Strategies to Get your Kids Ready for their First Year of University
If you have children at or nearing university-age, this UK uni checklist developed as part of the TV Licensing (TVL) Family Quiz is a great conversation starter on what they might expect once they’re away from home.
In 2022, my 19-year-old started her first year of university and in 2023, her 17-year-old sister did so too. As both sisters are very close, I can’t help but wonder how their relationship will be impacted by this next stage in their adult life, but most importantly, I wonder if they are ready for life. LIFE in capital letters, I guess. Indeed, it’s every parent’s hope that they’ve done their job right and that their grown kids can face the struggles and joys of becoming an adult, but nobody can tell the future. Right?
Thanks to the TVL Family Quiz, I was glad to tackle some timely questions on what it’s like for young adults to become independent in the UK, including budgeting for daily life or for student travel in Europe. My daughter and I had fun reviewing each other’s replies, each of us in turn pleasantly surprised or puzzled by our respective answers.
Round 1: Student Quiz
The first part, Round 1, was a Q&A format to test the student’s knowledge of living independently and university in general. You can practice at home yourself.
How often should you change your bed sheets / towels?
To start off, my daughter’s got basic hygiene mostly down. She answered 1 to 2 weeks. As the correct answer is every week, we’re on solid ground. At least, she didn’t question changing bed sheets or towels.
How much does a load of washing cost in a laundrette on average?
The corollary of changing bed linen is, obviously, washing them and she replied £5. That’s roughly right, as a standard load costs £4 on average and depending on where students live, the cost of living can vary.
How do you find out when bin day is?
I had no idea she knew anything about waste disposal, but she answered “council website” which was correct. If it were me at her age, I would probably have asked around.
How do you find a part-time job?
The following question was easy, as she’s been working part-time at a pub all of last year, but the cost-of-living crisis has made it necessary for many students to find their own source of income. Families are feeling the crunch. The answer is, you can find part-time jobs online or on flyers.
Do you need a TV Licence in student halls?
Now, we got to the first fail, although I wasn’t surprised. This was a technical question. According to my daughter, the answer was no, but in her defence, she didn’t know what the TV Licence was. “What is a TV Licence anyway?” I guess it’s one of these costs that parents pay without ever mentioning them. Yes, students need to be covered by a TV Licence. In fact, you need to be covered by a TV Licence to watch or record programmes as they’re being shown on TV or streamed live on an online TV service. And that’s not just the BBC; it’s all channels on any platform and on any device. You also need to be covered to watch BBC iPlayer.
Think about. In the UK, the BBC is a public service and as such, the question of its funding is big.
As a former tax lawyer, I’ve always been fascinated by how you fund public services. How do you make sure the BBC keeps producing and distributing world-class content, from Peaky Blinders to Frozen Planet? Without ads, no less? BBC viewers only get ads if they are watching the BBC from outside the UK. For an ad-free experience in the UK, the TV Licence is a small price to pay.,
How do you find out about any energy caps in your student accommodation?
Given the energy crisis and climate warming, this topic came up during our conversations. While I didn’t know that energy caps were part of theoretically all-inclusive student accommodation, my daughter had heard it from friends. Some student halls make students pay the extra charges when they exceed an energy cap. Reading the terms and conditions of your student hall rental agreement is the best way to find out about these.
On which shelf in the fridge is meat typically stored?
We are mostly vegetarians in our household, so storing meat is not something we do regularly. That said, my daughter instinctively answered “highest [shelf]”, which was incorrect. The answer was the bottom shelf to prevent contamination.
How much is your first year of university worth to your final grade?
This took us by surprise and my daughter replied 20%, which seemed fair. The correct answer was that in most cases, it doesn’t count, but you do have to pass by 40%. My daughter translated this as, “the first year is made for partying.” I think she got the gist of it.
How long should you boil an egg for a runny yolk?
If you like your egg extremely runny, as in raw runny, you’ll love that my daughter answered 2 minutes. If you are like most other people, the correct answer is 4 to 5 minutes.
Do you need a TV Licence to watch recorded TV?
By now, my daughter was sensing a theme. “Why do they keep asking about the TV Licence?” she asked me. Because we are part doing the TVL Family Quiz… Anyhow, she answered yes, which was correct. Yes.
You need to be covered by a TV Licence to watch, stream or record programmes as they’re being shown on TV, on any channel or on an online TV service. You also need a TV Licence if you want to download or watch any BBC programmes on BBC iPlayer, this applies to any device.
When should you start looking for your next year’s accommodation?
This question was thorny, because of the housing crisis but to be on the safe side, she answered 4 months in advance. Turns out that even 4 months early might even be too late. The correct answer is as early as November – January.
Round 2 questions (parent has to guess the correct answer from 3)
Once we’d gone over the Round 1 student questions, we moved on to the Round 2 Parents questions and that was hilarious. I got almost everything wrong. So embarrassing!
Round 2 was an answer match format to test whether we were aligned on some specific topics such as how many times I think she would call home a week or what childhood item she might secretly be taking etc.
What item from home are you most likely to take with you?
Why, the rice cooker, I thought. She always said that she’d love to have a rice cooker to cook quick cheap meals in her student years. More prosaically, her answer was “my desktop.” Fair enough, a desktop PC is probably more useful than a rice cooker to take notes at college.
How many times a week will you call home?
That’s the one question where we answered the same. Two to three times a week sounded like a good goal to keep in touch. I am so going to miss her :)
How many of your lectures will you attend?
Ha! Well, “all” was my obvious reply. My daughter sounded less confident and answered, “hopefully all.”
How long do you spend watching TV shows in a week (in hours)?
I thought 20 and my daughter thought 7 to 10. Between you and I, 20 is much closer to reality. No offence to Game of Thrones, but they should be more considerate of young adults who need to focus on their studies.
How would you navigate cleaning halls with housemates?
In my opinion, a good checklist was the way to go but that fell short of my daughter’s requirements. “Everybody cleans up after their and their guests’ own mess.” It’s either that, or she feeds them to her dragons. Their choice.
How much will you budget for food each month?
My daughter answered in real terms, I answered with a formula. She said that food would be her biggest budget item per month and estimated that it would amount to £200 to £300. I suggested that she set aside 10% of her monthly budget for food, see if that worked, adjust as necessary. I also suggested the use of no / low-waste food apps such as Olio or Too Good to Go to stretch her food budget.
What is the first meal you cook at university going to be?
My answer gave my daughter a good laugh. I said “hoisin sauce ramen” which, from what I’ve seen at home, seems to be on repeat in the kitchen. No no, she said. It’ll be simpler, like “something microwaveable or an oven meal such as lasagne.” Comfort and convenience trump hoisin sauce ramen.
What clubs/ societies will you join in Fresher’s Week?
Easy, I thought. She was going to join the musical theatre society and the party club (there was a party club at the university. They organised parties… in case their purpose was not obvious). Well, no. She wants to develop new skills and would opt for “climbing society, poker society, cocktail society, not sure which else for now.”
What is your best money saving tip?
I recently read about this method to prevent impulse shopping and thought it could be a good buzzkill against fast fashion urges. “Put an item in an online basket, don’t buy. Wait overnight. Review next day. Is it as exciting now?”
My daughter took a different approach and went to the essentials with transportation. Transportation can get very expensive and to mitigate the transportation budget, she recommended “Railcards and oyster cards.” Sensible.
What is your best stress busting tip?
I thought that she would “go for a walk in nature” but in fact, she would much rather “spend time with people you’re close to, removed from the situation that’s causing you stress.” I guess working at a pub can include a lot of stressful situations and you can’t hang your apron to take a walk in the park.
If you had a 9am lecture, what time would you go to sleep the night before?
On that, we both concurred: midnight. Everybody needs to sleep, even first-year students.
This concluded our Family Quiz, and I must say, I’m fairly confident for my daughter. She might have to adjust a few things, but she’ll survive when she’s out there in the world. If you did the quiz with your kids, what surprised you?
Disclaimer: This post is a collaboration with TV Licensing, but all thoughts and experiences are my own.