Another batch of 18-year-olds are leaving home, their cars packed so tightly with saucepans, duvets and soft toys that they can't see out of the back window. Yes, it's the start of another academic year at university, and the freshers have some surprises awaiting them on campus.
Here are some top tips to help them through the first term - parents, pass on.
Homesickness is normal.
Your child may want to pack up their things and come straight home again within the first three hours of checking into her halls. Instead, she would be better advised to go to all the induction and icebreaker events she can find – there are bound to be at least two people across the entire university that she will make firm friends with.
Learn to budget.
Getting that first instalment of a student loan will make your child feel rich beyond his wildest dreams. Make sure he realises that money has to last for the entire term, and most of it will be going on tedious necessary expenses, like rent and bills and travel.
This isn't school.
The learning style at university is very different to what your child will have been used to at school and sixth form – the tutor will not be spoonfeeding them and walking them through everything step by step. Instead, they'll be given a reading list and a course handbook, and the rest will be up to them – how many notes he wants to take in lectures, how much additional reading he wants to do, how much he wants to engage in seminars. It's a tough time.
'Learning - especially at this level - is a difficult and, at times, unpleasant, process,' admits a former associate dean from a top arts college. 'That has to be dealt with in order to achieve what you want from your education.'
A course leader at a popular new university agrees: 'Learning is really hard and time-consuming: don't think you can fit it in between your job and your clubbing and your love life. And the pay-off, strange but true, is that hard work is enjoyable.'
If your child does decide that socialising is going to be a big part of their university years, they need to bear in mind that tutors get very annoyed if a) students turn up late, b) students complain about early lectures combined with hangovers and c) students complain that they have too much work to do when they already have a hectic social agenda and a part-time job.
Help is there if your child needs it.
Universities all offer pastoral care – both for academic problems and personal issues. There will be someone there on hand to give advice and assistance, whether there's a module your child wants to drop or whether she is struggling financially. And if there is a problem with a particular class or assignment, your child shouldn't be afraid to ask the tutor rather than sitting and fretting about it.
Not everyone is nice out in the big wide world.
Not wishing to scare you or your child, but university may be the first time he encounters some of the standard dangers of adulthood.
The first and most obvious one is alcohol. Many universities have encountered the CARNAGE promotion in recent years –organised by an external company, it's basically a huge pub crawl, and it's been criticised for tempting teenagers to binge-drink.
Males and females should watch out for drink spiking (whether with drugs or shots of spirits) when out and about; the person who does it might not have malicious intent and just think it's a joke, but the effects are nothing to chuckle about, even if it's 'just' a big crashing hangover.
And though females are always urged to take care when drinking in case they're attacked, males should watch out too – the risks of getting embroiled in physical violence rise after drinking.
And beware crime. Burglars know the areas that freshers will be moving into, and they know there'll be lots of electrical goods there for the taking. If your child is used to a quiet village and is moving to a city, it may be a bit of an adjustment having to protect phones and purses from pickpockets. And unscrupulous spivs occasionally circulate around universities with money-making scams (usually pyramid schemes of the kind popular in the 1980s) designed to eke loan money out from naïve students' clutches.
But above all, don't worry.
You're only a fresher for a year. The first year of university is a huge learning curve for freshers, not just academically but socially and in terms of street-smarts. It may seem a stressful time now, but in 12 short months they'll be ready to start their second year – and pass on their new-found wisdom to the new intake of undergraduates.
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