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8 Tips for University Success this year

For those of you who are sending teens off on their first year of tertiary study here are some tips from a mother who has been there and survived through to graduation.

  1. Carefully think about the car at University, you really don't need a car at UC or Otago University and many others if you are living onsite. A bike is a great asset but to pay $900 for a carpark at a halls of residence really has to be carefully thought through. When you live on campus your entire life is on campus (unless you are working somewhere during term time). The car is likely to spend the majority of its time sitting in the carpark.

  2. Eating at the halls of residence is to be encouraged. You have already paid for the food so purchasing your lunch at a cafe on campus when your lunch is free at the halls is a practice you don't want to encourage. Help your students to think through where their money is going to go and how they can live financially well and save money.

  3. Your teen is HIGHLY likely to get Fresher Flu. I know this one well as we ended up in A & E with this bad boy and 2 drips later I was told to take my son home for 2 weeks to recover his health and strength (despite his protests he could go back to the halls). Fresher flu is a halls of residence combination of lack of sleep + poor nutrition (will they eat the fruit on offer?) + alcohol + close proximity living with hundreds of other students some of whom are usually sick or about to become sick. The only thing you can do for this is to arm your student with vitamins and get them into the regular pattern of taking them now before they leave. Think vitamin c, vitamin d, iron, zinc and magnesium for a start but get advice from a naturopath or health shop that you trust. Everyone knows about Fresher Flu so just mention that and you should get the right advice.

  4. Fresher 5 and Fresher 10 is another issue you want to discuss before your teen leaves home for Uni. It relates to the additional 5kg or 10kg which are likely to be added to their weight for all of the reasons discussed above. Students who are no longer playing sport often find themselves sitting a lot and eating or drinking when they aren't sitting in lectures. How will your student add physical activity into their world at Uni?

  5. Sleep is the most important part of the journey and sleeping in a halls of residence is really challenging. They are noisy places and for those who already struggle to get to sleep the noises around them can be extra challenging. Some halls of residence have floors that are separated for students who want a quieter atmosphere. Discuss sleep and help your teen to make a sleep strategy for how many hours they know they need and how they are going to take responsibility for their 8 hours of essential sleep especially for those who are extroverted and might suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out) by going to bed.

  6. Connection with home is important, university life is a big step up and there will be challenges that feel overwhelming, anxiety is rife on campus and you want to ensure that your student doesn't get sucked into an anxiety spiral by engaging with others who are very anxious and who are talking anxiety. Regular calls home to a parent might be helpful and if that isn't enough there is always campus health for more intervention.

  7. Has your student signed up to the campus medical centre? Doing this before they arrive makes very good sense. If they are far from home and need medical help, campus health is the place they need to go, but they need to be signed up and doing that on their first visit can be very challenging. I recommend you help them to do this before they have left home. If your teen isn't confident about going to the Dr alone you can invite them to put you on speaker phone and go into the appt with them virtually. If your teen is sick give them a list of the questions that they need to ask so the appointment will be effective.

  8. Your teen may arrive, get settled in and not enjoy their lectures, or the halls of residence. Their experience may be nothing like what they expected. Please ensure that they know that everything can be changed. They can come home, they can swap courses, they can ask for another room (not sure how likely that is) they can go flatting, they can swap Universities. The most important thing is their mental health and their happiness. Everything else can be figured out. You don't want your student believing that everything is locked in and they are stuck.

Talk to other parents who have been here before you and get their advice too, sending our 17 and 18 year olds off on their big adventure is exciting but they really need to be sent off with a strategy, a plan, a back up plan and the knowledge that you are still there to support and help them when the wheels fall off (and for most students, they will in some way).

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