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Student life and mental health

Explains how you can look after your mental health as a student, giving practical suggestions for what you can do and where you can go for support.

Deciding to become a student

There are many decisions to make before your studies begin. These could have an impact on how enjoyable and worthwhile you find your course.

You are likely to face decisions such as: what subject to study, what type of course to take, and where? The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) can help you explore some of your options.

Going to open days might help you to get a better insight into the subject and what teaching methods the university or college uses. You can also get a feel for the place of study. Open days tend to run throughout the year. It’s worth checking the calendars of a few colleges or universities that you are interested in. You may need to register for a place in advance.

Whether to study close to home, to commute or to move somewhere new is another decision that you are likely to face. Check out Student Minds' Transitions guide for some helpful advice on this.

It may be that you decide university is not the right option for you. For information on the alternatives that may suit you better, take a look at the Not Going To Uni guide.

Planning your healthcare

If you're currently receiving treatment for a mental health problem and you register with a new GP, the support you get may change. Your new GP or Community Mental Health Team (CHMT) may, or may not, do a new assessment. They might advise on a new treatment plan, or they may continue with your current treatment. The NHS has more information about registering with a new GP as a student.

To minimise the disruption, it can help to plan early - even as soon as you've chosen a course or accepted a place. Talk to your current GP or CMHT about:

  • The move and what this might mean for your treatment
  • How your medical notes will be transferred
  • What they can do to ensure that your new GP understands your medical needs
  • Reviewing any medication you're taking that may affect your studying
  • Writing a summary letter about your medical history for your new GP

You might also be considering if, how and when to tell your place of study about your mental health problem. The University Mental Health Advisers Network (UMHAN) is a network of mental health specialists working in higher and further education. Its website has information about telling your place of study and what protection you have.

Managing your finances

Studying is likely to affect your personal finances. The money you receive and the way you get it may change. It's important to think about how you will pay for essentials like food, housing and tuition fees. And course costs such as books and other equipment.

I try to be sensible with my spending where possible – I always ensure I can afford to eat well and leave enough to treat myself from time to time.

The change in financial situation can be particularly difficult if you are a mature student used to earning a full-time wage. Or if you have children or dependents that you support financially. The UK government website has information about extra financial support you may be entitled to. Save the Student also has information about funding available to mature students.

If you have a disability

A Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) is available to students who have a disability, mental health problem or learning disability.

A DSA is a grant that you don’t need to pay back. It can help you cover any extra study-related costs that you may have because of your disability. You need to have been diagnosed by a medical professional and provide proof of this.

The UK government website has more information about applying for a DSA.

Money worries may feel like more of a challenge if you are a care-leaver or don't have financial support from your family. Take a look at Stand Alone for information about applying for student loans and support from your local authority. UCAS also has information about dedicated funding for care-leavers.

Regardless of your situation, it can be useful to create a weekly or termly budget plan. This can help you keep track of your incomings and outgoings. Pick a method that you will find easy to use such as an app or spreadsheet. There are lots of templates online you could use.

Check out The Money Charity's Student Money Manual, Money Helper and Save the Student for more advice on managing your finances.

You could also take a look at our money and mental health pages.

I do part-time university with the Open University, so I have a full-time job alongside. It helps a lot.

Managing your studies

You may be returning to education after a break or continuing your studies straight from school or college. Whatever your situation, you may find that you have more responsibility for your own study than you've been used to. This can provide flexibility in how you structure your day, but getting used to planning your own schedule can be a challenge.

I try to take a step back and assess my workload, write a list and take it one step at a time.

Many colleges and universities run study skills sessions for new students. These can be a great way of learning how to plan and manage your time. They can also help you to understand some of the possible requirements from your new course, such as how to write a research proposal or reference other studies correctly. You could check your university or college's website to see what is available at your place of study. 

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What I wish I’d known sooner is how adaptable university is. There is no right or wrong way to do it – because everyone is different.

This information was published in March 2023. We will revise it in 2026.

References and bibliography available on request.

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