Make sure they know who they can speak to
Some children love a new school from the moment they arrive, others never settle down and the majority fall somewhere in between. University or college is no different. Some students will start and find they are extremely unhappy. Every year, quite a few students fail to complete their first year.
If you discover that something is amiss, then encourage your son or daughter to use the support services available within the university or college. All institutions have them and it will be a very enterprising student indeed who comes up with a problem which has not been faced before. The first step is to give the university or college the chance to help.
Identify the problem. Is it the course, the place, being away from home, the social life, a lack of friends, the accommodation?
- If there is a personal tutor system, now is the time to call on this pastoral support.
- There are usually student welfare or counselling services available. Using them is not an admission of failure. They are there because there is a need for them.
- The students' union does more than organise entertainment - it can also signpost available help. Contact details for students' unions can be found in the students' section.
- All universities or colleges have an accommodation officer who should be able to help with accommodation problems.
- Talk through problems with other students. One of the biggest problems is that unhappy students tend to internalise problems. They see everyone else looking happy and assume there is something wrong with them. Talking to others can help to put things in perspective.
- Visit www.nightline.ac.uk to see if their university has a Nightline - a confidential listening, emotional support and information service, open at night and run by students. Some students cite stigma as a reason not to access counselling services so talking to a trained peer - who cares, who may understand what they're going through and who knows how to effectively listen and help them come to their own solution or resolution - might make them feel more comfortable.
More guidance about where your son or daughter can find support when they are at university or college can be be found in the students' section.
Some problems cannot be resolved and the solution for some students is to leave. They then have to decide whether to start at a new university or college. Students can apply through UCAS for a course elsewhere whilst they are at university or college - they do not need to leave to apply again. If the problem occurs early in the academic year, it might even be possible to start again straightaway elsewhere. Try to be sure that things really will be different second time round.