Emptynester: university check list

Posted on: 16 August 2011 by Rhian Mainwaring

How to give your future graduate the best start

What to take to Uni?

It's a nerve wracking time for all involved, even if you can't wait to get your house back, stop being a laundry and taxi service (don't bank on this!) and are looking forward to your shopping bill being halved you'll still be feeling nervous about sending your little ones off into the wide world. Being prepared is the key, it should make the transition a lot easier for you and your future graduate, so here's our checklist for freshers week!


This is sent under your child's name, so make sure they are keeping it all in a safe place and that they have read it all. There will be forms to return, information on what to bring and where to go on enrolment day. You're likely to need identification, possibly qualification certificates, student loan information and acceptance letters -  the enrolment pack should contain all of this information, but you don't want to realise you're missing some important documentation when you've just travelled 300 miles (speaking from experience!).


Being offered a place is not the same as having a place, so make sure the offer of student accommodation is accepted. Double check information regarding the agreement:

  • Have they signed up for catered halls?
  • Is bedding/kitchen utensils/wifi provided?
  • What term time agreement have they agreed to?

Many students come home for summer breaks, which means they won't need the accommodation between May and September - therefore only a nine-month lease is needed. Some universities will hold you to this agreement and you could find yourself paying rent for an unoccupied room throughout the summer!

TV License

Most student halls will require an individual TV License for each room, as they are individual rooms. You can now set up weekly, monthly or yearly TV licenses, more information can be found here. If you're unsure, contact the faculty or the halls of residence. 

Prescriptions and council tax

Students are not eligible for either, but in both cases, there will be forms to fill in and authorities to contact. For the first year, council tax shouldn't be an issue as the halls of residence will cover this, but when they move into a private landlord's property, they will need to contact the council and get a letter from their university confirming they are a full time student. Your local pharmacy will be able to provide you with the right forms to fill in (they're lengthy) but will assure your child will receive free prescriptions throughout their studies.

Mobile phones and laptops

Make sure they have the very best tariff for their usage; this could include unlimited text messages or thousands of minutes of free phone calls. If they are on pay as you go, they will still be able to receive phone calls if they run out of credit but won't be able to contact you easily, so for piece of mind a monthly tariff might be the best option.

All universities will have libraries with computers available to all students so a laptop is not compulsory – but they certainly will make life easier. All high street suppliers will have great deals on at this time of year and the Apple store give a hefty discount to students. 


If you are sending your child off to university with a laptop and phone then contents insurance, which covers the item being out of the house, is a good idea. Some banks will now cover mobile phones on some of their account plans, like the Natwest Advantage Blue current account, and you'll be able to get insurance through your phone provider (but they tend to be pricey). Endsleigh is one of the few insurance providers who tailor insurance to suit students, so they are the best place to start.

Food and drink

A quick food hygiene chat wouldn't go a miss, covering topics such as cooking, handling and defrosting raw meats and seafood. The last thing you want is a homesick student with food poisoning! You can advise on alcohol and junk food, but don't be surprised if this is completely ignored. Simple recipe books are a great idea, don't start them with Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall - Delia Smith's How To Cook is much better for a kitchen novice. 

Health and safety

Giving your student-to-be the number for NHS Direct is a good idea, if a friend get's very ill, or very drunk they'll be able to determine how serious it is. The NHS has a dedicated student page advising on things from freshers' flu and sexually transmitted diseases to meningitis -  all are risks to students. Just having this information in the back of their minds can avert a panic.


This works both ways and can be very distressing. It's likely that in Freshers' week, you'll barely hear from your little angel, but once everyday life (ie having to do some work) has kicked in, homesickness and stress can make for an emotional time. It rarely lasts for too long and the best thing you can do is be encouraging and be ready to dish out some tough love. Arrange a trip to see them over a weekend and remind them that they can do the same thing. 

For you, there's no problem in getting on the phone to make sure they're okay if you miss them, but try not to overload your emotional baggage on them – if they weren't feeling homesick to begin with, this could make them suddenly miss home.


We've set up a forum for prospective empty nesters, so head there to discuss any concerns or questions you have with other parents. We'll be bringing you more information this week on what to pack for your child's first home away from home, the stupid questions you're likely to get from your kids and some foolproof recipes for first time chefs.

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