How can I help my young person prepare for university?
Calendar of key dates
Keep a note of important deadlines for UCAS applications, Student finance and University accommodation.
Teach them how to budget and manage their money
You could set your child the task of doing the weekly family shop with a budget. This is a great way for your child to experience shopping in a supermarket on their own for the first time and having to look at the price tags.
Help them find the best student bank account
There are a wide range of student bank accounts available for students and it is worthwhile exploring the options as they can offer a range of overdrafts and free perks such as Amazon vouchers and rail cards etc. Overdrafts are a good option to have in times of emergencies such as an unexpected bill or rent instalments being due before student finance is paid.
Offer them cooking lessons
Even if you are not the best chef in the world – you can still share some useful tips on cooking. Find out what meals they would like to learn to cook themselves.
Teach them how to use a washing machine
Unless you are prepared to collect, wash and return their clothes every week, it is time to teach them how to use the washing machine.
Go Shopping – to get those essentials
Stationery: A suitable bag or backpack to carry essentials such as laptop/iPad, diary, notepads, pens, pencils and highlighters, a pencil case, folders, plastic wallets, calculator (if necessary) and a water bottle.
Bedroom: A duvet, pillows, bed sheets, a lamp, a laundry basket, hangers,
Kitchen: Pots and pans, plates and bowls, utensils, cutlery, chopping board, tea towel, oven glove and oven tray, a microwavable jug - unless they are staying in University accommodation - Elms BT1, BT2 or BT9). Essential foods such as rice, pasta and tinned foods.
Bathroom: Towels, bathmat, face cloth, shower gel, shampoo, conditioner, toothbrush holder.
Talk to them
Ask your child if they have any worries or concerns. It is very common that students that are planning to live away from home will be excited but will have some worries about the change. It could just be small things such as cooking or doing their own laundry that they are worried about, but you can help with those. In terms of money worries and adapting to their course etc, these are all normal concerns and all you can do is support and be there for them.
- What is UCAS?
UCAS is the application system that your young person will use to apply for university. The form consists of personal details, a personal statement written by the student, course choices and a reference usually written by staff at the applicant’s place of education. UCAS allows a student to apply for up to 5 courses at one time. These 5 courses can be at any of the universities across the UK. Students will then wait to find out if they have been made offers by the universities they have applied to, but often will not have their place confirmed until the student has all of their results and they met the requirements set by the university.
- What is the applications process?
Step 1 - you need to begin to make an application on UCAS online system, you should register your personal details.
Step 2 - you will then have to sign in to fill in the rest of your personal details.
Step 3- there will also be an additional information section to fill in for UK applicants.
Step 4 - you will then be required to fill in the student finance section.
Step 5 – course choices you can select up to five course choices and your universities/colleges will not be able to see where else you have applied until after you reply to any offers.
Step 6- then you are required to fill in your full education history and enter all qualifications from secondary education onwards.
Step 7- you will then fill out your employment history if you have had any paid full-time or part-time jobs.
Step 8 – write a personal statement, this is your chance to show why you would be a perfect student at your chosen university and how you meet the requirements of the course.
Step 9 – view the details – check over everything and make any necessary changes and mark it as complete and save it.
Step 10- get your reference- this can be from a teacher, advisor or professional who knows you academically. You must include your reference on your application before you submit your application. You are also required to pay a £20 application fee for a single choice or £26 for more than one choice.
You can find a full detailed guide on how to apply here.
- What is a personal statement? What does my young person need to include?
A personal statement is written by the applicant, usually explaining why they have chosen to apply for the courses or subjects they have chosen and information about their achievements in education, extra-curricular activities and any skills they possess. Your child should include anything that they feel is relevant to their course choices and why they would be a suitable student. Personal statements can have a big impact on applications for some courses, so it is important to check for errors and ensure information is relevant.
- When does my young person need to finalise their choices?
Once you have made your application on UCAS and have had your offers come back, you need to decide what your first or ‘firm’ course choice is and which is your back-up ‘insurance’ option.
You do not have to decide on your first and insurance choices until all your offers are back in from the (up to) five universities you applied for. UCAS Track will then show you the deadline you have to decide by. Generally, the deadline will be early May or June.
You can find more information about choosing your first choice or back up course/university here.
Can we visit a university as a family before making choices?
Yes – universities will host a number of open days, where prospective students are able to attend with their families in order to explore the campus and their subjects on site to help them make the decision of where they would most like to study. You can find the dates for open days on the website of the university. Find the information for Queen’s University here.
- Can my young person change their mind after completing their UCAS choices?
It is possible to change choices – but it depends on the length of time that has passed since your young person made their choices. For full information about making changes to an application, visit the relevant section of UCAS here.
- When will my young person hear if they have been offered a place at university?
After submitting their UCAS form, universities can take various amounts of time to confirm the offer of a place. This means that some universities will confirm later than others, which can be frustrating for your young person if their friends are receiving offers much quicker. There are deadlines set by which all universities must answer applications – you can check this here.
- How do we apply for student finance? How early do we need to apply?
You can apply for student finance for your young person online at Student Finance NI. Applying early for student finance is always recommended to ensure that your young person is paid on time. It also allows time to budget for the year. Late applications can also be made but still have strict deadlines. Find more information here.
- How often do we need to apply for student finance?
Student finance needs to be applied for every year of study – the initial application before university does not cover the entire duration of your young person’s studies. Student Finance applications should be submitted usually by the end of May so that loans and grants are paid on time for courses starting. Find information on the 2021 deadlines here.
Do student loans cover costs of living as well as tuition fees?
Yes – students can be awarded loans or grants that cover both tuition costs and living costs (called a maintenance loan). This can cover everything from equipment, books and supplies, to accommodation costs and is paid in three instalments throughout the academic year.
- What is the difference between a maintenance loan and a maintenance grant?
A maintenance loan is awarded to cover the costs of living, such as equipment, books and supplies, or perhaps even accommodation costs. When the student graduates, they will begin paying their loan back the following April provided they are earning over a threshold. The repayment threshold for student loans, before deductions, is currently £19,390 a year. This equals £1,616 per month or £392 per week. Maintenance grants cover the same costs but do not need to be paid back.
- What documents will we need to provide for student finance?
If you are applying for an income assessed student loan then there are documents you will need to supply as evidence to ensure your young person receives the correct amount to cover all costs, and to check eligibility for grants. For all information regarding what you will need to supply, please visit the student finance website, where you will find all the relevant information.
- Does my child have to live on campus?
No – your young person can live either in either university accommodation, private rented property or at home. It really depends what suits best. When making any decisions surrounding accommodation and where to live during term-time, it is important to research thoroughly. Remember to look into living expenses if living away from home, and travel costs if staying at home. Explore accommodation at Queen’s University Belfast here.
- When do applications for accommodation need to be entered by?
Applications for accommodation will vary from university to university. At Queen’s, applications open in the January before the first term begins. The university also offers open days to allow prospective students to see the accommodation before applying. For more details, see here.
What accommodation is available at Queen’s? Are we able to look around them?
Queen’s has a variety of accommodation available for students. Elm’s village (Queen's University Belfast | BT9 Elms Accommodation Tour) is a short walk from the main campus, whilst Elms BT1 (Orientation at City Centre Accommodation - Elms BT1) and Elms BT2 (Queen's University Belfast | Elms BT2 Accommodation Tour) are located in the city centre. You can follow the links above to follow a tour of these accommodations.
- What happens if my child does not get a place in their first choice accommodation?
If you do not receive your first-choice accommodation - you can request a room move with staff at your reception, however this can only be possible subject to availability. Therefore, you should accept your contract offer within two days of receiving it as if not the offer may be withdrawn.
If you ever need help – there is a large team of staff including the Residential Life team and Residential Assistants at Queen’s who offer support to you throughout the year. They will also find appropriate help for you from experienced staff within other support units in Queen's University Belfast.
- Are there clubs, societies and sports teams at universities?
Universities often take pride of offering a huge range of clubs and societies, covering a wide variety of activities. Queen’s University, for example, has over 200 clubs, societies and sports teams – covering everything from Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to Film Society, from Skydiving to Trampoline club. There is definitely something for everyone. Find out more information on the clubs and societies at Queen’s here.
- What are lectures, tutorials and labs?
Lectures are usually the most frequent type of teaching that will be experienced by students as they usually occur at least three times a week. Lecture times can vary and depending on course size usually accommodate the whole course. Tutorials are smaller than lectures and they provide an opportunity to apply what students have been learning in lectures into real life case studies or live discussions. They are a great way to be interactive with academics and peers. Labs are usually less often than lectures and take place in one of the many laboratories at Queen’s. They are a great way to experiment and visualise everything you have learnt during lectures. Find an example of a weekly timetable of a 1st year Biomedical Science/Human Biology student here.
- Will my child be able to work part-time while studying?
Your young person can work part-time, although it is recommended not to work more than 15 hours per week in order to ensure it does not negatively impact student’s work. There are also a range of on-campus jobs that students can apply for. You can find more information about on-campus jobs here.
What happens if my young person wants to defer their entry for a year?
For many reasons’ students may decide to defer their entry year for University to travel or simply take a year out of education. Depending on the course you have selected, in most cases it is possible to defer entry. However, courses such as Medicine will not allow it. Usually, you can only defer entry for one year.
You can find out all information regarding deferred entry here.
- My child has struggled in the past with various issues - what support is available for my child when they get to university?
You should always check the support available at the university your young person is applying to. At Queen’s, support is available for whomever needs it – ranging from Wellbeing and Disability services, to Careers and Learning Development Services. Each of these departments aim to support students in a variety of ways and offer everything from online resources, to advice and one-to-one appointments.
- What should my young person do if they are struggling with their course and want to switch to a different one?
There is a lot to think about if your young person is thinking about making changes to their course, depending on the changes they are considering and the point that they are in their studies. There are several options that may be available such as transferring modules, transferring to another programme and changing their mode of study. It is always worth your young person speaking to their course director to see what options are available.
You can find an in-depth guide into all options here.