Top tips for Parents

30 May 2019
Alison and Katie

Sending your child to university can be a rollercoaster of emotions. Alison is mum to our Psychology student, Katie and she shares her top tips to parents and guardians who are supporting their children in applying to university and choosing their next new home.

When I went to University in the 1990’s I was full of excitement and hope - not once did it cross my mind that 20 years later I would be taking my own daughter on her new adventure, which would fill me with such dread!

1) Support your child on their decision, but do not make the decision for them

I took my daughter to every open day that she wanted to go to. She made all of the decisions in choosing which university to see or consider. After all, she would be the one studying there not me.

It was hard not to give my opinion but it was not my choice! I wanted to show my child that I was there for her 100% of the way and I would support her decision however hard it was.

As soon as Katie saw the University of Winchester she fell in love with it and I knew deep down that was where she was going! As much as I loved the campus, the facilities and the friendliness of the place - for me a 3.5hr drive felt like she was going to Mars! 

Every other university we looked at was just being compared to Winchester. I just tried to be completely objective and tried not to give my opinion too much as I really did not want to influence her decision. 

Katie really liked another university and she found it very difficult to decide between the two. Whilst we were on the open day I just said to her, “let’s go for lunch and have a think”. I pulled a pen and paper from my bag and wrote down a few notes - a sort of pro/con checklist!

  • Accommodation
  • Course content 
  • Sports facilities
  • Library facilities 
  • General feel for the uni
  • The town itself
  • Students union
  • Accessibility from home - this was my suggestion!

Katie marked each of the universities out of 5 and each uni had a grand total. As I suspected, Winchester won and I said to Katie - there is your answer! It was her decision and that was important to me.

Alison and Katie with family

2) Booking accommodation and student finance

Katie was not that organised and I found myself filling out the parent-student finance forms on the night of the deadline! I would always encourage checking yourself what the deadline dates are and encourage your child to apply early. Before they go to uni they have not quite mastered the art of forwarding planning!

Similarly, with booking accommodation, I would double check that they have applied correctly. Katie did hers without my help and without us double checking; she ended up on day 1 of uni in a shared room that she did not want. Thankfully, we had a lot of help from the university and within a week she was allocated the single room she had always wanted. It was a bit chaotic and very stressful -  a couple of extra days off work to move her but it was worth it! The moving day was stressful enough without seeing your child so upset in a shared room she did not want.

3) Try to prepare your child for life away from home

Our fault but we have always done everything for our children - from washing and ironing to cleaning and preparing meals. We think we are doing the right thing but it is not always best for them.

The summer after A-levels and before moving away we tried to show Katie how to cope on her own. Whilst I was at work during the summer I would leave Katie jobs to do - washing and ironing etc. At first, she wasn’t too happy but she had to learn. Cooking was not her strong point but by the time she went to uni, I knew she wouldn’t starve!

4) Put time aside to spend with your child one-to-one before they leave

The dreaded day of departure was looming and so I decided to take a few days off work to help Katie pack and to spend some time together mama and daughter.

This is something I hold very dear even now. Katie and I spent the day just us two - no daddy and no siblings! We spent the day walking around the waterfalls in the Brecon Beacons. We both had a great day and something to hold on to when they are at uni. I took loads of photos (despite Katie's resistance) but they helped me when my daughter was away.

Alison and Katie pose in front of trees

5) Simply stay strong and be positive

The dreaded moving day - save the tears for the car journey home! Plenty of tissues needed.

We only had 1 rule - Katie has to phone or text every day (in reality it’s 5 days out of 7) but even if it’s a quick text to say “hi I’m fine”- I know she’s ok. I explained to my baby girl how hard it was to let go and just a text a day to say “hi I’m having fun” or “hi and…” will go a long way to keeping Mama happy!

Moving day has to be led by your child - Katie wanted me to leave her to unpack herself as she wanted to get to know her flatmates - as much as I wanted to do it for her - this day was all about her and what she wanted. It’s their time to thrive and enjoy and it didn’t stop me hiding a few cards/notes/framed photos in her case to remember us by, Katie really appreciated this.

Since Katie has gone to uni it has been nice to spend one to one time with my other daughter.  I have even started going to the gym and having mama time - something I thought I would never do!

I still miss her, always will and as I am writing these notes now a message appears on my phone “hi mama how are you doing?” and I realise how lucky I am to have such an amazing daughter. I am so proud of her.

About the author:

Alison is Katie's mum, and Katie is a first-year Psychology student.

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