This year’s cohort of school leavers have had a Sixth Form experience like no other. For all but the first term of their Year 12, their education has been severely impacted by the worldwide restrictions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. But actually, it could be argued that their lives outside the classroom have been even more affected by the pandemic. All the usual antics and rites of passage they would normally be going through were put on hold – first (legal!) trips to the pub, parties, learning to drive, travelling, festivals, meeting new people.
It’s perhaps then not such a surprise that many young people are playing catch up now that the world, along with schools and universities have opened up again. And for many this will make their first weeks and months at university even more significant.
But as parents, how do we help these young adults prepare for these new steps? Whilst lockdown brought families together both physically and socially, it’s probably fairly likely that most young adults are now chomping at the bit to move on with their lives outside the family home and start asserting their independence. There will definitely be some parents out there who are just as keen to get their particular young adult out of the house but I bet for the vast majority they have genuinely relished having their family at such close quarters. So it’s not going to be easy seeing them go off around the country (and beyond) to start their new lives at university.
Probably the best way to deal with the impending departure of our sons and daughters, is to help with the many practicalities that need sorting as soon as A level Results Day is over and their place at their chosen university in confirmed. Hopefully, they will already have applied for their student loans – to cover tuition and maintenance costs. But if not, that should be the priority to sort out via the Student Finance website. Next, accommodation – again they are likely to have been asked to apply for university rooms (catered or self-catered) when they made their Final and Insurance university choices but once their A-level Results are in, universities will contact students directly to give them more details about their student accommodation and importantly, when they can move in.
Once finance is in place and accommodation is sorted, you can start thinking about what they will want to take with them to university. Some accommodations offer fully furnished rooms with bedding, kitchen equipment, reading lamps, bins etc. But many don’t, so you should check carefully what is provided and what isn’t so you know what you need to buy in advance.
Preparing for university isn’t just about making sure logistics have been sorted. For a lot of young people, this will be the first time they’ve lived away from home and as parents, we can really support this transition by equipping our offspring with tools to deal with everyday life as an independent adult. Their student loan will be paid directly to them at the beginning of each term in a lump sum and as such they need to learn how to keep a close eye on their finances and budget carefully to ensure they don’t run out of money before the end of term. Many students choose to take on part time work to bring a bit more money in and as long as this doesn’t impact on their academic work, this is generally a good idea as adds to their CV as well as improving their finances. As well as teaching them about budgeting, we should also ensure they know how to do the basic tasks of adult life. It sounds ridiculous but it’s amazing how many young people go to university without ever having used a washing machine! Cooking skills too should be encouraged, even if your son or daughter is going into catered facilities for their first year. It may actually be a perk of lockdown that many young people will have picked up these life skills whilst spending so much time at home, hopefully pulling their weight in the family home!
So the accommodation and finance is sorted, they’ve packed their bags and you’ve managed to clue them up on how to use a washing machine. What’s left? Perhaps the most important way you can help your young adult start their university life is by letting them go. And I don’t mean, physically letting them go, I mean mentally. Let them know that they should go off and not be afraid to get involved in everything they can (as long it’s legal and ethical!). You should talk to them about peer pressure, the repercussions of excess (the infamous Freshers Flu), relationships and consent and looking after their mental and emotional health as much as their physical health.
And most importantly of all you could let them know that whatever happens, you will be there to support them in every way – perhaps just not for dirty washing.
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