There's plenty of support and advice available to freshers
Cahal Milmo is the chief reporter of The Independent and has been with the paper since 2000. He was born in London and previously worked at the Press Association news agency. He has reported on assignment at home and abroad, including Rwanda, Sudan and Burkina Faso, the phone hacking scandal and the London Olympics. In his spare time he is a keen runner and cyclist, and keeps an allotment.
Monday 15 August 2011
For many parents, the day their child goes to university is also the first time they have left home. Under any circumstances, that can be daunting, but when it takes them away from their home town, it can seem overwhelming, particularly at the moment you drop off your son or daughter and wave goodbye.
You child is also bound to be worried. But you can reassure them that they’ll soon realise everybody else is in the same proverbial boat, everybody had the same anxieties before they arrived and they are all out to do the same thing: make friends and have a great time. In most cases, that’s how the story goes. Drop-out rates in the UK are very low, and there’s a range of university support services to guide your children and provide them with the help or advice they may need.
Most students have a brilliant time at uni, but the biggest and most-common mistake freshers make is being too embarrassed or ashamed to admit, for whatever reason, they aren’t having “the time of their lives”.
Too many suffer in silence when they could be accessing the very services that could turn their experience around. Every institution will have some form of wellbeing centre.
Typically, this will house a counselling service of some description, where students can turn to if they need general emotional support, or for mental health problems or in the face of a crisis. There should also be a disability support unit within this that should respond to the academic and care needs of disabled students. There will also be a financial support service based at the institution, in case your child encounters any problems relating to money. This will offer advice relating to student loans and bursaries, budgeting and debt. Should they be in desperate need of cash, there will also be a pot of money reserved for hardship funds, given out on a discretionary basis. Even if they don’t qualify for an award, the institution could help in the form of an emergency loan, particularly where there are cash flow problems (for example, if their maintenance loan is delayed).
One way for your child to supplement their income is with a part-time job, in which case there might be a job shop in either the university or the students’ union. For those seeking academic advice, the university should also offer study support services. If they have doubts regarding their course, they can visit the careers service on campus. The vast majority of institutions also operate a personal tutor system, which could help with a range of issues as a first point of contact, although tutors are usually only well-placed to give advice on a particular course.
Finally (and most importantly), freshers shouldn’t forget about the students’ union, which defends and extends the rights of students. The pastoral agenda is well and truly at the heart of the unions. Many have advice centres to provide confidential and professional advice to students on a whole range of issues from accommodation and tenants rights to academic representation and from sexual health advice to debt consolidation.
Most importantly, advice centres are independent from the institution, which means they are perfectly placed to advocate on a student’s behalf, give representation where necessary and deal with any disputes between them and the university.
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