This day was NEVER meant to come!
I vividly remember the moment my eldest found out he had got into university. We were on holiday and waiting for the UCAS website to open. When the results came in we jumped about with relief and disbelief, but after the initial wave of excitement, a rather new and uneasy sensation swept through me. This amazing news meant he would be leaving home in a few weeks’ time. My little boy. This day was NEVER meant to come.
But some seriously good acting and a strong desire to avoid making him emotional, I began to busy this unease by preparing and investigating how to make his transition as smooth and happy as possible.
From a parent’s perspective, the things I learned from my experiences with two children now at university, are the more practical things which my son wouldn’t have sorted as a priority, but which are very important:
The University Essentials
Five ‘must do’s’ before they leave for university
1. Meningitis Jab
Get the Meningitis jab (MenACWY), before they go. (read this and you will see why it is so important). It is FREE and just a quick visit to the nurse at your surgery. (If you haven’t done it don’t panic because you can get it anytime whilst they are there).
Help your child sign up to the university medical centre. I told my son to do this, gave him the paperwork and it wasn’t until he got ill that I realised he hadn’t done it. It is particularly important if they have an existing condition like asthma or regular medication such as the Pill that will need a prescription.
It is also helpful to know that once your child has registered at the university medical centre, they become ‘guests’ at your own surgery. If they need an appointment during visits home you need to fill out a form to allow them to be seen. (This will require their uni address and surgery which I never knew off by heart). It is easy to do but came as a bit of a shock to me.
2. Student Banking
Open a ‘student’ bank account. Accounts set up specifically for new students are much easier to use and are much more suited to their needs. We didn’t do this initially and regretted it when our daughter needed an overdraft facility in her second year. It is very hard to swap to a ‘student’ account once you have started your course.
3. Make friends before you get there
I am sure your child will already know this but social media is a great place to make contact with other students in their halls, or on their course before they go. Each university will have their own Facebook, Snapchat or Twitter groups they can join. It really helps if they have at least one contact to talk to on arrival.
4. Don’t take the kitchen sink!
Don’t take too much. Especially kitchen stuff. Basic equipment is fine because everyone is doing the same and so there is always loads of everything. The shared fridge is always filled very quickly so bring only a small amount of fresh food, but supply them with stocks of expensive things like shampoo and conditioner, shower gels, tampons, cleaning bits, laptop, spare chargers (and keep another one at home so they don’t have to bring theirs back, then leave it every time!), spare earphones, stationery, umbrella (as they will need to walk to the bus or to lectures), anything they might need more of further down the line but that costs. The food they can manage themselves.
5. Take distance from home into consideration
Finally, the distance your child is from home can have an impact on their success. We didn’t realise this until our son left, but as he was just an hour away he had distance enough to enjoy his independence, but if he wanted to come home to see us or his friends he easily could. Plus the cost of travel is ridiculous, particularly trains, and we have friends who pay just under £100 every time their child travels home.
So, if your child has two universities to choose from, that they like equally, then consider the distance away to help them make their choice.
*There are some very useful online lists and hints for new students. I particularly like this one from savethestudent.org. which is specifically aimed at Freshers and definitely worth a look.