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Resources
for educators & parents

Teen Tips on Starting University

Going to university for the first time will be daunting for most students but for some it may well feel truly terrifying.

Here are a few tips to help them to approach the big move calmly and settle in quickly:-

  • Pretty obvious but remind them that most people will be feeling just as apprehensive as they do.
  • Remind them to think of it in small steps rather than overwhelming themselves by thinking of it as a huge mountain to be climbed eg I only need to find a couple of people who I feel ok with to start off with.  I am going to get through the first hour by organising my room – if I can do one hour then I can do two.
  • Often when we are nervous about something we try not to think about it but that is invariably impossible – the elephant in the room.   Instead encourage them to google all the things they might be worrying about eg what usually happens during freshers week?  Do people usually bring food with them at the beginning of term?  How will I find my way to my lectures?  The more of a picture they can have about what they are facing, the less scary it will become.
  • Allow them to feel whatever they are feeling but also remind them that no feeling lasts forever.  Remind them of other times when they were scared but did it and survived.
  • Those leaving home for the first time might well feel anxious about being homesick.  Get them thinking about what they could do if they feel lonely or homesick eg Facebooking old friends; joining societies because it makes you get out and meet people who have similar interests to you.
  • Remind them that this is a choice.
  • Remind them that in terms of new beginnings, university is a very safe way to step out into the world – there will be lots of people around to help; the universities are quite used to helping new students who may not have left home before.
  • Be available so that they can call you if they are feeling a bit anxious in the first few days.  If they ring and are miserable be empathic, remind them how well they are doing, help them to make a plan to help themselves.
  • Very simple but buy a door stop and encourage them to leave their door open when they arrive so that others know they are there and might stop to chat on the way past or invite them to join them on the way to supper.
  • If no-one steps forward to be the one who gets everyone together encourage them to do it.
  • Practical tip – take passport photos for meal passes and security passes.
  • Help them to make their room cosy with cushions, blankets, lamps, fairy lights, posters, photos and a mirror so that it feels like a little bit of home.
  • Remind them not to stay in their room but to get out and meet others no matter how hard it feels.  Everyone finds it hard at the beginning.
  • Remind them to SMILE – it makes you seem more approachable.

We hope you found these tips helpful. Eager for more? Sign up to our newsletter and keep up to date with our latest podcasts, films and blog posts on adolescent mental health.

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