A Parent's Guide to University

bs


Hi, I'm Sandra and I work as a Senior Student Recruitment Officer at the University of South Wales. I have worked in higher education for 19 years, offering advice and guidance to students, parents, teachers and advisers. I have an 18-year-old daughter who is looking forward to starting university in September 2020, particularly the moving into halls, living on campus socialising part! Sandra Veasey, Senior Student Recruitment Officer
Hi, my name is Rebecca and I'm a Student Recruitment Officer at the University of South Wales. I am a mother to two daughters - the elder graduated from university in 2016, and the younger is currently studying at university in her first year. Rebecca Breen, Student Recruitment Officer

In these unsettling times, with the prospect of starting university at the forefront of students’ minds, we thought it might be useful for us to share our experiences of being parents of children who are applying to, have gone to, and are currently at university. We hope you find these blogs reassuring, informative and entertaining!  If you have any further questions or queries then please contact us using the email address schoolsandcolleges@southwales.ac.uk - we would love to hear from you.

My daughter is in the second year of college, studying for her BTEC National Extended Diploma. Because of the COVID-19 situation, she is currently completing this through online lessons on Teams. It is quite a worrying and stressful time to complete work to achieve her qualification. Some tutors have had to introduce new modules and write them from scratch - it is a challenge for them and the students. Your teenager may very well be in the same situation, or be worrying about the way their predicted grades will affect their university offers. 

We know that students are more concerned about how COVID-19 will affect their education rather than their health, and that is how my daughter is feeling at the moment. So your teenager is not alone :) My colleagues have created an online workshop to maintain positive wellbeing, which your children might also find useful. Also, UCAS has good information and advice from each qualification system for you to check out.

sand

Sandra Veasey, Senior Student Recruitment Officer, The University of South Wales

Going to university open days is useful for you and your teenager to get a feel for the campus, the course, the lecturing staff and the social atmosphere, as well as seeing facilities and accommodation first hand. It was interesting for me to compare unis as a parent – especially as I work in one! What impressed or disappointed me was not the same as my daughter, which was interesting - at one university I was disappointed with the facilities on offer, but this wasn’t as important to her. We also took photos of the campuses to remind us of things when we looked back later. 

Applicant days are important to go to as well, because they give students a better taste of what the course is like and you can ask more questions of the staff and students. We only stayed at one applicant day for two hours as my daughter just didn’t like the environment or feel of the campus as soon as we got there, compared with another uni we visited. I didn’t even have a chance to grab a free tea and cake! But if we hadn’t gone, that uni may have been a wasted choice for her. 

In the current COVID-19 situation, it is difficult to attend open and applicant days. So if you can’t visit a university in person, there are virtual open days, campus tours and student vlogs that may be of help instead. Universities will be preparing virtual open days in the coming months that you and your child can join and take part in. At the University of South Wales, we have students who have made some great vlogs of recent open days at our Cardiff Campus

Hopefully, you had a chance to visit the accommodation of your teenager’s Firm and Insurance choice universities and have been able to compare them. Some of the accommodation we visited was lovely and others particularly grim. The most important factor for me was cleanliness, security and cost, but for my daughter it was the size of the bed! Again, if you can’t go to an open day, there are virtual tours on university websites you can check out together. If your child is coming to USW in September, this is a great accommodation vlog from Timmy, one of our student vloggers.

sand

Sandra Veasey, Senior Student Recruitment Officer, The University of South Wales

Applying for student finance is simple. My daughter registered and submitted her application online, which triggered an email to me with a link I could follow to register my support for her application. Once I had registered for an account, I just had to answer some easy questions about my employment, provide my NI number, my gross earnings for 18/19 from my P60, and Bob’s your uncle - done! If you are self-employed, you will need to provide evidence of your earning and tax. All in all, it took 15 minutes. 

Below are the different student finance websites for Welsh, English, Scottish and Irish students: 

Wales: studentfinancewales.co.uk 

England: gov.uk 

Scotland: saas.gov.uk

Northern Ireland: studentfinanceni.co.uk

Ireland: hea.ie 

Student finance is open until 15 May 2020, and your child does not have to have received a firm offer from a university to apply. Though don’t leave it to the last minute, as it takes two months to process the application! 

If you are worrying about your child paying back their loans after graduation, remember that students only start repayments once they have graduated and are earning over £25,750. 

Universities offer scholarships and bursaries to students for many different criteria, including sport scholarships, young carers, and care leavers to name a few. My daughter found a scholarship on offer from her primary school, so it’s worth researching! You can find more about USW on our website.


sand

Sandra Veasey, Senior Student Recruitment Officer, The University of South Wales

Our Disability and Dyslexia Service can help with any of your questions about the support available at the University of South Wales. You don’t have to wait until your child arrives to study in September to contact disability support

If your child has a disability, they will need to fill in a Disabled Students' Allowance student finance form. If they are going to study at USW, they can contact our Student Money Advice team to book an appointment for help with completing the application process.

sand

Sandra Veasey, Senior Student Recruitment Officer, The University of South Wales



It is August, their university place and accommodation have been confirmed, and your little one is making final preparations to go to university. If your child will be living away from home, you may need to buy a few essentials to take with them. We found Wilko and Ikea were our favourite places to shop for pots and pans, bedding, crockery and cutlery, and imitation plants! Shopping trips for university essentials is exciting and makes the whole experience seem real. It is worth checking which household items will be provided in halls at the university they will be attending. This will save you both money and valuable room in your car! 

As the end of September approaches, the days are counted down until they move out of their home and into university halls. Your child will probably be feeling excited and perhaps a little nervous at this time, and you may feel anxious and worried too (but you can't let them see this is the case), feelings which are absolutely normal. 

Your child may find it useful to have practice runs of cooking healthy meals and putting a few loads of washing on, if they have not had to do this before. This was absolutely hilarious to watch and supervise! It was quite funny coming home from work one day, to find my daughter looking for videos on how to cut a cauliflower - it seems all common sense to us parents, but obviously not to our children! The concept of washing similar colours together was also quite a mystery to them. I would be asked questions such as 'can you put black, brown and grey items together mum?' I have since found out that when they were at university, to save money, all coloured items of clothing went into the same wash, and then wondered why their white tops had a tinge of grey or pink to them! 

Moving in day will arrive sooner than you think, and before you know it you will be on the road, your car loaded to the brim with clothes, food, household items, plus all the other essentials they (and you) have been storing back at home for months. 

Many of my friends could not wait for their child to leave for university, and that day couldn't come soon enough. Their house would be kept clean and tidy, there would be food in the cupboards throughout the whole week, and finally, they would have a clean, spare bedroom for guests during term time. For some parents, however, like myself, this was much more of an unsettling and slightly anxious time. Even though I knew that they would have such an amazing experience at university, I wasn't keen on the thought of them being so far away, so try and prepare yourself for this scenario, if you can. Both of them enjoyed (and are still enjoying) living away from home. They are free to do what they want to do and when they want to do it, they had to fend for themselves for the first time ever, and have blossomed into intelligent, mature and confident young women, as a result of going to university.

Bec

Rebecca Breen, Student Recruitment Officer, The University of South Wales

It is really important for your child to make new friends as soon as they arrive in halls. These are the people they are going to be living and socialising with over the next year or longer, so they should try to chat to their new flat mates and make new friendship groups. They will need these newly acquired friends when the Freshers' activities start at the end of the September. 

Keeping the door open when they are in their room will allow their new neighbours to stop by and have a chat. We were advised that it was a good idea to take cakes or other items of food or drink with us on moving-in day, enticing their new flat mates to come and chat and have a drink and a cake. This usually breaks the ice ... and who doesn't like cakes? In halls, there will be communal spaces such as the kitchen and/or living areas for them to use. It is important that students use these spaces as much as possible, so they do not feel isolated in their bedrooms and can chat to their new friends. 

Remember, all students will be in the same boat. They will not know anyone at university, so everyone will be making new friends at the same time. I had to keep reiterating this on a daily basis to my elder daughter as she was worried about this aspect of moving away! The younger one was part of a WhatsApp group with fellow students who were going to be living in her flat. This helped a great deal, as she had many conversations with them before leaving home.

Bec

Rebecca Breen, Student Recruitment Officer, The University of South Wales

It is important to keep in touch with your child when they are living away from home at university, especially during the first few weeks of term. All social media platforms can be used to keep in touch with them from time to time. I found FaceTime particularly useful as my daughters felt under obligation to answer my calls when my face appeared on their screens! SMS and WhatsApp messages tended to get ignored. 

You might not hear from them much during the Freshers’ activities at the start of term - they will be enjoying themselves far too much, making lots of new friends and going out most nights, to consider touching base with you regularly, so be prepared for this (which I wasn’t!). I am sure that when both my girls moved away to university, I missed them far more than they missed me. Try to resist the urge to contact them too often though, which I did all of the time. The ‘yes mum I’m fine, I am eating well and getting plenty of sleep’ conversations were had very frequently during the first term. This was reassuring to hear, even if it was not entirely the truth! 

Pasta, chips and takeaways seemed to be the preferred meals at university, rather than the usual fish, meat, fruit and vegetables that they were used to at home, so be prepared for this too!


g

Rebecca Breen, Student Recruitment Officer, The University of South Wales

Thank you for reading this blog, we hope it has helped you in some way. If you have any further questions or queries then please contact us using the email address above - we would love to hear from you. Good luck parents, we are sure your children will thrive in university and make you proud in the future. Sandra and Rebecca