University is a brand-new landscape, so when it comes time for your teen to navigate it, they’ll experience some of the fastest personal and professional growth of their lifetime. Uni is where your child’s independence will be seeded (if it hasn’t been already!), where responsibility and ownership will take root, and where they’ll bloom through learning, practising and journeying on the path to living out their passions.
Although this is a time for self-discovery, it doesn’t hurt to know what to expect. This can make a huge difference in how your child weathers their first semester at university.
Here are five things you can to do help your child mentally prepare for starting uni.
1. Discuss expectations
Talk with your teen about what will be expected of them – expectations from their professors, your expectations of them, and even their own expectations of themselves.
Here are some topics to get started:
- Accommodation and living
- Extra-curricular activities
- Finances and budgeting
- Frequency of family communication
- Illness and injury
- Personal safety
- Religious observance
- Seeking support
- Student life
Having these expectations laid out in front of them will give your child the time and space to plan how they will meet them when they’re in the throes of busy uni life, and will let them prepare however they need to.
2. Organisation (and disorganisation)
As your teen maps out their first semester at university, let them take the lead on how they plan to stay organised. After all, organisation is pretty central to success in most degrees, but they might find it foreign or difficult to be in charge of this if they haven’t already been throughout high school. Give them the tools and language necessary to plan their own organisation ‘strategy’, including the tools and structure they will implement to stay on top of their work and manage their time. These are important considerations they will need to work through to set themselves up for success in uni.
3. Expect mistakes
Most, if not all, students make mistakes as they navigate university. It’s a completely new stage in their lives, so it’s likely they’ll stumble when managing their own time, or will see this freedom as an opportunity to test life’s boundaries. Whether it’s sleeping in, being late for class, missing an assignment deadline or misplacing something, as a parent it’s up to you to expect and weather these mistakes in their first instances.
Usually, these sorts of things happen once and act as a learning opportunity that will build their independence. As they get familiar with the demands and structure of university and adult life, these will occur less frequently, eventually relegated to just the occasional, surmountable hiccup.
4. Get connected
The quickest way for your child to settle into uni and create a network of friends is to get involved in clubs or societies that interest them. This will help to create routines in their schedules, ensuring they have adequate time for social activities that enrich their skills and broaden their network. Encourage them to seek these out and join them in the first few weeks of starting university. Most universities host a club sign-on day after or during Orientation Week, which is unmissable if they’re looking to get involved!
5. Encourage asking for help
Finally, remind your child it’s okay to ask for help and to seek out support services on campus. Each uni has their own support services in place for students to lean on, from academic skills and learning support to disability support, diversity and inclusion programs and groups to make students on campus feel welcome. Normalising asking for help is so important for young adults who might feel out of their depth when they first start university. Although we’re sure you’re a great resource for their questions and concerns, having someone on campus who understands the specific trials and tribulations of uni life from a practical perspective is so valuable.
Although sending them off to university might be a little daunting, if you’ve considered these things together, you’ll feel safe in the knowledge that they’re embarking on their first semester fully prepared.