Everything you need to know if you have a child going off to university: The Parents' University Survival Guide 2018

School-leavers across the UK are preparing for a life-changing move to university.

Tuesday, 7th August 2018, 1:27 pm
Updated Tuesday, 7th August 2018, 2:28 pm

But amid the excitement and anticipation of starting a new life in a new town or city, there’s often something over-looked.

The parents.

University of Sunderland student life

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While the fledgling students will have to make changes as they fly the nest, it is mum and dad, or guardians left behind, who sometimes face the biggest adjustments.

While it’s the same for live-at-home students’ parents too – there’s still changes set to happen.

Here’s the University of Sunderland’s survival guide for all you parents and guardians:

Leaving home

University of Sunderland student life

Remember preparation is key.

It could be they need some cooking lessons before they head off, just so they know how to prepare the basics.

There’s a lot of cook books specifically aimed at students and cooking on a budget so why not invest in one of these as a going away gift.

It’s important to remember that in self-catered accommodation, friendships are often formed in the shared kitchen areas.

Joanna Bowey and daughter Alex who have both graduated from The University of Sunderland Parents are facing big changes when their children go to university

Maybe even a basic guide to washing and drying clothes will be helpful too.

Double check all insurance documents and make sure you have enough cover – not all household insurance policies cover possessions.

Also, don’t forget the TV licence – it’s a must. For more info, visit here.

Staying at home

But what if your son/daughter decides to stay at home while going to university?

Well, don’t just think nothing will change. It will.

Here’s some tips to avoid Fresher fury:

1) They are adults – so give them some space.

2) Brace yourself – there may be nights where they don’t come home (see 1)

3) Probably best to set down some rules, so you’re not worrying and they don’t feel like schoolchildren.


Vital whether you are living at home or away.

Those living at home can access almost £7,000 in loan in support for living costs, plus in many cases, a student grant or bursary.

Try to encourage them to budget as best as possible and make them aware just how costly university life can be.

The key to avoiding most financial hiccups is to plan ahead. If you have not applied for a loan and you need to, do so immediately. The sooner you apply, the sooner you’ll receive it.

In the same way, students – and parents if possible – should discuss finances and how they see payments working.

Having a large sum of money put into your bank account can be a risk if your child is not used to budgeting. Be aware of the need to keep finances in order – and avoid them blowing their loans on nights out and expensive TVs.

Staying safe

We take security seriously here at the University of Sunderland. Check out here all we are doing to make sure students are in the best hands when they are away from home.

We have our own dedicated police officers, security and a raft of measures all designed to make us one of the safest universities out there.

This year the University launched a campaign tackling attitudes to hate crime, harassment and violence.

Have "the talk"

Yes, it might be a bit awkward, but university is a place where students are often care-free and independent, going on to form important relationships. Pregnancy or STI's are many parents' biggest fear when sending their teen away, so you both need to be clued up on the facts and the best contraceptives to make sure everyone stays safe.

They’ve gone – so what happens now?

Don’t worry if you’re feeling a bit emotional, it’s completely normal.

Also, they are bound to be having a few first day/week/month nerves.

There is plenty of help available at our Wellbeing Services department, from advice to support to counselling.

It could be that you are finding the transition harder than they are.

Remember, this is a new start for you too – but they will be back visiting before you know it.

They will soon be back in their bedrooms, leaving clothes everywhere and driving you crazy.

Keep in touch

It doesn’t matter how short the phone calls, texts or emails are – just keep them coming.

They may be away from home, they may be an adult, they may be cooking and washing for themselves, but they still need assurance and confidence that someone is always on the other end of the phone.

Social life at university

Although the academic side of university is a priority, the social aspect remains a huge pull for students. You can help encourage them to join clubs and societies. Check out what the University of Sunderland has to offer here.

Get your son/daughter to save a few taxi company numbers to their mobile, so you know they’re getting home safely after a night out.

Top Tips for making ends meet

Food: Tell your son/daughter to think budget brands, target the reduced price counters and consider meal-deals. Shop smart but try to avoid too may unhealthy options.

Part-time time job: Loans are based on nine not 12 months’ minimum living expenses, so get part-time work.

Budgeting: Check for hidden course costs: Books, tech equipment, field trips, CRB checks etc.

Computers: Make the most of the wi-fi on campus.

Text books: Buy what you need rather than the fill course text list

For more information on surviving results day and the University of Sunderland Clearing process, click through here to our guide.

Case study – Joanna and Alex Bowey

Joanne Bowey knows more than most about what it takes to get through University.

She returned to education and graduated with a degree in Early Childhood Studies from the University of Sunderland in 2006, and now works as a primary school teacher in Sunderland.

But over a decade after Joanne graduated, she gained a whole new perspective on higher education when daughter Alex decided she wanted to follow in her mother’s footsteps.

Now daughter Alex, who won a prestigious Sir Tom Cowie Scholarship in the final year of her Primary Education degree, has graduated with First Class honours and landed her first teaching post. Joanne offers a parent’s view of the perils and joys of sending your children off to study at university.

“Going to University has helped Alex to become more confident, organised and independent,” says Joanne.

“She has had to learn how to manage her time and prioritise different areas of her life around her studies and, until the final year of her degree, around her working life too.

All of these are vital life skills and she has embraced it all.

“Alex has wanted to be a primary teacher for as long as I can remember.

The Primary Education degree was perfect for her to realise her career ambitions. It gave her all the knowledge and support that she needed to become a primary school teacher, alongside her volunteering work.

“Alex had to have full financial support as I am a single parent – and I do worry about the amount of debt she has now.

"At the same time I accept that this is how it is in this current climate. It is a worry, but I know the repayment scheme is fair.

“Alex was also awarded an academic bursary, which she received in her first and second year, and I was extremely proud when she was awarded the Sir Tom Cowie Memorial Scholarship. I saw how she was recognised as a fully committed and hard-working student.

"She put her scholarship to good use; volunteering in school every week, taking different courses and taking part in the wider life of the school. None of this would have been possible without the scholarship, as she was able to quit her part-time job at Sainsbury’s. I strongly believe the Sir Tom Cowie Scholarship was a huge factor in her achieving her First Class Honours degree.

“I didn’t really have any concerns about Alex going to University. As a graduate of Sunderland, I was very proud and confident in her abilities to do well.”

What would you say to other parents who might have reservations about their child going to University?

“I can understand parents worrying about things like student debt, moving away and the amount of work that the students have to do, but the hard work and commitment will pay off.

“I can’t believe Alex’s time at Uni is over. It seems only a very short time ago that she was starting Freshers’ Week and worrying about making new friends.

“I would say to any parent; just try to be the constant in their life as they go through this journey, it will be over before you know it.

"I am now awaiting Alex starting her career at a lovely local primary school. Hopefully now it is onwards and upwards for her.”

But for Joanne and her family, the journey is not quite over yet.

“My son Joe is starting a Media Production degree at Sunderland in September this year - so I’m starting all over again.”