This weekend we drove our eldest to university. Whilst he has spent the last week saying fond farewells to school friends, I have been doing what mothers do best - preparing.
His inbox has been full to bursting since results day with instructive and helpful emails from his university and UCAS on what he needs to do before he arrives and advice on what to bring. A cursory glance and typical teenage comments of "stop fussing" is all it has provoked from him, whereas I have been religiously double-checking that nothing is overlooked.
Day to day essentials aside, the first hurdle, however, is surviving Freshers' Week so with my usual attention to detail here are some top tips for parents and their teenagers on making sure they don't miss out.
- Even my social media savvy teen overlooked this initially, but facebook communities are where it all starts. Once the results are in and their university offer has been confirmed, they can join their university's facebook community to get vital information on what is happening during that first all important week. With hundreds of organised events to make that transition from home to away easier, including a Freshers' Week wristband to guarantee reduced price entry to the main events, this is where the party starts. Wristbands are limited and whilst they can buy individual tickets for events when in situ, these make their life a whole lot easier and cheaper.
- As well as the general university facebook community, there are also communities for their halls of residence and the key societies. Casting my mind back to my university days I didn't know a soul, a sharp contrast to our son who had copious information at his fingertips about every undergraduate in the university, his halls of residence, his corridor even and his course. Take heart, it is so much easier nowadays.
- Freshers' flu was a thing 30 years ago when I was a student and it is still very much alive and kicking. With thousands of strangers coming together in a new environment, university is by its a nature a breeding ground for bacteria. Add to this the inevitable high octane socialising and it is not surprising that many new undergraduates are left nursing more than a heavy head at the end of the week. Compile a freshers' first aid kit in a bid to battle the germs, include some high dosage Vitamin C or Berocca to boost their immune system and the all important 21st century accessory hand sanitizer. In the event that a cure is needed include those fail-safe remedies, Lemsip and Neurofen.
- Perhaps a bigger threat to our young teens nowadays is Meningitis. Don't let them wait until they arrive to get the jab, it maybe too late, organise it before they head off.
- It's not easy adjusting to a completely new environment and meeting new people is always nerve-racking. It can be made easier by leaving their room door open so that people moving in on their corridor can pop their head in and say hello. Invest in a door stop. An open door, like a smile, is inviting.
- Freshers' week is all about socialising and getting to know people in a relaxed environment before the hard work starts. But they can take it too far. Encourage them to strike a balance and not overload on the club nights. Sometimes it is a lot easier to get to know people over a quiet drink in the bar than doing it large every night.
- Like it or not fancy dress is a big part of Freshers' Week and if they don't want to be left out or look like a party pooper, pack a few bits and bobs to see them through the week.
- It's not all about the parties. Freshers' Week gives students the chance to sign up to a range of club and societies that interest them. It is easy however to get carried away in the first week and sign up to more than is physically possible or affordable. There are some, such as the sports ones, that are more popular than others and they need to be quick to join these, but there are also others that they can sign up to after the week is over. It is important that they pace themselves.
- Last but not least, amidst all the madness they need to buy their books and attend their course introductory social evenings. It is important for them to make sure they are ready to study on the first day of term. After all, that's why they're there!
As we said our fond farewells to our son and wished him luck for the week ahead he was understandably nervous about others' first impressions of him. I reminded him that the first step is to smile. Everyone is in the same boat and a smile goes a long way to making the whole process easier.
Have you been through this process in the past or recently? I would love to hear from you and if you have some more survival tips please add them in the comments.