How to prepare your child for university

The transition from school days to university life is an enormous one for both young adults and their parents. Tasked with helping their children prepare for college, parents need to introduce their school-leavers to their new responsibilities, opportunities, choices, and pressures. At the same time, they’ll have to take a step back and allow their kids to grow. Here are some tips on preparing your child for what’s to come. 

Discuss the change in responsibility

The shift from school to university catches a lot of young people unawares. There are lectures and tutors and assignments and deadlines and exams, however, there’s no one chasing them to ensure they meet these academic obligations. This is amplified for students who move away from home to study, missing out on the discussions of ongoing work and deadlines that arise naturally in day-to-day conversation.

Although self-discipline is ideally something developed throughout their school career, many teenagers lack the time-management skills and discipline necessary to cope with the freedom and lack of oversight at university. As parents, this transition presents a great opportunity to illustrate how rights balance with responsibilities. Discuss strategies for time management, juggling studies and extracurricular activities, and managing other obligations.

Help them work out their finances

Responsibilities don’t stop at studies: for many kids, going to college is the first time they have to manage their own money. Learning to set and stick to a budget is a skill that will stand them in good stead for the rest of their lives. Assist your child in drawing up a budget based on their projected expenses. Identify their needs and wants, and help them to prioritise between the two. Spend some time together looking at their options for food, transportation, hobbies, and entertainment while figuring out a reasonable outlay for each. 

If they’re planning on getting a part-time job, help them review potential options as well as how to balance this with their studies. This is also an opportunity to teach them about the importance of saving for future expenses – an invaluable skill, and something many adults still can’t seem to get right.

Teach them housekeeping skills

Learning to look after yourself and your accommodation is a fundamental step in developing the responsible habits necessary to function as an adult. If your kid hasn’t grown up cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, or making their bed, then now is the time to make sure they know how. Show them the proper care of their clothes and discuss diet and food choices while including some essential cooking techniques. Even if their college accommodation lacks a full kitchen, knowing how to prepare a basic meal will give them a different perspective on providing for themselves. 

It’s also necessary to teach them respect for where they live: this is as important for your child as for those with whom they’ll be living. Even if they aren’t moving out of their home, it’s a good milestone for them to step up and start helping around the house. With people these days having housemates into their 30s, now is a great time to learn about cohabiting respectfully.

Educate them on how to take care of themselves

Taking care of yourself doesn’t stop at eating, showering, and taking out the garbage. University life comes with a raft of new emotional challenges, which can be overwhelming and potentially dangerous for students who lack sufficient coping and self-care skills. Eating well is the first step, as are exercise and getting enough sleep. However, these can easily fall away when leaving the structure of school life. 

Encourage them to reach out to you, their friends, classmates, or a university counsellor if they find themselves struggling with loneliness, anger, disappointment, or fear. Try to have a frank conversation about any anxieties they might be facing before college, including academic stress, social pressure, and feeling homesick. Assure them that feeling this way is to be expected and guide them in what steps to take to treat their mental well-being.

Support them in developing their problem-solving skills

A big part of the changeover to university life is applying critical thinking to your problems. While school studies and a healthy home environment should ideally impart this understanding to some degree, teachers and parents are usually on hand to help in times of need. This is not necessarily the case in college, where young people have to face challenging situations such as hostile roommates, unhelpful lecturers, or unprecedented workloads on their own. 

Thankfully, problem-solving strategies can be practised. Work through the process with your child, brainstorming possible solutions to a problem, weighing up the advantages and disadvantages of each, and understanding the necessity of compromise.

Encourage them to get involved

As important as good grades are, extracurricular activities are an invaluable part of the university experience. Most institutions provide an array of clubs, societies, and activities to get involved in. Some of these may look good on their CV, while others may simply be fun. Go through a round-up of the options with your child prior to the start of the university year to see what piques their interest. It could be a continuation of something they pursued throughout school or a completely new area. Help them to appraise the possibilities realistically, with a view towards balancing them with an academic schedule. At the same time, unless joining fees are costly, don’t make them feel like they have to commit to anything on a long-term basis if it’s not working for them – college is a time to try new things and learn more about the world and yourself.

While talking to your child about socialising can be awkward (for them and you), have a candid discussion about their expectations in this regard, as well as any concerns they might have. Describe the pressures and choices they might face in terms of alcohol, drugs, sex, and other potentially harmful lifestyle choices. With a good understanding of the consequences their decisions may yield, they should be able to survive university relatively safely.

Help them make the right choice

Choosing what to study and translating it into a career is a huge decision to make. Career Fit can make it easier with a scientifically validated, personalised report that cross-references occupational interests and three aptitude tests against more than 1,200 potential careers, providing a list of 16 potential options. Contact us to learn more.