Preparing for University: How to Help Your Child

Tips for Parents

The hard work is done and exam results are in.

So, it’s time to prepare for the next step: university! As a parent, there’s plenty you can do to help your child get ready for this new challenge.

If your son or daughter will soon be starting university, it’s natural to feel a bit concerned about how they might cope – particularly if they’re living away from home for the first time. We have compiled some tips relating to key skills your child will need: from finding a student bank account to learning how to operate the washing machine!

Preparing for University, Tip One: How to Budget

This is probably the most vital skill you can help your son or daughter with at this stage: not only will this prepare them for university, but also life in general. For most teenagers, managing a budget is a big step – they’re probably used to their parents overseeing everything from groceries to pocket money – so do take time to speak with them about this in the months leading up to university.

You’ll want to discuss with them exactly how much money they’ll have at university, and work out what they should aim to spend on everything from food, to bills, to nights out. The likelihood of a large deposit landing in their bank account (either from the Student Loan Company or the Bank of Mum and Dad) brings with it an enticement to splash the cash on a new outfit or a night on the town, so you’ll need to impress upon them the importance of making these funds last, and setting limits for various spending categories.

Pass on any money-saving tips that you’ve made use of over the years – from turning down radiators in unused rooms in the house or looking for discount deals in the supermarket – and give them your top dos and don’ts (should they be tempted to use their overdrafts, for instance, or would you strongly advise that they avoid this?).

Preparing for University, Tip Two: How to Choose a Student Bank Account

There are a plethora of student bank accounts to choose from, and the benefits vary. Sit down with your son and daughter and compare the options – what services and support are on offer? Do they charge interest if the account-holder’s financial situation changes? Is there a branch near your child’s campus/living quarters?

Things to look out for:

  • Interest-free overdraft facilities. Some banks offer up to £3,000.
  • Debit card.
  • Incentives. These are less important – we’d definitely recommend trying to dissuade your son or daughter from being swayed by a freebie! – but can be inviting: from free railcards to cash benefits.

Preparing for University, Tip Three: How to Perform Domestic Tasks

We’ve talked about the challenge of managing money for the first time – but what about the new experience of living without home cooking/the familial washing and ironing service? Whilst not every student arrives at university having never cooked a meal or washed clothes, there are many that do, so it’s worth spending some time teaching your son or daughter to cook cheap, healthy meals (as well as the basics of doing laundry). Budgeting for groceries is an important part of financial management, too, so do highlight the value of batch cooking and utilising cost-effective ingredients.

You’ll want to help your child buy a range of basic cooking implements, cutlery, crockery and glassware. Depending on their accommodation, they may also need a microwave, kettle, and toaster (perhaps even a fridge/freezer). If they’re going to be sharing a house, asking them to compare notes with their future housemates is a good idea, too – no household needs four kettles, after all!

Preparing for University, Tip Four: How to Stay Safe

From road safety to walking around late at night, there are lots of things for parents to worry about when their child heads off to university – but there are things you can do to help them prepare.

If your son or daughter is a keen cyclist (and many students are, due to the cost of public transport), ensure that they have refreshed their knowledge of the highway code, road safety regulations and that they have all the essential kit (a helmet, of course, but also lights for their bikes, high-vis clothing, etc.). Consider booking them onto a cycling class – there are a range on the market, from advanced cycling to safety courses.

If they’re planning to take a car to university, map out their routes with them or take them on a few practice runs. A busy urban environment can be a shock to the system if the driver in question has only driven on small country roads; similarly, a long, rural journey can be a challenge if the driver is used to main roads and junctions with traffic lights.

Don’t be embarrassed to keep reminding them of obvious things, too – like staying alert when walking around at night (no headphones!) and sticking to busy, well-lit roads. Your child leaving home for the first time is scary enough without worrying that they’ll be tempted to take risks; you’ll sleep better at night (and your son or daughter may, too!) if you cover all the basics before they go.

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