Setting students up for success

Kelly Robson, Deputy Head of Student Support and Experience at the University of Hull, provides helpful insight about how students are supported – so that they can enjoy their studies and get help when they need it.

As a parent, I vividly remember the day I dropped my daughter off at university. I experienced so many mixed emotions but the predominant one was worry. Having now worked in student support for 7 years, I wanted to share some insights so If you’re about to embark on this journey with your child, you can be a bit better prepared than I was! 

Kelly Robson
Kelly Robson, Deputy Head of Student Support and Experience.

Your child is now an adult

Yes really! Both universities and the law recognise students as adults, and while you may still see them as your baby, it's important to acknowledge their independence. Privacy laws prevent universities from sharing information without explicit consent, except in specific cases so your involvement in your child’s education will likely be very different to that you may have experienced with their school or college. This change can be challenging as a parent, and it’s completely natural to worry and to want to be involved, but your role now is to encourage their autonomy, provide guidance, and let them learn from their experiences (even if it means making a few mistakes along the way).

But what if they are struggling?

Starting university can be demanding academically, socially and psychologically and at some point, pretty much every student will have a wobble – I cannot emphasise enough how normal this is! Keep those lines of communication open so your child feels comfortable sharing their struggles with you. Sometimes, they might hesitate to talk about it because they don't want to let you down – so make sure they know it's okay to face challenges and encourage them to talk about it and seek support from the university if they need it. All students at the University of Hull have access to a 24/7 Student Assistance Programme and the number is on the back of their student card – encourage them to use it if they’re having a hard time. You can also find out about the range of support services we offer.

Make sure they’ve thoroughly read all of the information they receive before they enrol as not only will this include the opportunity to tell us about any support needs they have, but we also know that being prepared, knowing what to expect and engaging with all the induction activities plays a significant role in reducing that initial worry and stress.

If your son or daughter is feeling homesick or struggling to connect, encourage them to step outside of their comfort zone and participate in activities. Going to lectures, social events, joining clubs or societies might feel difficult and anxiety-provoking at first but it's in doing these things that connections and friendships are fostered. Hull University Students' Union organises a huge range of activities and events and your child’s academic department will have a range of induction events. Student space is a brilliant resource and includes great advice on making friends.

If they’re experiencing more than a wobble and you’re worried about your child’s wellbeing you can share these concerns with us by completing our Report A Concern form. We take these concerns very seriously and we will support your son or daughter.

While we won’t routinely contact parents, our support teams and practitioners recognise the importance of families in a student’s support network and will generally encourage students to let parents know if they’re struggling. All students are asked to provide the details of an emergency contact when they enrol. Make sure that they do this and that they update the details if they change. Where there are significant concerns about your child’s safety, we will always consider involving emergency contacts.

max whitlock and the panel on the stage
Kelly with Team GB's Max Whitlock at a discussion during Mental Health Awareness Week.

Set them up for success

One of the most important things you can do starting now is to help your child develop a range of practical life skills. Do they know how to use a washing machine, cook a meal, budget, pay bills, change their bedding? Over the summer encourage them to shop and cook to a set budget, the ability to make a few decent meals will serve them well. Teach them how to use a washing machine, you’d be amazed at how many students don’t know how to do this! Help them to open a student bank account and to make a budget – that first loan payment is likely to be the biggest amount of money they’ve had in their account and this can lead to some unwise decisions! Make sure they’ve registered with a GP surgery in Hull. The Uni Guide offers new students some helpful practical advice

Many students will join university having only ever experienced a very structured learning environment in which their time was pretty much managed for them and where their teachers, and parents, managed their learning and deadlines. One of the biggest causes of stress for new university students arises from the fact that they have no idea how to be an independent learner. You can help your child prepare by encouraging them to develop effective time management skills. Encourage them to use calendars, to-do lists, and other organisational tools to prioritise tasks and manage their workload effectively. Teach them the importance of setting aside dedicated study time and balancing it with social activities. The uni has a fantastic skills team who offer a comprehensive set of study guides including a module on preparing for academic study and time management – encourage your child to access this when they enrol Skills for Study.

Look after yourself

Last but not least, take care of yourself. Saying goodbye to your child as they embark on this new adventure can stir up feelings of grief and loss. It's a significant change for both them and you, regardless of your family structure or the number of kids you have. The empty nest syndrome is real! Accept that you may not be aware of the day-to-day details of their lives anymore, and that can be tough. Establish communication plans and use technology like WhatsApp and FaceTime to stay connected. Finding a balance between staying in touch and allowing your child to be independent is key. At the University of Hull, we even have a Facebook group for parents to connect with each other!

We’re thrilled if your child has chosen to become part of the University of Hull’s community and that we get to play a part in this exciting new chapter. Let's embrace this journey and celebrate your children's and our student’s growth and achievements. I’ll see you at Graduation!

Kelly is also Clinical & Service Delivery Lead – Mental Health & Wellbeing Team in Student Services Directorate at the University of Hull.

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