Getting ready for university

There is a lot for your child to think about when your child leaves home for the first time - from feeding themselves and managing their money to getting to know a new town and making friends. We understand that, while this can be a difficult time for you, you'll want to help as much as possible to get them ready for life away from home.

Setting up a new home

One thing you can help with - without too much risk of being accused of meddling - is making sure your son or daughter has a safe and comfortable place to stay. Here are some simple tips for making sure their term-time abode is safe and comfortable: 

  • The Code of Practice is a standard that promises safe, good quality accommodation for students. Check whether the hall of residence your child is moving to is a member of The Code. If it is a member you can be reassured that it will be of a good standard, and if you find that it is not, you’ll have grounds to complain that it does not meet the standards outlined in The Code.  
  • Photos - although the hall of residence may not allow things to be pinned to the wall, there is a chance for a few photos of family members and friends to make an appearance. You’ll just need to use a pin board or put them in stand-up picture frames.
  • Soft furnishings – a nice rug or set of curtains can make all the difference to give an otherwise bland space a bit of colour and personality. Lighting – lighting in halls of residences can sometime be a little harsh, but you’d be amazed what a few cheap table lights can do. Check out Ikea or your local second hand shops for some inexpensive but stylish options. 
  • Tea and coffee making facilities – turning up with a mini kettle, a few tea bags and a carton of long life milk can help your child feel instantly at home in their new place.

Helpful things to take to university 

There are a few handy items that your child may not have thought about, which you can  get hold off as they prepare to move away.

  • Door wedge – so they can keep their door open and welcome in their new neighbours and future friends. 
  • Food – if they are in self-catered accommodation, you could cook a couple of homemade meals for the freezer, or give them a few tins and some pasta to get started. If they are in catered accommodation they’ll still appreciate a stash of snacks, so stock up on some of the goodies they like to eat. 
  • The web address for the Student Accommodation Code (www.TheSac.org.uk) which protects students' rights to safe, good quality accommodation. This can help if there is a problem with their accommodation when they turn up at their halls, or later down the line. 
  • Tissues -it’s always helpful to have a few tissues. You may even want to keep a packet for yourself, just in case there is a tearful goodbye - but try and save your tears until after you’ve said goodbye if you can!

Dealing with empty nest syndrome

Once you've seen your child safely settled in their new accommodation, you might find your home feels a little empty. For a bit of help making the transition, check out the tips below:: 

  • Find a new interest. Having invested so much in your child or children you may find yourself with some free time on your hands. Perhaps there's something you've always wanted to try, like taking up Bridge, volunteering for a local charity, or even going back to university yourself and starting a new business venture. 
  • Get to know your partner again. Some parents find that without their children at home they need to re-build their relationship with their partner to remember why they married them all those years ago. Schedule time together to do things that you both enjoy, or set yourself a regular 'Date Night' just for the two of you. 
  • Keep in touch. You can still to be close to your child even after they have left home. You should try to maintain regular contact through visits, phone calls, emails and text, but also realise that you need to get the balance right so that they don’t feel smothered by too much contact. 
  • Don't do it alone. Remember there are hundreds of thousands of parents in the same position as you are now. Talk to the people around you - your friends and partner - who know what you're going through. If you’re finding it hard to shake the blues, you can visit your GP to talk about how you’re feeling and get some additional support. 
  • Pat yourself on the back. It’s no easy task raising a child and you should congratulate yourself on your excellent work so far. 

If things don't go to plan 

Chances are you child will take to their new life like a duck to water, but if they aren’t having the time they hoped they would, or if they are experiencing some problems, help is at hand. Here are some useful resources you can call upon. 

  • If there's a problem with their accommodation, The Student Accommodation Code can help. The SAC website has a full list of the buildings covered, and can help with any accommodation-related issue, from a broken boiler to noisy neighbours. 
  • For financial advice, the Citizens' Advice Bureau can offer general help on money and benefits. The website is full of helpful advice and also contains a list of local CAB offices for face-to-face appointments.   
  • Getting ill in the first few weeks of university is not uncommon, but if you are seriously concerned about your son or daughter's health, NHS Choices is a comprehensive site with answers to medical queries, which can also signpost to nearby doctors.   
  • If you are worried that your son or daughter has a problem with addiction, whether you fear that they are drinking too much, taking drugs or gambling, Adfam can provide support and advice, and Frank has comprehensive information on different kinds of drugs.
  • If you are worried that your child is not making the adjustment to university life and are concerned that they may be suffering from depression, Young Minds can provide advice and support. 
  • Parentchannel.tv has lots of short and helpful videos about parenting teenagers. Check out the 14-19 section or search for the issue you are concerned about.

The Student Accommodation Code of Practice 

Being at university or college can be one of the most exciting and challenging times of life. It often marks the first time children move away from home, so it's important to make sure accommodation is safe, of good quality and caters for their needs. Many first year students choose university-managed housing and the Student Accommodation Code has been developed to make sure this accommodation is of a good standard.

The Code protects students' rights to safe, good quality accommodation, wherever they are studying, and makes sure they get the best out of their time living in university or college residences. It outlines everything students can expect from their accommodation as well as their responsibilities as tenants. Many university accommodation buildings are signed up to The Code, which was introduced in 2006. The Code has already raised standards of accommodation and aims to continue to enrich the residential experience for students across England and Wales. 

What The Code covers

The Code covers six main areas, designed to protect students' rights to: 

  • A safe, healthy environment - this section covers students' rights to information on essential fire safety precautions; accommodation security; and details on what furniture and facilities should be provided for them.
  • Timely repairs and maintenance - this section explains what repair and maintenance is the responsibility of the university or college and what timescales they should work to when carrying out emergency or planned maintenance work.
  • A clean, pleasant living environment - this section outlines the services and utilities students can expect in their accommodation, including standard utilities such as heating and lighting, but also services and facilities such as rubbish and recycling collection and bicycle and car parking.
  • A formal, contractual relationship with the university or college landlord - this section details the information students can legally request from their landlords including rent payment schedules, cleaning schedules, and details on how to report a problem.
  • Access to health and wellbeing services - this section outlines the requirements for universities to provide information on where students can find welfare support, medical help, financial advice and counselling services.
  • A living environment free from anti-social behaviour - this section covers measures that universities and colleges should take to help ensure that their residences are happy and respectful environments.

This article has been written with the support of The Student Accommodation Code.

The following websites might be helpful as they prepare to leave. 

  • NUS: The one stop student information shop
  • A descriptive inventory of nearly everything they could possibly want to take to university with them from the Student Room 
  • Gov.uk: Everything they need to know about loans, budgeting and student finance 
  • Money Saving Expert: Top tips on how to make the loan go further and the best student bank accounts available
  • The Student Accommodation Code protects students' rights to good accommodation. Find out what should be expected from student accommodation and see which halls are covered  
  • Student Jobs: A full directory of part time jobs and internships in their new city   
  • Student Recipes: Over 3,700 quick and easy recipes for students by students    

getting ready for uni

How we can help you

If you would like support and advice, you can talk to one of our Family Support Workers by calling our confidential helpline on 0808 800 2222. You can also share experiences and advice with other parents on our Forums. Family Lives is here for you and you can contact us about any family issue, big or small.

Did you find our advice helpful? Help us help more people by filling in our survey