The jump from sixth form to university is a big one. Your child will have a lot of adjustments to make: academically, socially, and (as dramatic as it sounds) probably existentially too.
Studying for a degree, making brand-new friends, figuring out who they are, and generally fending for themselves – all of that is going to bring its challenges. It will be ultimately rewarding, of course, but definitely demanding. As a parent, you’ll be a huge help to them if you’re aware of what they’re going through and what their needs might be, particularly at the beginning.
Here are the most challenging aspects of life as a new student.
1. Learning in a more independent way
University is much less hand-holdy than sixth form and high school, and your child will need to adjust to this new format.
Lecturers and tutors are indeed there to help, but, unlike high-school teachers and college tutors, the onus isn’t on them to check that each student is keeping up. So, if you child does ever start to struggle with a specific module, they are the one who must seek the help out – if they don’t ask, they won’t get!
Most lecturers have set weekly ‘office hours’ that are exactly for this. These are slots of time (usually on specific days) when your child can turn up and get one-on-one help. (We suggest that you encourage your child to make use of this, because some lecturers say that the students who do come to them will go on to achieve the best grades.)
2. Living away from home for the first time
Your child may be visibly itching to fly the nest and gain some independence, but their pre-uni daydreams about living away from home may be somewhat different to the reality.
Don’t get us wrong: this is something that will benefit their development into a fully-fledged adult, and it’s definitely worthwhile. But you should prepare them for the reality of living away from home, which includes all of these ‘life admin’ tasks:
- Doing their own washing and ironing
- Going out and buying their own household food
- Cooking for themselves daily (and potentially for others!)
- Keeping their accommodation clean
Of course, all of this is part of them becoming a grown adult who doesn’t still live at home with you, but it can come as a shock to their system. Many students feel lonely during the first few weeks (sometimes months), and it can take time to adjust.
As their parent, you can help by letting them know that you’re always available to text, talk, FaceTime, or whatever. Having you within easy reach at the other end of the phone will be a huge comfort for them. Of course, do bear in mind that the aim here is to get your child to blossom into an independent person of their own, which won’t happen if your indulgence strays into mollycoddling territory.
You know them best, so go with your parental instincts.
3. Living with fellow students
Sharing accommodation with other students can be a particularly challenging part of the uni experience, especially at first.
Up until now, your child will likely have lived with immediate family only. Even if they’ve grown up with siblings of similar ages, this doesn’t prepare your child completely for living with strangers of similar ages – people who have had totally different upbringings in totally different households in totally different parts of the country (or the world).
We all have unique living habits and viewpoints in our family homes, so there can be some initial friction when several new students start living together in halls (or any other form of student accommodation). Living with other people requires a combination of patience, understanding, and compromise. There’s no way to predict what the dynamic of your child’s accommodation will be, but just make sure that they’re prepared for something much different to what they’re used to.
4. Managing their finances
Money-management can be a burden for new students. The realisation that everything seems to cost something can, understandably, cause anxiety in certain types of people – especially those who’ve had fairly sheltered upbringings.
As such, it’s best to teach your child how to budget before they head off to uni. Get them used to the idea of monitoring their outgoings and living within their means, and show them how to save certain costs when shopping for food and buying household essentials.
5. Balancing study-time with playtime
From a practical perspective, the purpose of your child going to uni is for them to earn a solid degree that will get them off to a good start in the world of work. But let’s face it: they will probably be just as concerned about having fun as they are about succeeding academically.
Of course, your child will already be familiar with the idea of work vs. play from their time at school and college, but uni takes everything up a few notches. First, there’s the cost of the tuition itself, which we all know isn’t cheap, thereby putting pressure on your child to do well. Second, there’s the fact that they are entering a huge new social environment and are now, perhaps for the first time, making friendships that are based purely on common interests. Third, there’s the fact that they are now 18 and can therefore legally drink alcohol and socialise in bars, pubs, and clubs if they want to.
What you can do as a parent is talk to them about this balancing act before they head off to uni. Let them know that you know what they’ll be going through in terms of the stress and pressure, and also acknowledge that this will be a great time of self-discovery for them, and that they should relish it.
The Student Housing Company: Keeping Your Child Safe and Comfortable at Uni
At The Student Housing Company, we care about the welfare of all students everywhere.
Our top priority is making the university experience enjoyable and comfortable for your child. With stylish interiors, modern facilities, convenient locations, and all bills included, we will provide a superb base for work, rest, and play. Take a look at our locations across the UK, and please do get in touch with us if you have any questions.