Byline: Ed Cunynghame
The fresher's experience of university involves many surprises - not least of which is finding out how big the bills can be.
Students always seem to be complaining about how hard up they are, but a desperate shortage of cash is a reality for many.
To the outsider, the picture of feckless students living like The Young Ones or as victims of Rigsby-type landlords who condemn lodgers to live in horrible Rising Damp-style accommodation, while conning them out of every last pound, is a common one.
It is true that one the biggest problems that students face is the struggle to find affordable and hygienic accommodation.
The majority of the landlords are sympathetic - indeed ours even gave us four bottles of champagne for Christmas.
However, students can be the obvious targets for the unscrupulous, even though most landlords have to be approved by the university.
At the same time, say our critics, students always seem to be able to afford brand new computer games and to be able to go out and get drunk. Could it be that the student lifestyle has been misconstrued?
The fact is, starting university life can be daunting, especially for those who are experiencing being away from home for the first time.
A key part of the process is being able to handle finances while still enjoying all the opportunities that being at university open up.
When, like me, you live in a house with four other males, day-to-day domestic organisation can easily go out of the window.
The small matter of paying the household bills can be complicated enough without being constantly bombarded with confusing offers from rival gas and electricity suppliers.
Then there's the matter of wading through the junk mail that pours through the letterbox every day from banks inundating us with offers of interest-free loans and other cash incentives.
Banks hover like vultures over students. They seem to be desperate for us to open accounts while knowing full well that years of paying off debts at high rates will be the likely result.
It's all a question of temptation. The idea of having a pounds 1,500 overdraft facility to spend is as hard to resist as some of the student discounts offered by Birmingham's balti houses.
University is a time to be enjoyed, mainly because there are fewer responsibilities than later in life and the whole process is a learning curve that is beneficial in many ways. …