost you £5.99 a month. NOW TV also has a free seven-day trial and plans that give you access to SKY, starting from £3.

The freebie guide to freshers’ week

The freshers’ fair is a crucial staple of freshers’ week – wandering around a big hall or gazebo, 700 flyers in hand, trying to decide if you want to commit yourself to the Quidditch team or the Cheese Society. Make sure to go with an open mind, hungry tummy, and empty backpack. As well as being a great chance to discover all the different activities on offer, you’ll leave drowning in freebies.

Coupons and vouchers will come in handy later, but the physical giveaways are great for stocking up your room, kitchen, and pencil case. Whether you’re a returning student or you’ve just got your A Level results, check out our guide for the very best of the free haul! 

Click here for more advice on making the most of freshers’ week

Food glorious food

The people running every stall know that the foolproof way to a student’s heart is through their stomach. Both uni clubs and businesses will try to leave a sweet aftertaste with you, so look out for sweets, chocolates and doughnuts. At some campuses, you’ll find supermarkets handing out goody bags of student essentials like beans and noodles. Take them back to stock up your kitchen, and save money and stress later!

Domino’s and Pizza Hut visit a lot of freshers’ weeks with a deal for free pizza slices. If you see them, don’t hold back! Keep an eye out for deals and vouchers from other restaurant chains and local eateries. They’re all waiting to welcome you to your new home city.

Photo credit: Y. A. Photo, Shutterstock

Kitchen freebies

Look out for branded mugs, water bottles, flasks, and pint glasses. With enough random giveaways, you’ll be able to go a whole week without washing anything up – win! Some people find cooking utensils and other important supplies at the freshers’ fair, which will save you a desperate supermarket trip down the line.

Fridge magnets are surprisingly useful. How else would you stick up all your takeaway menus, or remind your flatmates that your leftover sushi is NOT up for grabs? Bonus points if they double up as a bottle opener or other device.

Gadgets and gizmos a-plenty 

While businesses and societies want to entice you in with food, they also want to gift you techie things you’ll actually appreciate and use. While you’ve probably got a set of headphones and a portable phone charger, it’s good to have a spare or two (or five!). Some stalls will also have things like USB sticks and splitters. We bet you’ve been meaning to buy yourself one of these but never got around to it, so take them all.

Freshers’ week stationery

Does anyone buy pens anymore? You’ll probably receive a lifetime supply of highlighters, biros, and other stationery handouts at the freshers’ fair. If you’re lucky, you might find an academic planner or a wall calendar. These will help you keep track of the whirlwind of activity that makes up a uni term.

While you can’t write with a stress ball, they’re (unfortunately) library essentials. Hang onto them and to anything else that could calm you down in an essay crisis. 

Photo credit: Firina, iStock


Brands will put their name on anything they can get you to carry around. It’s free advertising for them, but you’ll also benefit from a new pyjama T-shirt or a pair of socks. Tote bags are eco-friendly and useful for transporting your stuff around campus. And of course, umbrellas are a must-have in the unpredictable UK climate!

Some freebies new to the tables in 2021 might include masks and hand sanitiser gel. Whether you’re avoiding the freshers’ flu or something more sinister, stay safe and happy at uni with these supplies.

Catch us at your freshers’ fair! 

Proprep will be all over the country during freshers’ week 2021. We hope to see you at one of the following locations…

  • Uni of Edinburgh – 13th Sept
  • Uni of Glasgow – 14th Sept
  • Uni of Exeter – 17th Sept
  • LSE – 20th Sept
  • Uni of Manchester – 20th Sept
  • Uni of Leeds – 21st Sept
  • QMUL – 22nd Sept
  • Uni of Nottingham – 22nd Sept
  • Swansea Uni – 22nd Sept
  • Kings College London – 23rd Sept
  • Uni of Liverpool – 23rd Sept
  • Uni of Kent – 24th Sept
  • Uni of Surrey – 24th Sept
  • Uni of Bristol – 25th Sept
  • De Montfort Uni – 27th Sept
  • Uni of Warwick – 28th Sept
  • Newcastle Uni – 28th Sept
  • Cardiff Uni – 30th Sept
  • UCL – 2nd Oct
  • Imperial College London – 5th Oct
  • Uni of Oxford – 6th Oct

…and more! Can’t wait to meet you all!

Discover how to make the most of Freshers’ Week 2021

Freshers’ week – also called welcome week – is one of the highlights of the university calendar. It’s an immensely busy time, filled with new faces, important admin, and copious amounts of alcohol. Follow our guide to both survive and thrive during freshers’ week, and come out feeling confident and excited about the year ahead at university!

Photo credit: Prostock Studio, Shutterstock

Get the admin under control

First things first, try and get a copy of the events schedule for freshers’ week when you arrive, so you can plan ahead. You’ll probably have a few meetings to attend, such as welcome talks with your department and induction sessions with the library and sports facilities. Though these may sound a little boring, they’ll be super helpful in the long run. 

Check where your teaching spaces are, and locate your nearest supermarket, pharmacy, and other important shops. Some universities set a deadline by which you have to register with a new local GP, but even if yours doesn’t, register anyway! Especially in a year like this one, it’s important to know your health will be taken care of when you need it.

“So, what kind of things are you into?”

You’ve probably never been around so many new people from so many different places as during freshers’ week. Make sure to bring a doorstop, so your new neighbours feel comfortable popping their heads in and saying hello. Invite them in for a chat and a cuppa if you really want to win them over!

As well as hopefully bonding with the friends living around you, you’ll meet people on your course, older students, and countless others. Be prepared for a lot of Facebook adds, and having the same awkward opener conversation over and over. Also, make sure to choose a fun fact about yourself in advance for any classic freshers’ week icebreakers and get-to-know-you games.

It’s obviously great to be friendly to everyone you meet at university. However, lots of people feel pressure to become an immediate BNOC (big name on campus). Don’t give in to the panic! Everyone showing off their fun on social media is just as confused and nervous as you. You don’t need to make your best friends for life on day one – there’s lots of time to find your tribe.

Explore the freshers’ fair

The freshers’ fair generally happens over a couple of days during freshers’ week. It’ll give you the chance to learn about every society and extra-curricular activity on offer at your university. You can speak to student reps at each stall, and sign up for mailing lists so that you don’t miss upcoming events.

Extra-curricular activities are a great way to round out your CV when it comes to the job hunt. More importantly though, you’ll meet lots of new like-minded people and get some crucial chill time amidst the chaos of the uni term. Are you considering playing a new sport, getting involved in performing arts, joining a religious society, or something more niche? Whatever it is, we recommend throwing yourself into the fun and trying everything at least once!

Another thing to note about the freshers’ fair is that almost every brand and company will have special deals and rates for students. You’ll receive a ton of freebies, coupons and discount codes, so keep them safe and use them to save money later on. When out shopping, remember to ask if the shop you’re in gives student discounts. An NUS card or university ID can get you 10% off in most places (which almost makes the degree worth it).

Freshers’ week nightlife

When you picture yourself during freshers’ week, it’s probably dancing in a club surrounded by lots of sweaty fellow students. This year, universities are optimistic that students won’t need to miss out on the nightlife scene. However, it’s important to stay as smart and as safe as possible. As well as being COVID-aware, remember not to drink on an empty stomach. Keep an eye on your belongings (especially your drink), and don’t venture off alone in unfamiliar areas. If you do end up going a bit too hard, make sure to get some fluids and carbs in you the next morning. Exercising will be the last thing you’ll feel like doing, but sweating the alcohol out is an amazing hangover cure. If that sounds too ambitious, at least leave home for a walk to get some fresh air. 

The freshers’ week hype can make people who aren’t so crazy about clubbing feel a bit alienated. However, this doesn’t need to be the case. There are always a mix of different events on offer, especially in the wake of the pandemic. Night markets, movie marathons and yoga classes are more chilled alternatives that are really fun. While social events are planned for every moment of the week, don’t feel pressured to attend them all. Freshers’ week can be draining, and it’s important to acknowledge when you need some downtime.

Photo credit: Jacob Lund, Shutterstock

Help and support

Adjusting to university life is hard. It might seem that you’re the only one who feels anxious or homesick, but this is really the opposite of the truth. All universities will have dedicated and friendly welcome teams of older students there to guide you. Don’t be afraid to speak to them if you feel a little lost. They can listen without judgement, suggest events that you might enjoy, and direct you to the right services if you need further support.

Remember to eat well and keep yourself fuelled during freshers’ week to avoid illness or burnout. Try to avoid the dreaded freshers’ flu by taking plenty of vitamins. If you do think you’ve caught it, give yourself a day or two to recuperate before hitting the town again. If you think you’ve contracted anything more serious, don’t hesitate to contact a health professional or your uni’s pastoral care.

Click here to read our top tips for international students

What happens if freshers’ week goes virtual?

Large events are all dependent on the changing COVID-19 situation. Lots of unis have already moved faffy admin tasks online in response to the pandemic – a silver lining to this whole mess! However, they are reluctant to cancel the in-person freshers’ fair or other social activities. 

If something drastic changes and you do end up having to navigate freshers’ week through your laptop, try to keep an open mind. Although it’s not ideal to be meeting people and finding out about clubs and societies online, it’s definitely possible. Some unis have even organised virtual DJ sets, quiz nights and escape rooms. Hopefully you’ll have lovely flatmates and neighbours to bubble with, and if not, you can find people online who are in the same boat.

If your liver and your wallet are both a bit worse for wear when freshers’ week is over, don’t worry. As we said above, it’s great to try and make the most of the week, but remember that it won’t define your uni experience. Once teaching starts, things will calm down, and you’ll fall into more of a routine.