National Student Money Week has been and gone for 2013. Woo! Sob! After months of planning, promoting and printing, the week happened without a hitch *breathes a sigh of relief*.
Monday started with a representative from the Illegal Money Lending Team supporting our stand in the University’s main atrium. They provided lots of loan shark warnings to students (and staff), this included some fab freebies which students could take away. At the last minute we were able to secure the ‘Sharky’ costume which was going to lurk around campus (just like a loan shark – get it?) for students to spot and comment on. However we were unable to secure two volunteers to wear the costume around campus (such a shame), maybe this is something we can improve for next year! We also ran a mini Chinese New Year discussion board where students could make new year money resolutions. As students passed or approached the stand we handed out an assortment of things including top money saving tips, student banking info, NHS stop smoking freebies, TV licence info and useful student discount websites.
Tuesday kicked off with a brilliant shopping basket competition. Hannah, Emma and I spent quite a few months trying to secure some food donations from supermarkets for a ‘brands Vs own-brands’ competition. This seemed impossible and we very nearly used our own budget to buy the items HOWEVER a brilliant PR Team from Morrisons stepped up to the challenge and donated two whole baskets of goodies (one basket full of M-Savers own brand products and one basket full of branded products). We had about 73 students take part in the comp, not a massive number which was a big surprise. To take part students needed to guess the price difference between the two baskets but many students said they didn’t have the time. I felt that students were weary of catch when there wasn’t one. This is definitely something to improve on for next year as the prize was fantastic. We did get two lucky winners who were pleased to get a whole basket of shopping for free. On the day we also gave out some brilliant ‘Love Food Hate Waste’ recipe cards as well as encouraging students to bulk buy and share cooking with their flat-mates to reduce costs.
Wednesday was one of the biggest events of the week, the Swish. We’d been collecting clothing, bags, books and jewellery for a few weeks before the event and students could still bring items on the day. We’d hired the Platform for the event and we had some brilliant volunteers who helped us set up and run it. Without the student volunteers the Swish wouldn’t have happened, they were fantastic and we managed to transform the Platform into a beautiful, bunting filled clothes shop! Revival, Lincoln’s community cooperative also pitched in and donated mirrors and clothing rails. I’d like to give a massive shout-out THANK YOU to them! On the day 80 items were swapped and the feedback we received from students was really positive. They felt it was definitely a useful money saving activity which should happen on campus throughout the year. We were all quite surprised that the items swapped were of a really good quality, lots of relatively new items and popular labels. Swishing is really like shopping for new treats but without opening your purse (excellent for students). Students encouraged us to run Swishes more often so the word would spread and they would become more popular with the rest of Lincoln’s student population. I’m going to pass this back to the Funding Team and hopefully the next couple of Student Support interns could keep on Swishing!
Thursday was definitely the biggest event of the week, it was the Valentine’s D.I.Y. Craft Fair. Emma and I were really happy to have some lovely volunteers and student ambassadors on hand to help us set up and run the fair; we couldn’t have done it without them! The aim of the fair was to encourage students to think about making their own… instead of spending a fortune at the shops. We also wanted to give students some alternative, cheaper social activities which they could try at home with their friends. Plus it was a fun way to get students together and give out NASMA freebies and money saving/budgeting advice. An assortment of stalls filled the Platform, we had Keira’s Cupcakes teaching students how to decorate cupcakes. We made sure to give out lots of cupcake recipe cards which included the price of ingredients from a couple of supermarkets (Asda sold the cheapest cupcake ingredients). There was a knitting and crochet stall set up by Spins and Needles, this was really popular, students definitely love knitting and a few said they would think about setting up a knitting club! Revival also ran a stall where students could learn how to make heart-shaped key-rings out of used tin cans (very funky). Then we had about 10 volunteers who came to learn how to upcycle with Oxfam Lincoln, lots of beautiful buttons were turned into jewellery. Overall we had 70 students visit the fair, we were disappointed with such a low number when there were lots of free activities for students to get involved in. We’ve put this down to our choice of location (no passing traffic) and our poster/leaflet advertising beforehand not making much impact. However it’s a good start for the University’s first ever NSMW, the students that came to the fair were really positive and we can now get thinking about ways of increasing engagement for next year. One tip a number of students gave us was to use student volunteers to advertise the events before and after lectures and seminars, great tip!
Friday, the final day of National Student Money Week 2013. The day started with a funding drop-in in the library. The aim of the drop-in was to encourage continuing students to reapply for their student finance. We had 6 computers reserved for students (thanks to the very accommodating library team) to visit the student finance website and reapply. Three more fab volunteers helped us promote the event around the library. It was hard to encourage continuing students to stop for 10 minutes and reapply, in total we had about 5 students take part. However we didn’t see this as a negative because we managed to wander around the library and chat to lots of current students about the reapplication process and we also gave out some handy ‘how to’ guides on reapplying. In the afternoon Emma and I ran an online funding Q&A with the University’s Web Team. We encouraged students to participate and ask any funding/money/budgeting related queries they might have. This went really well and we received about 23 questions and you can still view the Q&A here.
The week was a success for the Outreach Team and the wider Advice, Funding and Student Support teams not only because it was the first time that National Student Money Week had been supported but also because it was the first time in a while that fun, useful activities had been organised for students outside of the Student Support Centre.
Students often commented in surprise throughout the week that the event was being run by Student Support. Students were really positive about the whole week and in particular they encouraged Student Support to host future Swishes and D.I.Y craft fairs and get involved with current students not just at drop-in sessions when they have problems. All good, interesting feedback to take forward.
I’m going to put together a review of the lead up to the week & the week itself with a colleague who organised Go Green Week which ran alongside NSMW. I’m definitely going to encourage colleagues in the support services to consider hosting more activities (Swishes!) for students throughout the year. I know there’s always issues with staffing events but there will be two new interns working throughout 2013/2014 and they should be used to lead the service forward, create new ways of supporting students and increase student engagement.
Events such as National Student Money Week are a great, positive way to promote the support services, they increase student engagement and most importantly they help and support students (that’s our aim after all!). For example, by running Swishes & giving out budgeting/money saving tips throughout the year (not just at one time) students may be less likely to struggle with their finances and get into serious money trouble – we can try and prevent the problem before it happens.
It’s over and out for National Student Money Week for 2013. It has been a fun/busy/educational/engaging/useful week for the University of Lincoln. Thanks to NASMA for letting us become Showcase Partners for our first ever attempt at hosting the week and here’s to a bigger and better event next year!
- If you want to read what other universities got up to for National Student Money Week 2013 view their work here.
- If you are a current student please take 5 minutes to complete this anonymous student finance survey put together by NASMA.