Heads’ Tips – preparing for university

So your daughter’s sixth form years are over and the day is fast approaching for her to leave for college and live independently for some of the year. Whilst this may seem daunting for you both, you can help her prepare by guiding her on managing her finances as well as giving her the necessary domestic skills. Most girls welcome this next step but they will still need your practical help and emotional reassurance!

Financial Tips

  • Try to sort out bank accounts in advance. Compare different banks’ student accounts – don’t be seduced by freebies but look at things like interest-free overdrafts. Compare what is on offer, e.g. through moneysupermarket.com
  • Make sure she has got the contact details for her bank in the case of lost or cloned bank cards. Help your daughter to set up a direct debit for items such as TV Licence or paying for accommodation
  • Encourage her to manage on a budget before she goes. Suggest she does the odd weekly shop for you on a specified amount of money. Make her save up for her car or Gap year projects. Do not just stump up the money yourselves.
  • Suggest that your daughter budgets for the month ahead when at Uni and look at how much she will need for each expense. As going out is part and parcel of university life, she will need to take this into consideration, too! Have a go at budgeting using UCAS budget calculator
  • Try not to let the very daunting cost of her university education worry you. The student loan will cover the great majority, if not all, of the cost. Yes, it will have to be paid back, but only when she can afford to do so, and having a degree will enable your daughter to earn more in the long term. In order to relieve the financial burden further, encourage her to use the long holidays productively – get a job! This can be combined with travel, which will make the experience more fun and interesting. It will also boost her CV and increase her chances of getting a good job when she graduates.

Practical Tips

  • Create or buy a cookery book with simple recipes with clear lists of ingredients and cooking times (their home favourites go down well), and it might help her avoid living off fast food with no nutritional content. To practise, ask her to cook some simple, nutritious low budget family meals at home
  • Discuss some simple economic tricks like using market stalls/about to go out-of-date products/Poundland and similar for cleaning products/ economy versions from supermarkets.
  • Ask her to help with the laundry at home – she needs to know how to sort washing, operate a washing machine/launderette & do some basic ironing. Advise her not to take precious woollens and silks etc if she can’t wash them properly, and point out that wardrobe space at uni is limited.

Before she goes

  • Allow your daughter to visit universities on her own. Planning the journey will be good experience for her and she will be able to form genuinely independent opinions about the university. Less is more when it comes to parental support in this matter. By all means check she has actually thought about the application and organised some open days but there’s no need to accompany her.
  • Make sure she returns her accommodation forms in good time
  • If she hasn’t already done so, encourage your daughter to make contact with former pupils, who were in the year above, to get the low down on their university, accommodation, Societies etc.
  • Suggest she uses UCAS moderated site YouGoFurther to make contact with other prospective students who will be on her course/in her Halls so she has some contacts before arriving at university.

Do’s & Don’ts – what to tell her about life at Uni…

  • There will be a huge range of opportunities available – do get involved in Clubs, Societies etc but don’t sign up for everything on offer in Freshers’ Week – be selective and by all means try something new.
  • Do keep up any hobbies and activities you enjoyed at school – employers will be interested in what students have done in addition to their degree.
  • Unlike at school, there will probably be no compulsory sport so do keep up some form of fitness / exercise both at university and beyond.
  • Don’t try and do too much – striking a balance is important
  • Be a self-starter – don’t rely on lecturer to take off from where teachers left off. Take responsibility for your own learning. Spend sufficient time in the library and meet the deadlines set. You’ve chosen your subject – be passionate about it!

Useful websites

University & Higher Education – Direct.gov.uk
Going to university guide – which.co.uk
The Complete University Guide – Preparing to go

Helpful books

A Guide to Uni Life by Lucy Tobin
The Virgin University Survival Guide by Karla Fitzhugh
What Every Parent Should Know Before Their Child Goes to University by Jane Bidder
University – A Survival Guide (Need2know) by Anne Coates
The Complete University Guide: Student Finance: In association with UCAS by Bernard Kingston



With thanks to the Heads & staff at the following schools:
Abbot’s Hill School, Central Newcastle High School GDST, Edgbaston High School for Girls, The Mount School (York), The Red Maids’ School, The Royal School Haslemere, St Albans High School, St Catherine’s School Bramley, St Mary’s School Calne

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