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How to prepare your child for university

Applying to university can be a daunting prospect for young people, and it’s only natural for parents and carers to want to help. But sometimes it can be tricky knowing where to start. We spoke with Louise Musgrave, one of our Student Recruitment Managers and a parent, whose child has recently been through the application process. Below, Louise offers advice on how to prepare your child for university, how to support their application, and answers some of the most common questions parents and guardians have regarding the university application process.

By Grant Longstaff. Published 22 December 2023.

How can I help my child choose the right degree?

I would certainly suggest attending higher education fairs – for example, UCAS, UK University Search, or What Uni Live – so your child can meet some student ambassadors and tutors from specific universities. This should help them decide the courses they may be interested in studying.

It’s also worth attending university open days for the course your child is interested in. From personal experience, my child was really keen to attend a university based up north, but once he visited and compared them to a university in the west of England he actually preferred the course, tutors, and location, and decided to change his first choice on his UCAS form.

What are the educational choices for my child?

As the parent, it’s best to be realistic about your child’s expected grades. My son was keen to attend a university that wanted extremely high grades, so we tried to prevent any disappointment by applying for a range of universities to ensure he would get a place. We also considered an apprenticeship programme, but he wanted to experience “uni life” and – after looking at our finances – we were able to support this. However, I do still feel the apprenticeship route can be a fantastic alternative to studying exclusively at a university.

How do I help my child prepare for university life?

There are several simple things you can do to help prepare your child for university life. For instance, we ensured our son was able to cook before leaving home. We also helped him to budget by showing him how to work out the cost of living and providing him with a spreadsheet so he wouldn’t overspend. He went to visit an older friend at university for the weekend, so that he could really see what uni life was like. During Freshers’ week we also encouraged him to explore the Student Union and join societies, and he found this to be an excellent way to meet new people and become involved with other students across the uni.

How can I help prepare my child for moving away for university?

We spent a lot of time discussing living away from home and tried to keep as positive as we could about the experience. We also talked to him about our own university experiences and leaving home, so he understood it’s a normal part of life. We discussed everything you need to start university, and visited his campus and the town he was going to live in to familiarise him with the area. Applicant visit days are an excellent way to meet the tutors, student ambassadors, and other students who’ve applied to your child’s course of choice.

It’s also worth noting that moving away isn’t a requirement – we have six undergraduate campuses across England so students can stay at (or near to) home if they would prefer to. We also offer ‘Campus Switch’, which allows students to change campuses during their degree if they want to experience life in a new city, or if they want to be closer to family.

How do I support my child in undergraduate application?

It was challenging, as our son wasn’t keen for us to get involved with the actual application. I think he was nervous about what grades he would achieve. That said, the school helped us to make sure he was meeting the deadlines and we assisted him with his personal statement by reading and helping improve it where necessary. I believe the key is to try and give your child the autonomy to apply for their course of choice, but to guide them when possible, check they have all the information necessary and ensure they make the deadlines set.

We also have a range of resources on our blog to support students in writing their applications, such as this blog on how to write a successful UCAS application, and videos on our Instagram and TikTok channels.

What is a personal statement?

A personal statement is a chance for your child to show why they would be a fantastic student for the course they want to apply for. I helped my child explain why they wanted to study his chosen subject and to link his life experiences and current qualifications to the course. He also talked about work experience (linking that to the course too), and what inspired him to achieve his aim of working in his chosen career. I believe a personal statement can be a great help in ensuring your child secures a place at uni, especially if the course tutors are deciding who to accept onto the course.


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