A Guide for University Parents – Navigating the Student Journey

Going to university is a big thing for young people, but it’s good to keep in mind that it’s a big life event also for the parents.

Whether it is your first child heading to university or not, negating the deadlines, documents and guidelines required for enrolling can be daunting. However, up-front planning and being aware of potential pressure times can pay dividends and provide some peace of mind. Here are some top tips for university parents to consider.

A university student with his mother
Parents can help their children navigate all the necessary steps when applying to university.

Dealing with deadlines

Deadlines can seem daunting and needlessly strict, but it’s good to keep in mind that they are in place to ensure everything happens as and when it should. There are several people involved including students, colleges, universities and other authorities. The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) provides a great snapshot of deadlines for the year. You can put the key dates in your calendar and plot backwards on what support your child may need, whether that’s visiting potential universities, finding student accommodation, or being more aware of stress levels at decision points.

Don’t panic if your child’s friends have made a decision and yours hasn’t. Some decide sooner than others, but as long as all decisions are made and all the paperwork is submitted before any deadlines, it doesn’t matter if your child takes a bit longer to choose their university than their friends. This might just mean that your child is weighing their options more carefully than others.

A post-it note with the words "deadline today"
Deadlines are there for a reason. Make sure you don’t miss them.

Choosing the right course

Picking the right course can make a big impact on your child’s experience of university. Encourage your child to speak with potential universities’ course leaders to get information on the courses. One big factor is what type of work will be involved in the course – exams or coursework? Picking a course based around exams for someone who performs better at coursework might not be a wise choice. Other aspects to consider are how much access they will have to 1:1 learning hours, and the amount of extra support if needed – both educational and wellbeing. Perhaps ask your child to write a list of how they prefer to learn – solo, in a team, reading or through activities – and you can then use that list to check with course leaders if their learning preferences match up.

One important thing not to forget of course is, what is your child interested in? Learning will always be more fun and rewarding when you are actually interested in what you are learning about, whether you are in school, in university or just learning something new for your own enjoyment.

At the same time, it’s also good to think long term, and try to figure out what kind of career paths are available from different courses your child is interested in. This is something parents can help with: young people will often think about what they would like to do in the short term. As a parent you can help bring more long-term planning into the mix.

Happy students in a library
Learning is much more fun and rewarding when you’re in the right course.

Home away from home

Home with the family will always be home, but the living environment at university is really important for your child to feel settled and ready to learn. When selecting student accommodation, consider the pros and cons between university dorms and purpose-built student accommodations (PBSAs). Lots of natural lighting, good communal spaces and enough storage space are some of the important things to consider.

When it comes to kitting out the place, think personality. All the core elements should already be included in the student accommodation (check beforehand though) but those homely touches can really help your child feel at home and get settled quicker. A rug, throw pillows, photo frames with some memories of friends and family can easily achieve this.

Ultimately you being by your child’s side throughout the preparation journey for university is the main thing. For university parents it’s such an exciting adventure that your child is heading on, and before long you will be watching them at graduation in their gowns.