It’s a proud day for any parent when their child receives their A-Level results and finds out that they have secured a place on their dream course at university. Your child’s degree is the stepping stone to their future, their gateway to permanent employment, and, most importantly, a life-affirming experience that any hard-working young adult has a right to.
When they head off to their city of choice, they will be picking up a new level of responsibility. They will have to learn how to cook for themselves, manage their money, and remain disciplined in their education. They have to do all this while balancing what is probably the busiest point in their social life to date (and perhaps ever).
So it’s no surprise that some students find university to be something of a stressful experience. Learning new skills while balancing the various elements of student life can take some getting used to. As a parent, it’s up to you to make sure that your child is being supported through the course of their degree – but without you getting overly involved – and letting them find their own way.
There are three elements that first-time students tend to struggle with when they go to university: finance management, the course content, and the social side. Fortunately, academic institutions and independent organisations offer specialist support for students in these situations, and, as a parent, these are the resources that you can advise them to turn to.
There are two sides to managing finances when it comes to studying a degree: paying the university for their tuition and paying for everything else. If your child has received a student loan, then the tuition fees are usually arranged between Student Finance England (SFE) and the university. The remaining balance will be paid to your child as a maintenance loan, which gives them some support with paying for accommodation and food.
Budgeting is an important part of the student lifestyle, and it is common for students to spend the majority of their maintenance money early in the year – after all, they are often inexperienced financially and it is easy to become overwhelmed by the social aspects of student life.
If this is the case, and your child is running low on funds, there are plenty of resources that they can use to establish a plan to manage their money properly.
The University: Every university has a student support department, and each of these will have a member of staff who is a specialist in student financial advice. They will give your child impartial advice about how to take control of their finances, and they will also be able to assess whether your child is eligible for further financial support from the university in the form of grants, bursaries, or hardship loans.
If your child is struggling academically as a result of financial hardship, this department may also be able to communicate with course leaders and department-heads to negotiate further academic support.
Student Finance: Student finance establishes the value of a maintenance loan by assessing the financial situation of the child’s parents. There may be elements of your home life that you left out of the application that could actually give your child extra support with their student finances. The same rule applies when looking at your child’s circumstances as well – if they act as a carer or guardian, for example, they might be eligible for further funding.
Specialist Online Services:Certain websites have been set up to help students with financial issues. The Student Room is a place where students and advisors can discuss any issues with regards to student life, while Save the Student is an online resource that locates the best offers and discounts for students, thereby helping them to save money.
University is the final level of academic progression for the majority of students; as a result, it poses the biggest academic challenge in your child’s life. Some courses are more labour-intensive than others, requiring your child to put in hard work from day one. Other courses are more relaxed, but generally, the work will get more intense as the course progresses.
University is a fast-paced learning environment, where it’s up to your child to take control of their own education – perhaps for the first time. If they aren’t prepared, this can place a strain on them academically, especially around the busy exam period. If they feel that they are struggling with the academic side of their course, there are several places to seek advice.
Student Support Services: This branch of the university is here to help your child in any circumstance. It is usually comprised of a dedicated team of officers who are there to help your child overcome any struggles that they might be going through. This department can help your child put a plan in place to work through the academic elements of their course that they are struggling with. If your child finds literacy or numeracy difficult, the SSS can refer your child to tutors who can support them with this and provide assistance during exam times.
Their Tutor: At the start of university, each pupil is assigned a personal tutor, who may or may not teach them course content, but they are specialists in your child’s area of study and are there to ensure that your child is keeping up with the work. These tutors generally arrange catch-up meetings every couple of months, but they should be available to speak to at any time of the year. They work closely with other tutors on the course and can help your child to work towards a solution.
When your child heads off to university, they will be placed into an unfamiliar setting with unfamiliar people. In a situation where people generally don’t know each other, making friends quickly becomes a necessity – but it isn’t always that easy. Some students struggle to settle into the social side of student life.
Student friendships are predominantly structured around the social student culture, and it can be easy to be left behind if your child doesn’t feel comfortable with this culture. Fortunately, there are plenty of other ways for your child to meet new people.
Societies: Universities offer students the opportunity to run funded clubs and societies, and they cover just about everything – from sport through to pottery (and even Harry Pottery…). Societies are a great way to bring people together who wouldn’t otherwise meet. They unite people through common interests and form the basis for long-lasting friendships.
Accommodation Provider: The wellbeing of residents is a key concern for accommodation providers. This doesn’t just include the physical safety of your child, but also their mental wellbeing. Your child’s accommodation provider will usually provide plenty of resources and bonding activities to give them the best chance at settling in, with resident assistants to ensure that every tenant has the best possible experience.
The University Counselling Service: Part of the student support team will be on hand to offer counselling should your child need it. This doesn’t just apply to when they struggle to make social connections while at university, but also if they become overwhelmed by the student culture.
MAKE SURE YOUR CHILD IS TAKEN CARE OF
If your child has been offered a place in university and you’re unsure on the best accommodation option for them, take a look at our options, where both your child’s safety and their experience as a student are equally prioritised.