Student Voice

Below are some selected student voice pieces, contributed by current and former Plus Programme students, sharing their experiences, advice, and top tips about important issues at university. If you would be keen to write an article for our website, drop us an email at

General University Life

We asked our students to look back over the academic year and think about things they wish they had known earlier. Below you can find a selection of their responses as well as their top tips for other students.

Things I wish I knew in First Year

“I wish I had known more information about the social life and societies, that they’re a good way to start making friends. Say yes to a lot more things rather than saying no, or you may regret missing out on things.”

“Try to involve yourself in as many of LUU’s Clubs and Societies as possible, and read the Plus Programme’s weekly newsletters! They’re full of extremely relevant events happening both on and off campus.”

“Apply for every opportunity and get yourself out there, but don’t force yourself to change in order to fit in.”

Top Tips for Second Year

“I’ve realised my mental health is a top priority and would tell other students to remember to do things for yourself, rather than doing what other people think you should be doing!”

“I found my workload increased and the year went by quicker than I thought it would, so I would say be disciplined with your time and make sure you focus on your studies. If you’re feeling stressed, it’s a good idea to go to wellbeing events and speak to other students, especially around the exam seasons.”

“Start working on your coursework as soon as it’s released.”

Smashing your Final Year

“The jump from your Second to Third year can feel a lot, so getting a diary and trying to stay organised is really helpful.”

“I wish I’d known how to better balance all the different aspects of uni at the start of the year. Definitely still get involved with Clubs and Societies in your final year, but don’t let them run your life.”

“Looking back I’d have spent more time focusing on my wellbeing – make sure you sleep and eat well!”

Accommodation/Living Arrangements

House Hunting in Leeds

Below is some great advice from our friends at Unipol, a student housing charity, on what to consider when looking for your new gaff.

We’ll be honest: finding a student home for the first time can seem daunting and you may feel pressure to make a quick decision. However, if you follow these simple tips, you can guarantee a smooth ride and a good house at the end of it!

1. Search on the Unipol website in January when listings go live.

The Unipol website hosts the widest choice in Leeds, meaning you can find and compare the best deals using filters to find exactly what you’re looking for.

2. Be confident on viewings.

Compare prices and standards by viewing a few different properties with different landlords. Don’t be afraid to shop around and don’t be pressured into signing for the first one you see – there is plenty of good accommodation!

Use Unipol’s viewing checklist to know what to look out for whilst viewing a property.

You can ask for improvements or discounts, but make sure to get them agreed in writing before you sign anything.

Remember, YOU are the paying customer: the landlord should be professional, courteous, and not pushing. If you feel unhappy or uncomfortable about anything, just rent elsewhere!

3. Pick a Code Landlord for a fair deal, a safe property, and reliable service.

Through Unipol’s Directory of Landlords, you can find out more information about the accommodation providers, read their profiles, and find out if they are a member of one of Unipol’s three Codes as a Unipol Code Member, Unipol Code Supporter, or member of the National Code for purpose built student accommodation. There are over 330 Code landlords in Leeds, and a surplus of properties!

4. Visit Rate Your Landlord to find out what previous tenants think about your prospective landlord or property.

5. Get your contract checked by your Students Union or Unipol before signing. Once you’ve signed there’s no backing out, so read through it thoroughly and understand the commitment.


If you’re feeling unsure about anything throughout the house hunting process, Unipol are there to help and offer professional advice, so don’t panic and take your time. You can find more guidance and helpful resources on the Unipol website here.


Top Tips for Managing your Workload

Here are some top tips on managing your workload in the least stressful way (yes, it is possible!)

Buy yourself a diary and stay organised. If a paper diary isn’t appealing, make use of the diary and reminder apps on your phone or your computer to keep track of events, dates and deadlines. You could even try and use a project management tool such as Trello.

Utilise your Module Handbooks For every module you will be provided with a Handbook which contains all the details about the Module. This provides you with the assessment deadlines - get them in that diary! Prioritise your deadlines effectively by focussing on the nearest deadlines first and then the rest.  And be sure to book academic supervision with your module leader in plenty of time before deadlines to ensure you get the support you need in order to meet your personal targets. Note: exam dates are often released later during the semester so keep an eye on your exam timetables on Minerva

Set yourself daily, weekly and monthly targets This is a really good way to manage workload and make some study arrangements in line with your deadlines. If you have a 2,500-word essay to complete and the deadline is this time next month, your monthly target could be to submit the assignment, a weekly target could be to have written 625 of those words and a daily target could be smaller steps such as research and assignment planning, or, 90 words a day.

Study wisely and take breaks It’s essential to know when your studying is productive and be kind to yourself by taking breaks. If you find yourself scrolling through social media with a blank word document in front of you, learn to recognise this as counterproductive and switch off your phone. Taking regular short breaks will keep your concentration levels at a peak, e.g. a quick 5-minute break for every 20-30 minutes of procrastination-free studying. Using a timer can to help keep you focussed outside of break-times. 

Struggling with procrastination? Try the Pomodoro technique! So simple, yet effective.

Undergraduate Social Work student

Getting Involved with the Plus Programme

The Offering for Care Leaver/Care Experienced Students

When I was moving from London to Leeds to start university it was difficult, as I didn’t have any family who could drive me with my things so I needed to hire a van to move my things. This was going to be really expensive, so I reached out to Lisa at the Plus Programme who helped me access money from the University which contributed to my moving costs.

After starting at Leeds, I went along to a social event for estranged and care experienced students where we got the chance to meet each other and have free food and drinks. I ended up meeting my best friend at this event which has also made me more confident, knowing there’s someone I can relate to who’s gone through similar things to me. We can support each other. 

I’ve been in contact with Lisa quite a bit during my studies, as my situation is complicated where I’m technically only estranged from one parent. This made my Student Finance entitlements difficult as they wouldn’t accept my estranged student status, and reduced how much Maintenance Loan I was entitled to. Lisa gave me loads of advice on what I could do about this and she even wrote a letter, which they accepted and then increased my Loan.

The Plus Programme has helped me feel like I belong at Leeds, knowing there’s a dedicated contact I can approach and having the opportunity to connect with other students like the group chat I’m in with other estranged students, where we share advice like what to do about guarantors.

Joanna, History student

Our Student Steering Group

This year I was a member of the Plus Programme’s Steering Group and it felt really good to give my opinions and have an active influence on the University. I was able to highlight the things I feel quite strongly about as a Plus Programme student at Leeds, as our experience is different compared to other students, and help students like me who haven’t had the easiest route to university. It also gave me a greater sense of belonging, which is something I didn’t have before this year, and made me feel more comfortable at the University. Having that influence over something that’s directly related to me gave me a better understanding of what the Plus Programme does, but also who I am as a person within the Plus Programme. 

I’ve found being on the Plus Programme really beneficial as it’s the University acknowledging that students like me need something extra, and I would have struggled if it wasn’t for the Plus Programme. The newsletters have let me know about opportunities I wouldn’t have known about otherwise, like student advisory boards, jobs, and the Leeds Internship Programme who I got a part-time job with this year. I’ve been able to take part in things I can put on my CV and speak about in interviews. It’s also nice to know that there’s something at the University just for me, that isn’t as saturated as other services, and it’s helped have a great year this year and feel like I belong. 

Arts, Humanities, and Cultures Graduate

Tailoring our Offering to Suit You

I’ve engaged a lot with the Plus Programme during my time at Leeds and I’ve really enjoyed that the Programme isn’t just one form of support – there are lots of different opportunities I can get involved with. I’ve been a member of the Steering Group for two years where I developed my event management skills and collaborated with other students, some of whom I became friends with outside of the Group. I accessed the Opportunities Fund to purchase smart clothes for a virtual internship I had at the Ministry of Defence, which I wouldn’t have been able to purchase otherwise as I’m from a low-income background and disabled so unable to work. 

The Plus Programme has had a hugely positive impact on my student experience, primarily because of the variety of opportunities and the fact that I can pick and choose what I want to engage with. The team is also so approachable and friendly. Not only do I actually know what the team looks like, it’s not a faceless entity, but I also really do feel like they care about students as individuals. 

Emma, English and Comparative Literature student

Social Life

Clubs and Societies

One of the best pieces of advice I could give any student is to join some societies at some point during your time at university. There is literally something for everyone and it’s a perfect way to make new friends and productively fill your spare time. I had gotten really into jazz music during college so when I saw that there was a non-auditioned music performance society devoted to Jazz and Blues I signed up straight away. Because everyone there shared the same passion for jazz as I did, I made friends the first week and there was no pressure to be a confident performer straight away because you have the freedom to choose to perform or just listen. 

Through the weekly rehearsals, drinks in Old Bar, and various socials at gigs and themed club nights, both my performance and social confidence grew drastically as well as my organisational skills and ability to work within a team. Towards the end of the year, I decided I wanted to contribute even more to the society that had made my first year at uni so much fun. The time was coming for a new committee to be chosen for the following year and it was the perfect opportunity to take on some more responsibility and develop more skills alongside my studies.

I asked current committee members about their roles in the society; what their responsibilities were, what skills made them good for the role, and how much they’ve enjoyed it. I decided to run for the role of Secretary because I already had good organisational and communication skills that would come in useful for organising gigs and promoting events over social media. I planned a short speech for the Annual General Meeting, including how much the society meant to me, the skills I already had relating to the role and some of the ideas I had for next year. Although there was no competition because no one else ran for the same role, it was still useful to prepare for the speech beforehand to demonstrate that I would do a good job as Secretary nonetheless. So far, I have really enjoyed working with my fellow committee members planning for the upcoming year and I cannot wait to meet the new students joining us!

Nancy, Music and Music Psychology Graduate


Nifty and Thrify – How to Save Money at University

Attending University and living away from home can be a financial challenge, especially for those who have never experienced independent living before.

There are a couple of top tips I’d recommend to save yourself some money:

Purchase a yearly student bus pass

Get a student railcard – save a 1/3 on rail travel!

Rent a bike from the uni.  It’s mega cheap, they do free maintenance and you’ll stay fit!

Walk! – You’ll find places you never knew existed

Use supermarket own brands - more cost effective and taste equally as good as the branded products. 

Keep an eye out for those takeaway student deals that come through the post for days when you and your housemates don’t want to cook – but don’t do this too often else it gets pricey (and it’s not very healthy)!

Bring a packed lunch to campus - this saves a lot of money and will save you queuing in Tesco for half your lunch break.  

Faissal, Graduate 

Eat Cheap, Rave, Repeat

One aspect of university often not given enough thought is the pretty important issue of buying food and cooking for yourself. Regardless of your cooking experience at home, cooking healthy, tasty and varied dishes on a budget can take some practice.

Where you shop and what you shop for depends on your budget. For example, a Sainsbury’s Local or Tesco Express will be far more expensive than larger stores like Morrison’s, Aldi, or the market. So for a start, avoid doing a large shop in these smaller more costly stores and instead just grab smaller bits from these stores when you need them. Stock up occasionally on the essentials such as pasta, potatoes, tinned soups, sauces and ingredients and then you can shop for fresh vegetables, fruit, bread, milk etc. on a weekly basis. When you do a big shop from a larger store, sharing a taxi home between friends works out cheap and will save your arms! Use up what you have before you do another shop and remember you can always freeze leftovers to save on time and waste.

Cooking can be a little bit of trial and error but keep at it! Start with pasta or rice and pre-made sauces, which makes a relatively cheap and easy meal. Try to use fresh vegetables and have a varied diet so you can keep an eye on your health, and cook spare vegetables that need using up with stock and spices for an easy soup. Be careful with meat (always ensure chicken in particular is cooked through) and remember it’s never worth the risk to eat meat that is questionable. Once you’ve got the basics down, you can use apps such as Yummly or websites like BBC food to try and be adventurous, as pasta can get boring! Whether you eat to live or live to eat, shopping and cooking at university is an important skill and can be really fun. 

Sam, International Relations Graduate