It doesn’t seem five minutes ago I was worrying about my son starting school and now he is starting University! Such a rollercoaster of emotions as I (try) to let go and let him begin his adventure into the World. At first I left him to it – just giving him the odd nudge to perhaps think about Open Days. In the end though I was tearing my hair out and leaving lists of things he needed to do on my white board. Some of it I think was me wanting it to be organised early and him just leaving it late; whilst other stuff I do still believe he just wouldn’t have thought of. Therefore, I am writing this blog post to possibly help other parents prepare for their children leaving for University – and mostly for myself as I have another three children who may wish to follow in their brother’s footsteps.
Choosing a University
I guess it goes without saying but which University they go to can make such a big difference. We let our son decide but told him to think about the grades required (obviously if you haven’t got them it’s unlikely you will get in), the location (do you want to stay at home, move really far away, would you want to live there after your degree/what are the job prospects in your chosen field), the course (read the whole course not just the title, make sure it is what you want to study) and any support they may give (especially important from my point of view as my son is going to University with Asperger’s Syndrome).
Preparing Your Son for University
- Know when the deadlines are.
I knew when A-level results day was but that was it. Luckily my son was organised enough not to miss any key dates or cut off points but if I had known when he could have done things then things could have been sorted without the stress. For example, Student Finance. This was straight forward and done online but NOT sorted in time for his course to start (there was a computer error). This could have been picked up in time if he has applied earlier. Other deadlines include ensuring you have Student Halls – as the University had some guarantee that they could get a room if they applied by a certain date and put that University as the number one choice on the UCAS form. However, I was not aware of the date for the deposit or the rent in advance (which were separate), nor the amounts. Let’s just say our son is lucky that we had money put away for him! We did miss out on him going to specially organised days for those on the Autistic Spectrum – so worth giving the Disability officer a ring when you find out which University they want to go to.
- Get Consent to Share.
Now that they are over 18 years old they are considered adults who no longer need you. Unfortunately it isn’t as simple as that, so now and then they may need your help (see above as to sorting out Student Loans Company). This means that all their information is private, and if they need your help sorting things out then they will need to have given their consent to share. This was advice my husband got from a friend at work who has needed it for several children and I am very grateful for it. Again we also made sure that the University Disability team had consent to share to help him with things such as arranging to go to the doctors etc.
- Keeping them clean
Hopefully they are already good with their hygiene and keeping clean, but if they need a helping hand, or as a treat, why not buy them some hardworking smellies. Why not get them using an affordable brand such as Rockface – who have shave, skincare, deodorant and body products, as well as advice on grooming. A fragrance with notes of green apple, bergamot, mandarin and coriander, middle notes of jasmine, cedar leaf and muguet and a base of precious woods, musk and amber. If you want to be subtle about it then why not give it them as a gift for Christmas – making the products into a hamper.
- Get them kitted out.
Our son was very good at making sure he got his kit together that he needed, although we helped him out with some pieces too. His University had a list of things to take – however there were some items that it didn’t consider and possibly were meant to be a given:
- New clothes. Living on a student budget who knows when they will buy new stuff. Hopefully they’ve almost done growing so they should last a while too. You will want to make sure they have a good quality coat – as the last thing they need is getting wet and ill as soon as they start their course. We opted for a Classic Thermo Parka from Scruffs, with a waterproof rating of 4500mm, a fully padded lining and LOTS of pockets. Scruffs have a great range of coats that are designed to a high quality.
- Amazon Student
For those not so organised, or if something hasn’t been thought of, then Amazon Student offers access to a multitude of convenient shopping, entertainment and storage services and a One-day delivery service. Amazon is committed to offering the widest and best range of equipment to prepare students fully throughout their studies. There’s a 6 month trial and then it is £39 a year thereafter, less than half the price of standard Amazon Prime. Other Amazon Prime benefits include:
- Access to more than 15,000 popular movies and TV shows through Prime Instant Video
- Access to over one million songs to stream or download through Prime Music
- Unlimited photo storage on Amazon Cloud Drive
- 800,000 Kindle Books to borrow from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library
This week sees Student Deals Week, where there are big discounts are on offer for more than a thousand selected products, with major deals on top student essentials (that’s their idea of essentials (such as a PS4 bundle) and yours (like a Student Cook Book for Dummies).
Find out what they need. My son’s University provides them with iPad Minis and most of what they need is on there, without the need to purchase additional books. If, however, textbooks are required then Amazon are offering 10% off textbooks until 23rd October 2015 – Amazon Student members will benefit from an extra 10% off thousands of textbooks when using the promotional code TEXTBOOK10 at checkout.
- What they need to sort
A lot of or son’s bills were covered by the University (such as contents insurance). It is good to make sure that everything is covered though. The television licence isn’t covered and is needed even if they just have a television in their rooms for playing computer games. He also needed to sort out what was happening as regards his current job and immunisation. Provide them with plenty of boxes so that they can priorities their valuables – they may need to leave some at home, or get rid of some.
- Getting to University
How are they going to get there? Will someone need to book time off work to take them? We assumed he could go at the weekend but it turned out he needed to be there for 9am on a Friday to collect the keys and be settled in. He was lucky that his dad had booked the day of work already (they had to leave at 6am!) It also turned out that there was no-where to park his car. When dropping him off, helping him unload, my husband took him to the supermarket and then out for lunch to make sure he was well fed before leaving. The last thing about making sure he got there safely was to ensure he could get back home again. National Express do coaches directly from Universities and are much cheaper than the train. They will also need a bag to bring home some essentials (clothes, toothbrush, etc) and of course will be useful for carrying around any books, stationery etc around the campus. We opted for a Scruffs Classic Rucksack which really has been made to be hard-wearing. It has a padded back as well as straps to make carrying it comfortable, and all manner of pockets with practical uses.
Just a note on Summer babies (as is my next son down) – check when things happen that they are “old enough” – for example securing Halls of residence and having their immunisations. I am not sure when the cut off is (and think this may be more of a problem for those born the end of August) but have heard of someone who was refused their jabs and then the University wouldn’t let them in!
Handling things after they leave
We happened to have an evening booked to see Michael McIntyre that evening but I would recommend doing something that will make you at least smile on that first evening. It has been less than a week but it is so good to just quickly keep in touch and hear that he is doing well. I am so proud of him and we have an idea when we may see him again (which I think helps the whole family). Have you any advice or questions? Obviously most of this information also applies to a daughter going to University but I only have boys.
I was sent sample products from Scruffs and Rock Face to make my son’s transition to University easier for myself. Amazon sent me the above information and I wished to share it with my readers. National Express sent me a customer e-mail about University departures because I use their services so much, again I felt it would be useful for others to know. Words and opinions are my own.