Feature: How to kick start your university experience straight away


Originally published on The National Student on 13/08/15. 

The results are in and your place to study [whatever] at the University of [wherever] has been confirmed, congratulations!

The fun starts now. Like, literally, right now.

With results day firmly in the wind and the associated nerves (hopefully) now dissolved, it’s time to look forward to the next big adventure, and with university creeping up in just a few short months, what better time to get kick-started on the fun than right this very second.

Yep, there’s absolutely no reason why you should have to wait until September to jump into the university experience. With social media and the vast realms of the internet at your disposal, the wait is only as long as you make it.

Obviously you’re not quite on campus yet, and lectures are still a little way off, but here are some examples of things you can immerse yourself in ahead of the big move.

E-meet your fellow students

Thanks to the never-ending benefits of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (to name but a few), the social experience of university has been somewhat replicated online in recent years.

Right from the word go, you’ll find Freshers-specific groups and pages popping up everywhere in relation to pretty much every single university in the country, with everyone eager to meet their new cohorts.

This is doubly effective if you already know where you’ll be living too – by joining a group based on your new halls complex, you might even find your future flatmates, saving the wealth of awkward conversations that usually come upon first meeting someone face-to-face. The same goes for your course as well; the upsides to the world being colonised by social networking.

Research the area

Blindly exploring the local area is all part of the Freshers experience, but doing a quick web search for nearby cinemas, clubs or even just supermarkets can come in terrifically handy when you come to finally moving in.

Knowing whether your local food mart is a Waitrose or an Aldi can make all the difference when you come to budgeting.

Not to mention that with the invention of Google’s alarmingly realistic ‘Street View’ function on its Maps feature, if you simply can’t wait to get a glimpse of your new home, you really don’t have to. At the touch of a few buttons you can take a virtual walk to the shops, have a wander around campus or even peruse the local bars, and all from the safety of your own home.

Obviously if you’re feeling extra adventurous you could jump in a car or on a train and spend a day walking around the place in person, but the internet is always the cheaper option.

Sign up for societies

In the first week or so of university you will no doubt be bombarded with opportunities to join the seemingly endless stream of societies on offer, but you don’t even have to wait that long.

If you have a particular hobby that you want to see progress, whether it be sports, or writing or even something more obscure like knitting, there’s nothing stopping you from searching online for the corresponding group and contacting their president or leader before term starts.

Even if you can’t officially join straight away, you’ll be able to gather plenty of information on how to do so when you do eventually get to campus, and you’ll certainly know the committee a lot better.

Additionally, you’ll also be able to see just how many societies your university actually has, and it might well give you some incentive to take up something new. Who knows what you might find.

Tour your halls

Much like the power of Google Street View, a great deal of university halls complexes now offer 360-degree tours of their premises online, meaning that you may well be able to get a sneak peek of your new digs before you’ve even picked up the keys.

Checking out the building itself will no doubt help put any nerves to rest, whilst a potential room tour could even help you plan exactly what to take with you when you move-in. The extra-organised new students will no doubt even start planning how to decorate too.

Start your reading

This one is entirely dependent on the institution and your educational department, but a great deal of tutors will make their reading lists and module outlines for the semester available before term starts.

This might be either through email, or a frequently used online tool called Blackboard (which you will no doubt become very accustomed to over the next few months), and it will allow you to not only add some productivity to your summer, but also get a better idea of exactly what you’ll be studying in the coming years as well. After all, university is still kind of about work.

The university experience starts here, get involved!


Feature: A Level Results – 7 Famous Failures


Originally published on The National Student on 13/08/15. 

A-level qualifications may well forecast your future educational moves, but they don’t automatically mean you’ve failed at life – as these famous flunkers will tell you.

As the national A-level results day looms and the expected nerves really begin to settle in, it’s probably worth remembering that, although it would be great to do well, it may not necessarily prove to be the be all and end all of your future career success.

A whole host of the nation’s finest left school without any qualifications at all and still managed to work their way into incredible positions of power. If you’re feeling a little too nervy ahead of opening that ominous brown envelope, or you need an inspirational story or two to kick your brain back into gear, look no further than the following figures:

Jeremy Clarkson

The former Top Gear presenter and successful top-flight columnist has bagged millions from his television work alone, not to mention the revenue he must have gained from the many, many books he has published over the past 20 years (the list is seemingly endless).

And yet, Clarkson’s A-level results weren’t quite in keeping with his success, as the famous motor-mouth achieved just a C and two U-grades. Years on, despite his frequent controversies and media outcries, Clarkson is one of the UK’s leading motor journalists – proof that exams don’t necessarily determine everything.

Jon Snow

Quit your swooning, we’re not talking about Game of Thrones’s loveable rogue (pretty sure A-levels don’t exist in Westeros) – surprisingly enough, it’s actually the Channel 4 newsreader and all-round British national treasure we’re interested in here. One of ITN’s most famed journalists with a career spanning over 30 years, Jon Snow – believe it or not – left school with a C and two fails at A-level. After re-sitting he managed to just about scrape a D and an E, but he never let such defeat hold him back. The patron of an endless amount of charities, Snow boasts a BAFTA fellowship for his tenure with Channel 4 and even at one point declined an OBE from the Queen herself. Not too shabby.

Deborah Meaden

The fearless business tycoon and star of BBC’s Dragon’s Den got to where she is today surprisingly enough, entirely without A-levels. Although she did spend some time studying at a technical college in Brighton in her younger days, Meaden’s £40 million net worth is almost entirely down to her innate desire to work hard, proving that fancy qualifications aren’t everything after all. In fact, as a result of her later success, Meaden has been awarded a number of honorary degrees, meaning university success can even still come in later life.

Simon Cowell

Known across the globe for his nasty demeanour on talent shows ranging from The X Factor toBritain’s Got Talent, Cowell has found incredible success through producing the shows himself via his company Syco, which was initially set-up as a record-label in 2002. In the past ten years alone, the famous straight-talking money-man has netted over £200 million both from his television roles and his booming music business, having discovered famed artists and groups such as Susan Boyle, Westlife and of course, One Direction. Yet, in spite of all of his insane business success, Cowell left school without any A-levels at all, avoiding education altogether. Wow.

Guy Ritchie

World-renowned filmmaker and former husband to pop legend Madonna Guy Ritchie has seen his career rocket in recent years since first starting out with low-budget British gangster flicks Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch at the turn of the millennium. Having directed Robert Downey Jr. in the huge-scale blockbuster re-boot of Sherlock Holmes, and its sequel, Ritchie has seen significant box-office success, and all without any educational backing at all. Like Cowell, Ritchie too left school without A-levels but has still managed to set himself up as a considerable voice within the Hollywood machine. His latest, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is even released this week. How fitting.


Sir Richard Branson

Possibly the most surprising entry on the list, mega-rich business mogul and face of Virgin enterprises Richard Branson also entered the working world without a single A-level qualification to his name. Despite lacking the educational prowess apparently needed to advance in the world, Branson still went on to set up his own chain of music stores, a record label, an airline, a bank, and even, a private spaceflight company. To date, he is estimated to be worth somewhere in the region of nearly $5 billion. Who needs exams after all, eh?

Cheryl Fernandez-Versini

Believe it or not, the chart-topping pop princess and face of L’Oreal wasn’t a particularly big fan of school and education, leaving long before she could get her hands on any A-levels. Instead, she pursued a career in singing and performing and well, the rest is history. Having been a talent show judge, the member of a popular girl group and an award-winning solo artist in her own right, Cheryl has very much conquered the music industry on both sides of the Atlantic, and all without a single educational qualification. Impressive.

So, you see, it’s not all doom and gloom if you don’t quite get the results you wanted. Success is always possible!

Feature: Britain’s nightclubs are closing, and here’s why


Originally published on The National Student on 12/08/15. 

A new report has concluded that nearly half of the country’s nightclubs have been closed over the past ten years, suggesting that Britain’s apparent fascination with clubbing is very much on the decline.

In the study published by the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR), the number of British nightclubs currently open for business – originally listed as 3,144 in 2005 – is now recorded to instead be the much lower figure of 1,733, signalling a massive, unexpected drop in popularity.

It comes as no surprise that the reaction to the report has been less than positive, with many worried that the loss of nightclubs will not only result in the country missing out on a new generation of genre-defining DJs, but also that potentially struggling areas will not benefit from the fashionable face-lifts popular clubs can often provide. Without famous UK nightclubs such as Ministry of Sound, much of the most widely recognised talent in the house music scene would not necessarily be known, and areas such as Hackney would never have been reformed in the way that they have.

The definitive reason for such a considerable cultural change is still yet to be fully determined, although there are a number of possibilities that could well help to explain it. We’ve broken down a few of them here:

Longer pub hours

The biggest competitors for any clubs are the local pubs and bars, where drinks are usually considerably cheaper and conversation flows more easily. The one defining difference clubs hold is their longer opening hours, usually staying open into the early hours of the morning, but with many pubs now looking to do the same, the late night appeal of clubs may have somewhat dipped.

Cheaper supermarket alcohol

With drinks prices in clubs now at an all-time high, those who use such establishments to simply get trollied are likely beginning to peel away. Local supermarkets now offer a larger range of the most popular alcoholic beverages for as little as a quarter of their usual club price, meaning it’s no real surprise that regular drinkers are angling for the far cheaper option.


In fact, money overall is a huge factor in deciding the fate of our nightclubs. Drinks prices are one thing, but with many clubs now demanding higher and higher entry fees – some, such as London’s exclusive Fabric charge as much as £25 just to enter – it’s not all that shocking that some are choosing to avoid such extortion. Not to mention that a huge portion of Britain’s clubbing population are students, and with the recent increase in tuition fees, a night on the town is becoming less and less affordable for them.

The rise of festivals

Looking at things from a slightly different angle, the current increase we’re seeing in festivals across the UK has also no doubt had some form of impact on the clubbing scene. Whereas they have in previous years just been confined to the stages held within nightclubs, DJs of all styles and backgrounds have since been welcomed more and more into festivals, and with the festivals themselves growing in both number and size rather rapidly, the need for clubs as DJ venues is rapidly drying up.


As a key setting for the urban drug scene in years gone by, nightclubs are very often expected to be hotbeds for criminal activity of all kinds. How much of this is actually true is not particularly clear, but the very possibility of it alone is often enough for local councils to decline the opening of a new clubbing venue. Matters of noise pollution also become tied up in this issue, with an increase in housing local to clubs often forcing their closure, whilst claims that clubbing perpetuates binge drinking and lewd behaviour doesn’t shine it in a particularly great light either.

The result of such potential crime has lead to an increase in security and policing around clubs too, which for many has dramatically altered the experience overall. For some, this stricter, more organised approach to clubbing has completely removed both the authenticity and intimacy of the affair altogether, leading them to ditch their former hot-spots in favour of smaller, easier, and more freeing off-map venues such as warehouses, garages and even people’s houses.


Argued by many to be the most overwhelming reason for a great deal of the nightclub closures – especially those in London – the apparent gentrification of many of Britain’s most fashionable areas has seen a number of the most established local clubs and bars be shut down.

One of the most worrying losses was that of Madame Jojo’s in Soho, a much-famed establishment and genuine cultural hub for central London which, after over 50 years of business, was forced to close its doors following a supposed incident involving its staff. Despite negotiations with the local council, the club was eventually shut down for good, with the building being swiftly scheduled for demolition as part of further redevelopment plans for Soho.

The fact is, Britain’s clubs are disappearing, and they’re doing so at an alarming rate. Let us know your thoughts on the matter below, and if you want to keep your local nightclubs in business, make sure you show them the love they deserve.