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For many students, university life can be an experience that is both exciting and terrifying, as many young people find themselves completely unprepared for this new step in their education, both in terms of the learning style and the way of life.

Often, going to university is the first time that students have lived away from home, and the lack of parental oversight can be both liberating and a shock to the system.

Your experience and knowledge can help prepare your students for university life.

Learning methods at university

Whilst teachers will have experienced the rigours of gaining a qualification through higher education, many A-level students are still not aware that they will need to be more pro-active about their learning at university.

University lectures offer students a structure to studying the subject, opportunities to explore different views, the latest research and best practice, and how new information is linked to their current understanding of the course content.

In school, students are often told what to write down and whether it is likely to appear in a future exam or test. At university, students need to learn how to assess their course content and judge what their learning should focus on (often with the guidance of a tutor).

Showing students how they will be expected to learn, and even giving it a test drive in your classroom, will help them to be better prepared. 

Another thing that university students find they need to ease themselves into is the concept of independent study. It is up to them to complete their assignments on time, and also to undertake additional study and reading between lectures.

For many, this is a foreign concept, and while they do get the hang of it eventually, much of the first year or so is wasted trying to gather the right concentration levels.

Teach your students about independent study and encourage them to try it at home (as well as during free periods) so that they can learn to manage their time correctly.

Help students to make suitable study choices

When students are about to choose their A-levels, they can sometimes focus on which subjects they currently find easier or enjoyable and may not consider which qualifications will get them into their desired university course.

In fact, many of them haven’t even thought that far ahead and haven’t considered their route through university. After all, two years can seem like a long time, and a lot can change in that period.

Asking teenagers what they want to do for the rest of their lives is often answered with multiple choices and options that are dependent on outcomes over the final two years of school.

Offering students some help and guidance when it comes to selecting which subjects to take can help them to make better choices. Talk to them about what they want to do, which university courses are relevant and what grades they may need to achieve to attend their each of their course options.

Following that, you can go through the subject choices with them and help them to determine which is the best (and most enjoyable) route to take.

Financial responsibility

Budgeting their limited resources can be very difficult for students who have no little or no experience of financial self-sufficiency prior to university.

Try to find time to hold workshops on basic personal finance management that students can attend during lunch or free periods. In these workshops, you can teach budgeting and how to spend money wisely when living at university.

Create a budgeting spreadsheet to demonstrate how to plan in advance for regular expenses and live within their means. Discuss student loans and how to manage them effectively, and give simulated scenarios to your students and ask them to complete the spreadsheet to show how much of their predicted expenses will be covered by their loans.

Many students will find themselves in financial debt (aside from student loans) after university because they have spent unwisely, or simply needed more to survive. Teach your pupils about the responsible borrowing options that could help them during those difficult situations.

Websites like mySupermarket can help students find the best prices for their supermarket shopping and Save the Student is a great resource for everything to do with student finances.

There are also a number of general budgeting apps such as Toshl and Squirrel that can help students budget their expenditure.

Learning how to cook

University life is often the first time that students are responsible for feeding themselves for any length of time. Cooking can be a new experience and results vary widely in both taste and nutritional value.

As a result, they can take the easy route and rely on fast food and home deliveries. This is not only an unhealthy lifestyle, but one that really adds up financially over time.

Encourage your students to learn basic recipes from their parents and be prepared to help with some of your own favourites if parental cooking skills are not that good.

Competition is a great motivator – if possible, introduce a regular cookery competition and ask students to bring in their latest creations with recipes that others can copy.

Apps like BigOven (iOS, Android), Yummly (iOS, Android) and Allrecipes (iOS, Android) can help with recipes and ingredients.

The jump from living at home and going to school to the self-sufficiency of university life can be difficult for some. The help and support of teachers before they make that jump can help students cope with their new-found freedom.