If your child is heading off to university for the first time, it’s likely that you might be feeling a few mixed emotions. Sadness, worry, doubt, excitement, grief, relief. It’s a strange time.
Sure, it’s great that they’ll be becoming themselves, making new friends, gaining some independence and, of course, getting a first-rate education. But the flipside is that they’ll have to fly the nest and move away from home in order to do so - sometimes leaving their parents feeling a little bereft.
Preparing for uni is a big deal and something you can do together which you’ll remember forever. In spite of the fact that you’ll miss them while they’re away, channelling your energy into helping them be prepared is usually a great thing to do. Plus it’ll let them focus on being themselves which is what uni is all about, rather than stress about figuring things out on their own.
Here are 10 simple things you can pack your child off to uni with that will help them feel more at home in their new surroundings.
1. Food, glorious food
Its common knowledge that students aren’t typically culinary geniuses, which means that it might not be such a bad idea to pack them off with a few groceries - or perhaps just a food hamper full of their favourite treats - to ensure they don’t just live off of Pot Noodles and Baked Beans while they’re living away from home.
Another idea might be to give them a gift voucher to their local supermarket to encourage them to do a proper food shop now and then – even if they just hold onto the voucher for when they start to run out of money towards the end of the semester.
2. A shiny new gadget
What better gift to send your child to uni with but a mobile phone that encourages them to call you every day? A mobile phone with unlimited talk time would mean that they always have the means to contact you, especially important in case there’s an emergency or they need to speak to you urgently.
Equally, a laptop or tablet always proves exceptionally useful at university, as it’ll mean they don’t have to go to the library every time they want to complete an assignment. However, it’s important to make sure they have suitable student insurance in place for any expensive gadgets, bikes or musical instruments that they might be considering taking with them to university. After all, you don’t want to be paying to get their gadgets fixed if they get broken, do you?
3. Everything but the kitchen sink
Even if your child is moving into catered halls of accommodation, they’re probably going to have a kitchen provided so that they can cook themselves the odd meal. But if they’re in self-catering halls of accommodation, it’s going to be even more important for your child to take along all of the essential kitchen utensils, such as:
- Pots and pans
- Plates, bowls and dishes
- Cups and mugs
- Chopping board
- Cutlery (as well as a sharp knife for chopping vegetables)
- Baking trays
- Oven gloves and tea towels
- Tin opener
- Aluminium foil and cling film
- Reusable head container (so they can freeze meals when they inevitably cook too much)
However, try not to go overboard with the kitchen supplies, as chances are their flatmates will be purchasing a lot of the same items. And when there's likely to be limited cupboard space, they're probably not going to want five sieves taking up too much room! If they’re in touch with their future flat mates on social media, they can co-ordinate what they’re bringing so that they don’t have too many of one thing.
If you’re feeling especially generous, a sandwich toaster is a firm favourite among students due to the fact that toasted sandwiches are quick and easy to make, as well as filling. However, if your child is taking any electrical items off to uni with them, check with the accommodation office beforehand as to whether they need to be PAT tested first.
4. A recipe book (or two)
Again, it’s not exactly a secret that not all university students are great cooks – after all, this might be the first time they’ve actually had to cook for themselves.
To help them out, give them a few cooking lessons before they head off to uni, including showing them how to cook some of their favourite home-cooked meals – that way, they’ll be able to replicate their favourite meal whenever they’re feeling a bit homesick. It’s also a good idea to send them off with a few student cookbooks, as they’re full of quick and easy meals, designed for the student lifestyle.
5. Pens galore
It’s strange – as soon as you enrol in university, you seem to suddenly lose the ability to hold onto pens, pads, and basically any other piece of stationery you might need to help with your studies. Which is why it might be a good idea to take your child on a back-to-school style shopping trip to stock up on all of the stationery they might need to take to university with them. This could include pens, paper, folders, staplers, post-its, and even a letter writing set to encourage your child to write home. Just make sure to send them off with stamps as well, otherwise you might find that letter is never getting sent!
6. Some new comfy bedding
One of the hardest things about moving away from home is getting used to a new bed – they’re either too hard or too soft, and just never quite as comforting as your bed back at home. To help your child get their university experience off to the right start, and avoid some sleepless nights at a time when they need to be remaining focussed, send them off with a nice, new duvet set.
Helping them to pick out cheerful bedding will also help them to make their university halls feel more like a home.
7. A few cleaning supplies
If there’s one thing you taught them that’s going to go out the window as soon as they leave home, it’s making sure that they’ve got a fully-stocked cleaning cupboard. As well as largely lacking cooking skills, students also aren’t too famous for their ability to clean – hence why 34% of the student tenants we surveyed* reported deductions being made from their tenancy deposit because the general cleaning wasn’t completed to a satisfactory standard.
Make sure to send your child off to uni with as many cleaning supplies as possible, including (but not limited to);
- Duster and polish
- Dish cloths
- Washing up liquid
- Limescale remover
- Laundry soap and fabric conditioner
- Antibacterial spray
- Bin bags
8. A comfortable backpack
You may have already seen your child’s uni reading list, which means you’re probably also already aware of the sheer volume of books that they’re going to need for their course. Not only is it expensive business, but it can be a huge strain on their back and shoulders when they have to carry a lot of heavy text books around with them. That’s why it’s a good idea to invest in a sensible, sturdy backpack that offers sufficient back support, and to remind them that it’s probably not such a good idea to carry everything around in one go.
Point them in the direction of the university library, which will offer photocopying and printing services for a low cost (usually around 5-10p per sheet of paper).
9. Something to cure the homesickness
As much as you’ll be missing them when they head off to university, they’re going to be missing you too. And sometimes a phone call just isn’t enough to curb those lonely feelings. So send them off with something sentimental that will make them smile when they’re starting to feel a bit homesick. Family photographs, a cuddly toy or even a homemade quilt could make all the difference when it comes to making them feel more at home in their new student digs.
10. Student insurance
Now that you know what you’ll be sending your child off to uni with (and the list is probably getting quite long at this point), you’ll want to make sure that their gadgets and belongings are protected by flexible and affordable student insurance. It’s important to note that your child’s belongings might not necessarily be covered under your home insurance policy when they move into university halls of accommodation, so make sure to check this with your home insurance provider.
Some halls of accommodation will provide insurance cover for students inside their university room, which will usually offer a limited amount of cover for fire, theft and flood, but often won’t cover items outside of the room or accidental damage.
*Private Student Accommodation Explored, ‘Deposits,’ November 2017
A few extra things for 2020
11. Hand sanitiser and soap
If coronavirus has taught us anything, it’s that handwashing is so important to limit the spread of infection. Students should wash their hands carefully and thoroughly, before and after heading out. They could even take some sanitiser out with them.
Don’t forget that cleaning their hands is all well and good, but what’s one of the things they probably touch the most? Their phone. Check out these simple tips on how to clean your phone.
In the current climate, it's better to be safe than sorry. Pick up some personal protective equipment (PPE) like masks ready for your child to take to uni with them. We’re a few months into the coronavirus now and thankfully the availability of masks seems to have increased, so hopefully you shouldn’t have any problem finding them - you may even find quirky masks to match your son/daughter's favourite outfit!
If your child chooses to use disposable gloves, try and encourage them put the gloves on just before going anywhere and try not to touch their mouth etc. until after they’ve taken them off and washed their hands. If they're wearing gloves to do their weekly student food shop, but touching their phone/parts of their body, they’re defeating the object of wearing gloves in the first place.