Ahh it’s October again. Along with all the mists and mellow fruitfulness, it’s time for all the planning and panicking that comes with sending your teenagers off to uni. Charlie hasn’t quite got enough points to do the course he wants at university, so we have a year’s reprieve as he’s studying for one more year at a local college, but having already experienced it with Sam (who has also gone back to college after deciding that Uni isn’t for him), I know it’s both an exciting and stressful time. Here are my top 5 tips for preparing your kids for university.
Sort the finances
The student loan process can be a bit of a complicated thing, and I don’t think many parents are aware that they have quite an important role in it. Make sure you reply to emails as they come in and give all the information you’re asked for (it’s pretty annoying being asked for all your finances, but it’s important that the kids get as much help as possible). I know some parents who have had the foresight to save up for their their children’s university careers, or decided to avoid student loads and finance them through everything from savings to equity release. However you’re financing it, making sure that your children have a good grasp on money in the real world will give them a head start. Get a student bank account organised and help them with budgeting. We always work out the money that’s going to be available, then split it into a monthly budget, putting the rest of the money away in a savings account so it doesn’t get ‘accidentally’ blown on Domino’s pizza in the first month, leaving them destitute by Christmas.
Make sure you take all the help that’s available
Loads of companies offer discounts to students: from student railcards, to discount on the Oyster Card, to discounts on Apple products. Make sure they’re registered with the NUS (the NUS Extra Card gives some amazing discounts) and look at sites like studentbeans.com for discounts on everything from pizza to theme park tickets. Encourage them to join the Facebook groups for the freshers year at their uni – they’ll often connect with people before they even arrive.
Run through some basic life skills
Budgeting is a great start, but work on some other basics too. It helps if they have a bit of confidence in the kitchen and four or five simple meals that they’re pretty okay with making from start to finish without a recipe. Sam lived on tuna pasta for quite a while until sheer boredom made him start experimenting with other things. If they can clean a toilet without barfing and change bedlinen without disappearing into the duvet, so much the better.
When Sam first went to uni, we bought FAR too much stuff: he told us afterwards that half the pots, pans, utensils and other guff that we bought him never got used. Buy the essentials. You can always add to them later if there’s something they discover they really need.
Start them off with some tinned food, some dried pasta and lots of packets of biscuits. An absolute necessity for a good night’s sleep is a mattress protector, some comforting stuff from home like their own duvets and pillows, basic health care stuff, important documents like passports, driving licence etc and cleaning stuff like cleaning sprays, washing up liquid and washing liquid or liquitabs. You can do a lot worse than packing a ton of antiseptic cleansing wipes too.
At the end of the day, you have to hope that as a parent you’ve given them enough grounding to go out into the world and survive, but it’s a tough day and if you’re saying goodbye to your child this month, then have a hug from me. It’s not easy, but it’s such an exciting next step in their lives. And think of the peace and quiet and domination over the telly buttons you’ll have too. Good luck!