My son is now in his 3rd year at uni ( he still has another year to complete) and I have picked up a few helpful tips along the way on how parents can prepare their teens for their first year of uni.
I was in your shoes a few years ago worrying myself to death about how he was going to cope at uni, cook for himself, budget his money and ultimately not get himself into any awful situations or get hurt!! ( I know, but c’mon they are our little babies after all).
So having learned some things along the way I thought I would share my wisdom to either save you a crap load of money ( no they really do not need everything AND the kitchen sink) or reassure you that your little baby will be just FINE!
So here goes………..
1. They will NOT starve.
My son could really only cook basic things and wasn’t interested in learning before he went. But guess what? He didn’t starve or get food poisoning either. He is a very plain and repetitive eater ( that’s the Asperger’s affect – he’s always been the same) so this actually made his shopping cheaper and more manageable. Pizzas, pasta and pesto, chicken, bacon, sausages, eggs, Shreddies, chocolate croissants, milk and cartons of orange juice saw him through most weeks with a cheeky takeaway or two along the way.
2. They will not do any washing.
It does not matter how particular they are with their clothes at home with good ‘ol mammy doing their washing………………no, they literally all turn into dirty skanks when they move away and have to do it themselves……….honestly, just you wait. ‘ Do you know how much it is to use the washing machine and dryer in the laundry room?’ was my son’s drivel of an excuse. Yes their picky ways will go out of the window when they have to physically wash their own stuff……………………………….and don;t get me started on the bedding! URGH!
3. They will learn to budget their money.
We actually found that having had very little spare cash when the boys where growing up as there was only one wage coming in, although frustrating in so many ways, it was actually a hidden bonus as my son was bloody brilliant at managing the little amount of money he budgeted for each week. Silver linings and all that.
4. They will grow up fast.
So they may still be your little babies but I tell you a few months away thrown into the real world will result in changes you never thought was possible. They learn to manage their time, get to lessons, deal with finding their way around new towns and ultimately meeting lots of new friends. So beware, when they do come home and you happen to casually ask where they are going to or who they are going out with you will get the Paddington #hardstare!
5. They will actually appreciate you more.
Seriously, when they have cooked all their own meals for months and their clothes and bedding are crispy and rank ( I kid you not) then they come home for Christmas and all their washing gets done and smells nice, and you serve up a proper mum’s roast dinner………………..the thank you’s will come flying at you!
6. Do NOT bother with cleaning products galore.
Seriously they will NOT clean their rooms. So just pop a couple of packs of anti bacterial cleaning wipes in there and a bleach spray and that will cover most things.
It’s hard as a mum not to think of every eventuality and buy accordingly sending them away to uni with everything but the kitchen sink ( only because you couldn’t physically fit it in the car!). So here’s a few few tips that could save you some money that I had to learn the hard way……………
**They do NOT need every cooking appliance.
A couple of pots, a frying pan and I would advise a small George Forman grill. My son literally wore his grill out in the first year and I had to replace it. He said he used it every singe day- think bacon or sausage sandwiches, grilled chicken breasts etc all cooked easily, quickly and with very little mess or washing up. Equally, if they love a toastie then a sandwich maker is a great addition.
**As far as plates, cutlery pots and pans etc are concerned I have a top tip.
Stay away from the run of the mill black and grey and go for a bold colour. That way they know exactly which one’s are theirs. I got my son red plates, cutlery and pots from Wilkinsons when he first went and he always said it was great as he could easily recognise his own belongings ( due to his Asperger’s he takes little notice of and does not immediately recognise what’s his…………only recently he came down wearing his brothers jeans and didn’t even notice!). Equally most lists will say 1xplate/bowl etc – NOPE……….. send them with 2 of everything, plates, bowls, glasses and mugs (if they like their tea and coffee) as I guarantee you they will NOT wash up every time they have eaten. Also its the real world and other students will use their plates if theirs are dirty so be warned.
**Send them with a made by you medicine box.
So paracetamol, Ibruprofen, plasters, hayfever tablets, Imodium, cough mixture and anything else that you would normally have at home. Within the first month they will definitely get ‘Freshers Flu’ from late nights, drinking, not eating their 5 a day etc. My son is in his 3rd year and I still do this now and he loves it as he has everything we have at home so if he doesn’t feel well he has something to hand without having to go to the shops.
**Buy 2 sets of bedding and towels.
That way if they do decide to wash their bedding ( wishful thinking of course!) or their towels, they do not have to worry about getting it washed and dried in one day.
**Buy them lots of extra socks and underwear.
Like I said they don’t clothes wash very often so I would rather my son have LOTS of spares than him get 4 days from one pair of socks or boxers! I did warn you earlier they turned into dirty skanks.
**Do NOT waste lots of money on loads of stationary.
It will be a waste of time. My son studies Law and we thought he would need loads of file blocks of paper………..WRONG! Most of their lessons can be watched again online, and most of their work in all done on computer and emailed. They will not need loads of pretty paper and stickers and higlighters!
**Send them with a full term’s supply of wash kit supplies.
Extra shower gels, shampoo, toothpastes, wipes, deodorants etc as they will not want to spend their already budgeted weekly allowance on these…………so refer back to the ‘dirty skank’ observations………….at least you know their personal hygiene will not be a problem!
**As far as the bank accounts go I got my son to open 2.
First one was his student account that their grants etc get paid into and an overdraft is arranged. The 2nd one is a normal current account. I got my son to work out all his money with his grants and sort a weekly amount he was going to live off. That amount was set up as a direct debit/ standing order type payment from his student account with the bulk of his money to his current account. That way he found it easier to track his weekly living budget rather than inadvertently dip into the main bulk of his student loan and then not have enough money to see him through his uni year. So he started with a £70 weekly amount and after a month or two he reduced it to £60 as he was finding he didn’t actually need it all. That allowed him a more responsible control over his full student loan.
So there you have it my lovelies, its a tough time for us mum’s letting our babies go. It’s definitely strange at first and is a sign of things to come when they start going off into the big wide world making their own lives. I have seen huge changes in my son since that first year he went away, I think until they actually do go off and venture into their own things it’s difficult to see them as anything other than children. My eldest son is now 21 and I can tell you it’s been the best thing for him. I do see him as much more capable now rather than instantly worry when he does something new.
If you’ve had a teen go off to uni I would love to know the useless things you wasted money on that they never used, so drop me a message in the comments.