The Anxious Parent’s Guide to University Advice

If your child is attending University for the first time this Autumn, you’d probably do anything ensure they make the most of it, but it can be difficult to work out how to help. We’ve gathered four key pieces of university advice for you to pass on to your child to help them make the most of their next three years, and see their big adventure for what it really is.

Say yes

For those who have seen the Jim Carrey movie Yes Man, you’ll know that (at least according to Hollywood) saying yes to every opportunity will get you three things:

1) A lot of wacky adventures,

2) A lot of trouble,

3) A satisfying resolve, where you’ll learn something valuable about yourself and win the affections of your love interest.

Unfortunately, Hollywood conveniently managed to skip over questions like “Do you want to follow me down this dark alley?” and “Will you join the junior BNP society with me?”, to which a “yes” response is unlikely to result in such an endearing series of events.

So don’t advise your child to say yes to everything. But teach them to say yes to more things – propositions they might normally shy away from – such as going out with new, unfamiliar friends or joining an out-there (perhaps non-BNP) society. Pushing their boundaries will give them an opportunity to make friends they’ll keep for life, discover passions and make memories that will contribute to that old cliché “University is the best time of your life”.

Stay safe

As many Universities tend to be city-based, for the majority of students, finally flying the nest means upgrading from sleepier towns to bigger and busier cities. They find themselves in an unfamiliar environment and are exposed to risks which they might not even know about. Classic parental advice such as “keep your bag closed”, “watch your drink” and “don’t walk home alone at night” suddenly becomes more important than ever, but you’ve probably been telling your child to follow these procedures since they were old enough to pretend to listen.

Before they leave for University it’s important to sit down with them and have a serious chat about the new dangers they might face and how to avoid them, especially because if something were to go wrong, there’s little you can do to help from halfway across the country. Don’t let us scare you – the vast majority of new students will be just as safe at University as at home, but an earnest talk can help make sure that your child is one of that majority.

Here’s an excellent list of safety advice from the Complete University Guide.

Work

With the smorgasbord of social events put on for Freshers, especially during their first term, its often far to easy for students to focus on play rather than academic work. This is exacerbated by the fact that many first year courses only require 40% to pass, and don’t contribute to degree grades. It’s easy for students to think that they would get the most benefit from spending all their time socialising and working almost-solid 72 hour shifts to get essays in on time. And they don’t need to worry about scoring solid 50s because it’ll still put them way above 40%.

But when it comes to second, third and even fourth years, having skimmed over those first-year fundamentals can lead to one of two outcomes (neither of which are hugely appetising):

1) Working disproportionate hours to catch up

2) Failing.

Of course we don’t suggest you teach your child to stay in every Friday night studying or give up all extra-curricular activity in the name of work, but sacrificing the occasional lie in to attend morning lectures or spending a lazy Sunday reading some academic journals instead of watching back-to-back Come Dine With Me can make the next few years easier and more enjoyable. Plus, it’s often essential to secure a good degree grade come graduation.

Don’t be cool

At age 18, a lot of college students and sixth-formers are largely preoccupied with their social standing, the number of friends they have, and whether or not they are in fact cool. For those who feel as if their social lives have been lacklustre, or have found it difficult to fit in during their secondary school education, starting a new life at University can seem like the perfect opportunity for change.

Unfortunately, however, most of the behaviours 18-year olds think will create a cool persona (such as drinking and partying 24/7, or never doing any work), can unsurprisingly wind them up in a much worse position than if they were just to act naturally.

As with any advice related to safety, “be yourself” is likely to be something your child has heard before, and probably ignored. However, you can help more effectively by making sure your child knows that University is their first step into the adult world, and trying to act like a cool kid will just get them seen as just that – a kid – for the next three years of their life.

There are more pieces of good advice to give University students than minutes to give them in before October rolls around. If you run out of ideas, The Guardian has some here. But these fundamentals will help set your child on the right track at the start. Although such a huge change can seem intimidating at first (for both you and your child), make you’re your child knows that the next few years can be absolutely priceless, but also that you’re just a train journey away whenever everything gets a bit much.cool

By Sophie Valentine

A MyTutor Science Tutor

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