07 Sep 2023

Packing Your Teen Off To University

Helping your teenager prepare and pack for the start of university is a significant milestone, both for them and for you. Whether you are a parent, carer, sibling or friend, it's an exciting time, filled with a whirlwind of emotions as you prepare them for the next chapter in their lives. 

Sue Spencer knows all too well the highs and lows of this busy period. Having sent two kids off to university herself, she understands first-hand how much easier it can be with a bit of planning.

Using the lessons she’s learned along the way, Sue shares her comprehensive guide to assist you in getting your teen ready for this next step. Her tips cover everything from what to pack, to managing money, handling paperwork, staying organised for studies and time management.

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© Image by Cottonbro Studio on Pexels

What to Pack - The basics

Start by packing essential items like clothing, toiletries, bedding, and kitchen supplies.  Check the accommodation details, as some halls of residence are better equipped than others.  Make sure they pack some home comforts (photos of family and friends, cushions, or a rug) to personalise their room and make it feel like a home away from home.  Remember that storage is limited, so don't make the mistake of taking everything—they'll be home before you know it for a weekend to relax.

Top Packing Tips

  1. A door stop: The bedrooms have fire doors that don't stay open, so it's a good idea to have something to prop them open when they want to be sociable and part of what's going on in the accommodation.
  2. A box of chocolates or cake: A flat warming present always goes down well.
  3. A First Aid Kit: Prepare a basic first aid kit with paracetamol (for those Welcome week hangovers), essential medications, and plasters.
  4. Stationery Supplies: It's worth sending them off with a supply of A4 paper and stationery.  While most work is laptop-based, it's always useful to have the basics at hand.

Take a look at the UCAS website for a comprehensive university packing list: UCAS Packing List.

Brushing up on Domestic Skills

If you're lucky enough to have a teen who does their own washing and can cook, then it's one less thing for them (and you) to worry about.  If they haven't done much of this at home, give them a crash course in cooking basic meals and get them to start doing their own laundry before they leave home. You'll still receive WhatsApp photos asking, "Is this a dark or white wash?" when they visit the laundry for the first time, but at least they'll know how to operate the machine.  A clothes drying rack is a must-have in university halls, as tumble dryers can be very expensive.

Managing Money

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This is always a difficult conversation to have, but it's worth spending time working through their finances before they start university.  Most of the major banks offer great incentives with their student bank accounts so make sure the account is open and ready for their student loan in September.

Encourage your teen to create a realistic monthly budget that covers accommodation, food, transport, and other essential monthly expenses, such as home contents insurance. As long as they stay within their budget, this will give them an idea of how much is left over for joining societies and socialising.

Managing Paperwork

Most universities require copies of essential ID documents (passport, birth certificate, exam results, NHS number, etc.) for course enrolment and when you pick up accommodation keys. My son used a plastic folder for all these documents, which he then kept in a drawer in his room. We also got both of our kids to save important phone numbers in their phones, so they had them on hand if needed.

Staying Organised for Studies

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© Image by Element5digital on Unsplash

While most university preparation focuses on leaving home and the excitement building for Freshers' Week, it's important to remember that they are going away to study their chosen subject for three or more years! 

As they set up their university room, be mindful of keeping the desk as clear as possible and use any shelves for storing study files and materials.  They'll be juggling multiple modules in their course, so it's important to keep on top of lecture notes. Using a separate lever arch/magazine file will really help.  If they prefer to work on their laptop, remind them to save lecture notes to a cloud-based server rather than on their laptop. This way, they won't lose everything if the worst happens.

Your teen may be surprised at how much free time they have during the week in between lectures and seminars. It's easy in the first term to get carried away with the social side of things and forget that this "spare" time is for studying!  Time management is crucial for managing different assignments and deadlines, so encourage them to use a planner or a digital app to keep track of their workload and important dates for deliverables.  Keeping on top of assignments and studying will mean they don't create their stress by leaving everything to the last minute.

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Helping your teen prepare for university is an emotional but rewarding experience. Celebrate their success in moving on to the next stage of life and get them set up to start "adulting" by following the tips above.

Sue Spencer, founder of A Life More Organised, is a Master KonMari Consultant and has been a member of APDO since 2018. Sue lives in Hampshire with her husband, dog, and two lovely grown-up children whenever they're home from university. You can find out more about Sue by visiting her website, www.alifemoreorganised.co.uk 

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